Reading is so important. All parents and teachers want children to be readers. We know the benefits of a well-read child. Reading and listening to stories exposes children to a wide range of words. Reading can help build their own vocabulary and improve their understanding when listening. Not to mention that it is a fundamental skill in today’s society. When you have a reluctant reader who doesn’t show interest in reading it can be hard to know where to start and how to make reading an important part of your daily lives.
Reading is seriously a huge passion of mine. I love reading and I love passing my love of reading on my son. I’ve made it my mission to help other reluctant and struggling readers and their families. My specialty is in Early Childhood Education, but I have experience with older children who’ve HATED reading, too. I wrote a post a few months back called 6 Tips for Building a Love of Reading in your House.
Today’s post, however, is just about how to help your reluctant reader. Whether it is trying to fit reading into your schedule, reading to a rambunctious toddler, or getting your child to want to read, period. This post is broken down into age groups, to better help you find the information that suits your family’s needs.
Reading with Babies:
This is a fun age for books because as you continue to read you’ll start to see them develop their love of books, stories, and reading. Of course, once your baby becomes mobile it can be IMPOSSIBLE to get them to sit still long enough for you to finish a sentence. Which can be very frustrating and cause you to just give up and say “oh well my child hates reading.”
I am the kind of person who wants to finish a book cover to cover. When you have a child who is crawling all over the place and who isn’t really listening it is easy to think, “why did I even bother trying to read this story, they aren’t interested.”
But let me let you in on a little secret. Even if your child is crawling around or wiggling while you’re reading, they are still, most likely, listening. Maybe not 100%, maybe only 50%, but they are listening. Children who even hear 50% of the story are still learning about sentence structure, story structure, language, and so much more.
Tips for reading to babies:
- Keep it FUN
- Let them pick the books they want you to read
- Let them hold the book or turn the pages
- Don’t worry about finishing the book (this one is a struggle for me!)
- Read when they are happy and content
- Visit your local library, attend storytime
- Try audiobooks/podcasts (we love CircleRound)
- Read while they crawl around
- Lay on the floor
- Take the books somewhere new (park, outside, bathtub, etc.)
- Make books accessible to them.
Reading with Preschoolers-First Graders (The Picture Book Years):
I love picture books! There are so many talented writers and illustrators out there. This age is so fun because they are developing their interests, explore different genres, and building their attention span.
But if you have a reluctant reader who is more interested in wrestling with his brother than listening to a picture book, or would rather watch tv than sit and listen to a book, it can hard to get the reading in. A lot of the tips from above will still work with this age group but here are a few more.
Tips for reading to preschoolers-first graders:
- Read a LOT of picture books: don’t just make it for bedtime. Try reading first thing in the morning, during breakfast, waiting for the bus, right after school, etc.
- Let your child “read” to you: even if your child isn’t able to actually read yet, have your child tell you the story they see in the pictures. This is such a great pre-reading skill. Have them read to you while you make a meal, sit in the car, wait at a restaurant, etc.
- Try wordless books: these books can be intimidating because you have to make up your own story to go along with the pictures, but that is half the fun. Take turns making up stories.
- Re-read, re-read, re-read: when your child finds a story that they want to hear over and over and over again, do it!
- Continue to try audio books
- Let them pick the books they want to read.
Chapter Book Age (7 years old+):
This can be the hardest age to catch kids and help build a love of reading and strengthen their reading skills. There can be so many reasons why your child is reluctant. Maybe reading hasn’t happened much up to now, maybe they are struggling, maybe they only like books about a specific topic, etc. But this stage is super important for your child/ren’s school career. When children fall behind in reading it can be very hard for them to catch up, if they ever do. The tips above still work for this age group but here are a few more.
Tips for Reading to the Chapter Book Age:
- Don’t rush the switch from picture books to chapter books
- Switch back and forth between chapter books and picture books
- Use early readers and easy chapter books
- Continue to make books accessible
- Keep the pressure low
- Keep reading aloud
- Role Model: let your child/ren see that you read for pleasure too.
- Don’t put too much stress on grade level: you want reading to be fun before you push too hard.
- Offer a wide variety of genres: maybe your child only likes nonfiction, or only likes Captin Underpants. Offer different genres so they can build up confidence in what they like to read.
- Series are amazing!: A good series can be anything from Captin Underpants to Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
- Try different formats (graphic novels or audiobooks)
- Keep it fun
- Think outside the box:
- I had a friend share that her son was a struggling reader. To help they would read books that had been made into movies. Once the book was complete they would have a family party, with ice cream, pizza, and popcorn, then they would watch the movie that went along with the book.
- Another person shared they changed up their night time routine. Her son hated going to bed. They would “break the rule” and tell him, you can go to bed right now, or you can stay up late and we can read. Most nights they would read, and she found great success in this.
- Taking turns; having your child read a page, then you read the following page.
- Or have your child start the night reading and you finish.
- My husband’s mom used to give him a stamp in the book for every page he finished, once the book was complete he could “cash” the book in for a date or a toy.
After all of these tips if you still have a reluctant reader you can start to feel down and throw your hands in the air and give up. But I encourage you to ask yourself, could there be something more going on here that is affecting my child’s willingness to read?
- Lack interest, motivation and/or low reading esteem?
- Is my reader missing important pieces in the reading puzzle like; letters and sounds recognition, phonological awareness, phonics, word identification (meaning sight words “the” “was” “me” “they” ‘this” etc.), fluency, and comprehension.
- Does my reader have a processing disorder like dyslexia
- Does my reader have a shorter attention span, which causes stress when asked to sit for periods of time to read?
This post is simply a starting point. There are tons of tips online and there are even specialized reading services to help if your child does have something deeper or needs additional help to catch up. I would love to hear your success stories for your reluctant reader, or what tips you are going to try to help. Reading is so important but it can definitely feel like a daunting and overwhelming task when your child is reluctant or struggling. I hope this helps you feel a little less overwhelmed and that you can help fix the problem. Reading should be fun, it just might not look the way you originally envisioned.