I have a reluctant reader aged 9 and I’m currently trying to encourage her to read more in the hope that she will love it! She has always enjoyed ‘story time’, loving many beautifully illustrated children’s story books and is keen to choose new books from the library, but not to read herself. She will read her school book (because the teacher says so) to me but isn’t interested in continuing alone and reading for fun. How do I help her find that spark? I really don’t want her to miss out on something that has given me so much pleasure over the years, not to mention the vocabulary, knowledge and intellectual stimulation that reading brings. The most frustrating thing is that her 11 year old sister is a complete book worm and if anything, I’m telling her to stop reading and go to sleep!! I’ve asked around and realised that this is a very individual problem with lots of possible solutions, it’s really common and frustrating for all involved. Having tried a few things myself and gathered so many of these experiences and proven solutions, I’ve put together this post hoping that one of these ideas will help you encourage your reluctant reader.
1. Find a Series that Sparks their Interest
This could be the answer for my reluctant reader because until now, she’s been given (many) books by her sister and I rarely think to buy new books to specifically suit Lou. Though there are classics in this collection including books by Roald Dahl, The Harry Potter Series and The Chronicles of Narnia, maybe a gymnastics or dancing story would get that initial yearn going?
Carol at Family Makes says: “The only thing that worked for me was to find a series that sparked his interest. For my eldest it was the Harry Potter books, and once he started there was no stopping him.”
Tracy from Pack The PJs: “I realised I had perhaps tried to steer him towards books that I felt he should be reading. So I stepped back and let him browse. Ok, so his books are all stories about farting, poo, anything stinky and disgusting … but he’s reading! He’s working his way through a Captain Underpants box set from The Book People and he now chooses to read for the first time in his life. It’s not my choice of story, but hey, he’s reading!”
2. Make the Library a Regular Trip
Strangely, all my kids, including my reluctant reader, love a trip to the library! It’s the perfect place to brows and try to find a genre of book that might ignite a passion for reading without breaking the bank! Unfortunately, libraries have limited opening times due to the cost of running them so make sure you check before making the trip.
3. Lead by Example
I totally agree with Clare from This Mummy’s Always Right, who says: “If they don’t see you reading how can you encourage and ensure they do?” It’s so important to show children the importance of reading and in this case actions do speak louder than words!
4. It’s not all About Books
This is probably the most important thing to remember! There are so many things to read apart from books! Rachel at Coffee, Cake, Kids says that any reading is good reading, a comic or a magazine, or even the back of a cereal box. “Don’t get hung up on the actual thing they’re reading. I was a primary teacher and if the reluctant readers in my class read a comic rather than their reading book, I was happy enough. Make reading a part of life, if they bring home a letter from school, get them to read it aloud to you, when a leaflet comes through the post, ask them to tell you what it is about. They often don’t realise what you’re up to when you sneak it in like that!”
Equally, Sophie’s experience, as a mum of a reluctant reader, reflects Rachel’s advice: “Find something they actually want to read! I took Henry to the library and he actually found books he wanted but look at your child’s interests and see what is available to read that matches. Start with magazines, web pages and progress to actual books when they are ready. It’s easy to assume that reading has to mean sitting down with a book but it’s far more than that.” Sophie blogs at Soph-Obsessed.
5. A Magazine or Comic Subscription Could be the way Forward
Make it a treat to choose a comic or magazine each week and maybe subscribe to one to be delivered, addressed to them. I used to love getting post (when it wasn’t all bills) as a child, it was so exciting so with any luck, they’ll be excited to read what’s inside!
6. Create a Book Club
This is an idea that I’m definitely stealing! Helen at Mummy’s Gin Fund, has a book club with her children where each child takes it in turn to read a book to everyone else at bedtime. Why not make it extra special by setting up a ‘reading area’ away from distractions and get comfy with beanbags, cushions and blankets. We have always read at bedtime, but they read to me as part of ‘homework time’ and then I read to them together after that. K (11) usually goes off and reads her own book but I think it would be really nice for her to join in and read with us- I’ll let you know how this goes!!
7. The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac
This book was brought to my attention by Adam, a teacher whose passion lies in this very topic. It is an absolute must for any parent with a reluctant reader as Pannac focuses on igniting the love of reading to encourage children to be life-long readers– exactly what I want to achieve. The book has been neatly summarised into ten rights and one warning:
1. The right not to read
2. The right to skip
3. The right not to finish a book
4. The right to read it again
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to mistake a book for real life
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to dip in
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to be quiet
Warning- Don’t make fun of people who don’t read- or they never will.
I’ve ordered the book but will be adhering to these points in the meantime!
8. Chill out Mama!
The overriding piece of advice for any parent with a reluctant reader is to make sure you don’t put them off by forcing them to read. Having gone through the experience with her son, Samantha over at Mrs Mulled Wine advises not to push it too much and let them discover the magic in their own time.
Jess from Mrs Hible is in a similar situation to me with an elder child (10) who loves to read. “Our 8 year old daughter is a reluctant reader and really struggles. She quite likes the horrid Henry books as they are not too long and the font big. I would just say the more you try to push them the more they seem to resist, that’s what we get with our daughter.”
Try to put reading in their path rather than force it upon them. When you’re at the supermarket, stop at the magazine stand and flick through a couple rather than saying ‘lets go and choose you a comic’. Kids just can’t resist touching things and will start picking things up. When you’re baking or playing a game with instructions, ask ‘what do we do now’ or pretend to forget the last instruction or amount of ingredient.
I have always loved to read. As a child, I would read every night before going to sleep and often during weekend afternoons, in our caravan on the south coast. Though I don’t have the time to read now as much as I’d like, one of the things that I look forwards to on our summer holiday, is relaxing with a good book, now the kids are old enough not to need constant supervision!
Of course my love of reading is something that I want my children to experience, that said, during my research on this topic, I was reminded by Lynette that ‘Not everyone loves to read, as long as she can then that’s okay.’ This is a hard pill for me to swallow and I’m not done trying to bring out her inner bookworm just yet, but I think it is something I need to bear in mind.
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned and will take away from this is that reading isn’t all about books! Are you struggling to inspire your child to read independently? How have you encouraged your reluctant reader?