Many teachers recommend that students practice between 15 to 30 minutes of reading per day to maintain and improve literacy skills. For some parents, it may feel like it’s a constant struggle to accomplish this and to keep their child from falling behind. If your child is a reluctant reader, take some comfort and hope from the fact that your child is not the only one! Try a few of our top ways to help reluctant readers of all ages be a little less reluctant about enjoying a book.
But first: a couple rules.
- Rule 1 - Don’t be a “book snob.” The goal is to get your child reading—preferably actively, and of their own volition. With this goal in mind, any type of reading material is fair game (even the back of a cereal box)!
- Rule 2 – Also participate – and have fun!
For littler ones
You may have to start with the basics: reading together and reading aloud. But it’s worth doing. Reading aloud to children transforms it from a solo activity to a group one—and depending on the age of your child, they may be reluctant to do solo activities, period. It also frees your child to use their imagination while listening, helping them dive into the story itself and improving their engagement with it.
Small children LOVE dramatic play, but you should know this trick even works on surly tweens and teens (though they’ll try not to let you know you’re winning). Gesticulate. Enunciate weirdly. Use outrageous accents. Impersonate celebrities or movie characters they love. Deliberately mispronounce certain words (and let your child correct you). If they’re laughing (or trying not to), you’re doing it right.
Let them be the star of the story
Young kids love being the center of attention, and having no attention at all during reading time may be part of what is contributing to reluctant reader status. Fortunately, there are a few companies who let you customize books just for them with their own name, making them the star of the story, too! Wonderbly and I See Me are just a couple of personalized options.
For older kids & teens…
Find books that follow their interests
It is disappointing when you can’t share the joy in specific books you loved as a kid with your own children. But depending on the age of your child, they might be asserting their own independence by trying things that they don’t have in common with you – and this is a normal, healthy thing to do. They may come around later. For now, show them that you’re listening to what THEY like. Try nonfiction books about their favorite sports legends or places they’d like to travel or even graphic novels if they love superheroes.
Don’t put age or content limits on reading material (within reason)
Were you one of a great many older millennials or Gen X kids growing up reading Stephen King and Jean M. Auel in your school libraries? YA content just wasn’t really a thing for us. And it may not actually be an interesting thing for your middle or high school child, either. If your child wants to pick up an author you think may be a little more adult than what they’re ready for, you may want to consider letting them (within reason).
Judge a book by its cover and think outside the box
Remember rule 1, and absolutely judge some books based on their covers (and titles). Then wage a stealthy war by dropping these books in unconventional places… like on the kitchen table or next to the TV remote control. Here are a few titles to give you an idea of what we mean.
- How to Fight a Bear... and Win: & 72 Other Real Survival Tips We Hope You'll Never Need
- Guinness World Records 2023
- The Funniest Joke Book Ever!
- Gross Book of Riddles for Kids (yes, this will work on some younger kids too)
- How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You – By the Oatmeal (who is actually a surprisingly great source of grammar education too!)
We hope these tips help you out with your reluctant reader! Happy reading to you and your family!
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