Education Parenting Reading

Reluctant Readers and How To Get Them to Like Reading

Reading is a fundamental skill in today’s society. But what do can you do if your child has no interest in reading? Here are some tips to help your reluctant reader no matter their age.

Reluctant Readers How to Get Them to Like Reading

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 Reluctant Readers How to Get Them to Like Readingdevelop 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. ThisReluctant Readers How to Get Them to Like Reading 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 pexels-photo-256548their 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 Reluctant Readers How to Get Them to Like Readingread 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.




By So, I'm a Mom Now...

I am a mom of two with a passion for many things ranging from home remodeling to reading, from shopping to child behavior. I love sharing things I find and love and generally helping others feel happy and successful. This is what I aim to do with each and every post I write and all the content I create. I hope to help you find things to make your motherhood journey a little smoother. Follow along.

57 replies on “Reluctant Readers and How To Get Them to Like Reading”

Oh my goodness, I’ve been so lucky to have children that all love to read. We’ve started from such a young age that it becomes part of their past time routine but I did have to work with my stepson to get him more focused on books, less so on videogames.
I never understood why someone didn’t like reading previously- it’s all I did growing up lol

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Those are great tips and thanks for sharing. Right now, I don’t really have to pick a book for my daughter. I do schedule reading time where we read separate books together and after we share what we learn. This is my way to encourage her to keep reading.

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I’ve been fortunate that my boy loves to read as much as I do. He’s been into books ever since he was tiny. Now he’s older (he’s 7), we try to read as much together as we can. We take regular trips to the library, we go for reading time once a week at our local coffee shop (it’s a good excuse to have a hot chocolate and brownie together!) and we try to have half an hour each evening before bed where we snuggle in our PJs and read a chapter book together.

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These are really great tips, and I love how you gave tips based on age groups. My 21 mo. old daughter LOVES books, and I believe it’s because my husband and I started reading to her right away and we read together every single day. I am always amazed at how long she’ll sit and look at books or how many books she wants read to her in a day.

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As a former Kindergarten teacher I can say these tips are spot on! A love for reading comes from experiences with books and stories at home! When my children were younger, I would have them make up their own stories for picture books. They loved doing this!

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These are such great ideas! My 4-year-old is a really wiggly, physical learner and has trouble sitting still long enough for books…UNLESS she’s cuddling up in my lap. Cuddle times are a magical attention span-stretcher for her!

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Reading with a baby is where I’m at at the moment, I’m such an avid reader (both my degree and masters being in English literature!) so very keen for my little one to enjoy books but it’s so hard reading to her, she squirms and bats the book away – I just convince myself she’s still too young and to try again in another few weeks!

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Yeah this age can be so tough. But keep trying. Even if she is wiggling around she is still hearing the story. And sometime if you let her hold the book and turn the pages they get more into it. If you’re worried about the pages, try board books.

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My son is 11 and he’s a reluctant reader unless it is books with at least some pictures on them for topics that he is totally into. Yout tips here is so good I will have to try it. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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Haha I just wrote a book review about a book that my crazy active 18-month-old daughter would actually read! So I agree with your points completely. I will be bookmarking this for when my kids are older to make sure they keep up the reading!

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I am a total booknerd and writing major and when my children were young they loved to read. But now as teenagers they hate it. It saddens me so much that they took over their father. Lol. Hopefully as adults the love will come back!

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The struggle is real. My daughter is one and it’s so hard to not finish the story. She actually enjoys reading but often I do finish reading it while she crawls around playing!

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Wonderful post! When I was teaching, it was always so hard when I had students who claimed that they did not like to read! I would put book after book after book in front of them to try and find something that they could connect with. Now that I am a parent, I try every chance I get to read with my daughter.

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Great tips for reading with children! I read to my 3-year-old every day and sometimes he likes to pretend-read to me. Nowadays, in a world full of tablets, phones, and apps I think a lot of parents forget how important reading an actual book is. Not only for developing the necessary reading skills but also the bonding time between parent and child. Just spending one-on-one time with your child and enjoying the moment.
Awesome post!

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I try to read to my son daily and he enjoys it. He is learning to read and although he reads slow he keeps trying. I hope he continues his interest in reading.

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I have always been a huge reader which I’ve instilled in my children. With my 3rd, I had to find subjects that she enjoyed to keep her engaged in reading but now she loves to expand her reading and learn things from books

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Love this! Especially the part about reading to babies/toddlers even when they’re not really “listening” and doing their own thing. That used to frustrate me when my son would get up and go play nearby while I was reading, but I knew it was still beneficial to him for me to keep going. Now that he’s two, he’s back to loving his reading time again and we go through book after book!

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