February 24


10 ways to encourage a reluctant reader

By Martina

February 24, 2021

reading tips, reluctant reader

Now, you might have a kid who takes to reading like a duck to water. Or you might have a reluctant reader, a child who'd rather do anything than pick up a book.

Sound familiar? Don't worry. You're not alone. And there are some simple ways you can encourage a reluctant reader to pick up a book.

First off, it's useful to work out why your child is a reluctant reader. Why doesn't he or she want to pick up a book and read? Why do they find every excuse under the sun to avoid reading with you or to you? 

It could be that your child is reading books that are the wrong level for them - too hard or too easy. Perhaps they are self-conscious about reading aloud and making mistakes in front of others. Or maybe the books they are reading don't capture their imagination. Or it could even be that they don't want to read by themselves because then you'll stop reading to them. Or it could be that they are struggling to read, rather than being reluctant to read.

But the good news is that there are ways to encourage a reluctant reader, so read on!

1. Let's start off with the reading level. Getting that right is one of the major hurdles with a reluctant reader. If it's too easy, it's unlikely to maintain their interest and they'll put it down. Too hard, and they won't want to pick it up! So this is a bit of a Goldilocks situation - too hard, too easy...we need to aim for just right! But how? Obviously some of this is trial and error. You'll need to sit down with your reluctant reader and listen to them read their book from school, or a book you already have at home. We find using the Five Finger Rule works really well. 

Choosing just right book for independent reading The Five Finger Rule

2. So you have chosen the right level? Game over, right? Wrong! Now we need to make sure that the book you choose is likely to interest your reluctant reader. We find that the easiest starting point is to look at the non-reading interests they already have. If you have a child who loves football, the best place to start is a book about the beautiful game. A child who is super-keen on ponies, but not so keen on reading, might be persuaded to pick up a book about ponies.

3. Choose fun, silly, hilarious books. Choose books about naughty children who play tricks on their siblings, about kids who are horrible to their parents - like Horrid Henry. They might make you shudder and wince, but they're one of the most successful ways to encourage a reluctant reader to develop a love for books. Especially if they make you shudder and wince! Throw in books featuring filthy children, like Dirty Bertie, with revolting habits and you're on track for reading success!

Dirty Bertie short stories for kids - cartoon image of muddy boy diving for football

4. Comics count as reading too! A reluctant reader often finds whole blocks of text a little intimidating, but that's not a problem. There are plenty of traditional comic books out there which will help their reading. Plus a whole host of more traditional books that feature fun illustrations to break up the big scary blocks of text! Our kids loved the 13 Storey Treehouse series and read page after page, guffawing at the zany cartoons and hilarious humour. 

5. Make reading special. Make is something really special. If you're tearing your child away from their games or sports or the television, you're going to need to make that book put on a good show! So start off by setting up a special area for your reading, get the cushions out, maybe even get a blanket ready. Beforehand, talk about how much you're looking forward to reading together, to having your special time together. Make your reading time sound like a real treat - the highlight of the day!

6. Take it in turns to read. Until your reluctant reader has the confidence to read whole chapters alone, you could share the reading. You could start off with one sentence each. This will take a lot of pressure off your child, and you'll be amazed at how quickly they can read a whole paragraph alone! It will also help them develop the confidence to read aloud in front of other people, such as their teachers and classmates.

7. Let them choose their own book. Take your reluctant reader to the library or to the bookshop, steer them towards the correct reading level and let them have a browse. If you think all this choice is too intimidating or overwhelming at this stage, you could select two or three age-appropriate books and then let them choose which one to read first.

8. Be a reading role model! One of best ways to encourage a reluctant reader is to show them how much fun it is. Young children like to copy everything we do - the good, the bad and the ugly. So grab yourself a coffee and a good book, put your feet up and read. And then wait for your reluctant reader to want to be just like mummy (or daddy).

9. Make reading a habit. As with everything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. So set aside some time each day to sit together and read. Make sure it's a good time for reading, a time with no interruptions. And it doesn't have to be a long time. Starting off with just 10 minutes a day, each day, will build up the reading habit. 

10. Ease off the pressure. And I don't just mean the pressure on your reader! Give yourself a break too! Lots of children don't take to reading naturally - they need a little help. But the very fact that you're reading this article means you're on the way to reading success already. Give yourself a pat on the back, make a coffee, pick up a book and enjoy!

If you have any other ways to encourage a reluctant reader, we'd love to hear from you. Or, if you'd like any help choosing books for your child, send us a message and we'd be delighted to help.

Happy reading!

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