How to Encourage Reluctant Readers.


Reading for some children is just plain hard work. This does not mean that you, as a parent, should give up on your child’s reading skills. Do you have a son who is a reluctant reader? If you do, you may be asking yourself, why should you as a busy parent make the effort to stop and read to your son or listen to him read to you when he doesn’t want to do it? The answer is simple. He doesn’t know what’s good for him and the same applies if you have a daughter who is a reluctant reader. You as a parent understand the importance of being able to read. If you want to excel at school and exceed in life, then you have to be able to read. There’s no denying it. It’s an essential tool to have in one’s tool box. Not reading with your child based on their dislike of it, is a poor excuse. You would be doing them a huge disservice. This further emphasises the benefits of reading regularly with your child from very young age; they know no different and are more accepting.

Most people whether they are children or adults like to do things they enjoy and are good at. Here are a few steps you can implement if your child doesn’t particularly enjoy reading.

(1) Have fun with your child doing what they love to do.

It’s very important for you to spend time with your child doing things that he or she loves to do. If your child loves playing in the sand pit then get in the sand pit too. As parents, we often sit back and observe our children at play. If we became more active participants in their play and this doesn’t have to be all of the time, doing things with them that they love to do, they will more likely engage with us in activities we would like them to do, be it reading or something else. Engaging with them on their level really shows them that we care and want to spend quality time with them. We are a part of their little world; the world of play. We tend to grow up and life as an adult becomes far too serious. We can actually learn from our children and regain some of our inner child by having fun with them. It works to their advantage and ours. So later, when it comes to sitting down to read, he or she is more likely to engage without the same degree of resistance. You could say to your son or daughter, we had so much fun in the sand pit earlier, would you like to do something fun with me now? ( In an exciting and enthusiastic voice). Try it, you may be surprised. A simple but effective strategy.

(2) Somehow incorporate your child’s interests into the reading process.

Take what they are interested in and somehow incorporate reading into it. For instance, my son went through a period of loving microphones. We would take it in turns reading out loud to each other holding the microphone. Heaven knows what the neighbours thought but the point is, it was fun and we all love having fun. His toys were set up like an audience, listening to us. He also had and still has a massive fascination with different lights. He has a light that has a remote control. He can change the colour of the light using the remote, depending on what colour he wants. So we have read together, sitting in a play tent with this multi-coloured light. Lots of fun for him, a little squishy for me but so worth it.

If your child has a particular interest in soccer or dance for example, you could try and read these types of books together. His or her interest level would be higher reading a book with a subject matter they enjoy.

(3) Have books in your child’s bedroom.

Your child’s room is full (often too full) of stuff near and dear to them. There will be times when they spend time in their room playing. If the books are at a level they can reach them, don’t discount them flicking through a book on their own. Generally, children have a positive association with their bedroom and the things in it.

When my children could sit up by themselves, I used to leave a sturdy book, one they couldn’t damage, at the end of their cot. Each morning, they had a book to entertain and occupy them. It was a safe, happy and independent time for them, verbalising to themselves while looking through a book. When they transitioned into a bed, I continued to leave a book at the end of their beds. Most often than not, they would look through the book in the morning. If I happened to forget, my daughter in particular, would grab a book or two from her bookshelf and flick through it. Books were a part of their morning routine.

(4) Take your child to the library.

My son was so excited the day I took him to the library and organised for him to have his own library card. His face lit up. He loved and still loves to scan his library card and then scan the books he wants to borrow. He also usually chooses the books he wants to borrow. This is important. If you have a reluctant reader and they are choosing their own books, they are more likely to want to sit down and read them. If they choose books that you think are below their reading age, just go with it. It could be the one story that changes their opinion of reading forever and remember a little bit of reading is better than none.

(5) Be an understanding and encouraging parent.

Be understanding if your child doesn’t like reading. Normally we don’t like something if we find it hard. If your child finds reading hard, there is a reason for this. Really try and get to the bottom of why he or she doesn’t like reading in a very subtle and caring way. Don’t make it a big deal. Most of the time, it’s always something deeper than them not liking it. In my case, several factors came into play; poor confidence from being teased in Kindergarten for my physical appearance and my non-exposure to books at a young age. Maybe share your childhood reading experiences with your child. If you found reading difficult, this might help reassure them that it’s okay to find reading difficult and that you are keen to help them in anyway you can so their reading experience becomes an enjoyable and positive experience rather than one of total dread. Know that there are other factors that can come into play such as your child’s eyesight and hearing which I won’t go into now but will discuss at a later date.

(6) Let your child see you as a parent engage in recreational reading.

Children are excellent observers. They observe a lot more than you realise. If your baby sees you reading, that could spark an early curiosity. If you have an older child and they show an interest in whatever you are reading, instead of shooing them away, tell them what you are reading and why.

If you happen to be a parent that doesn’t enjoy reading well this is going to be harder for you but I would still recommend that if your child sees you reading on a regular basis, it could have an effect. Children are little mimickers. They like to repeat what we say and they often repeat our actions too; something not to dismiss.

(7) Reduce the distractions.

This is a challenge with TVs, computers, mobile phones and game consoles to mention but a few. We don’t need to be plugged in and connected all of the time and in fact, the quality of our relationships and conversations would be better if we had more quiet time together…just to talk about our day free from interruption. My suggestion is to reduce these things to a minimum during the week. Maybe make reading a family affair. Read to each other. You could even listen to an audio book for something different to do.

(8) Practise! Practise! Practise!

We all know, the more we practise something the easier it gets and the better we get at it, be it playing a sport, musical instrument, reading or whatever. Daily practise brings faster results. Again, make it fun. Sometimes, my son used to sing the text to me. If it meant him reading, I was all for it.

Life presents challenges to us all. If we viewed these challenges as blessings rather than burdens, we would be open to seeing solutions we would not otherwise see.

I hope this has been helpful to you and I welcome your comments and feedback.

Best Wishes,









How to Encourage Reluctant Readers. — 9 Comments

  1. Thanks Michelle,
    I like the “need to be an example” part and not trying to push things onto a child that has a reluctance to read. Children “unfold in their own time.

  2. Some fantastic advice on here. Thank you! Do you have a subscription list or blog i could sign up to if there is a new article?

    • Bushra, I am glad you found this helpful. I will set up an RSS button on my blog so that you can subscribe to it. Thanks so much for leaving your comment, I really appreciate it.

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