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Tips to Help Your Reluctant Reader

Nov 9, 2016



Do you have a child who would rather wash the dishes or help with the laundry than read a book? Do you have to beg and plead with them to sit down and read, whether it’s for school or fun? Maybe they even say they “hate reading.”

It’s hard to know how to react when your child hates reading, and even harder to know how to motivate them to read. We hope one or more of the following ideas will do the trick; which idea(s) will work, however, depends on the underlying reason for your child’s reluctance—boredom with content, inability to understand what they’re reading, or a reading weakness.


Provide your child with books that explore their interests.

Perhaps pair with an associated activity. For example, if your child loves learning about animals, plan a trip to the library after your next zoo visit. Reading can be easier to tackle when the books surround a beloved topic, so parents can help by providing some choices that are a good fit.


Send the right message about reading.

To establish reading as a positive household activity, parents can schedule quiet times for reading and be a reading role model themselves. These quiet times for the family are great for eliminating distractions and hard feelings as no family member “gets” to play games or watch TV while the reluctant reader feels punished. Parents should definitely participate, too, modelling reading as a leisure activity that you look forward to.


And, if there is not required school reading piled up, allow for as much free choice as possible—comic books, for example have been a gateway to science fiction for many reluctant readers.


Try story time and audiobooks.

Listening to stories can develop imagery and spark a child’s interest in seeking out books to read on their own. Doing this activity together gives you the opportunity to ask imagery questions as you’re listening to content. Some good language to use is “what are you picturing for this part of the story? What do you think might happen next?” Get a conversation going about the story in order to gauge understanding.
Not sure where to start? Check out the Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease; this guide of over 300 titles also includes information about the benefits of reading aloud to children.

Address comprehension issues head-on.

If your child has weak concept imagery—the ability to create an imagined or imaged gestalt, or whole, from language—reading about their favourite activity or listening to audiobooks will not magically help them enjoy reading. They may not understand what they’re reading or listening to, or may be only getting “parts” and not the whole of the story. If this is the case, they aren’t just bored or unmotivated. They need the imagery-language connection so learning can be easier. Learn more about comprehension weakness, including solutions, here.


Rule out a reading weakness.

If decoding is an issue, just making your child read more will not make them enjoy it. If your child has trouble recognising sight words, sounds out words incorrectly, or reads slowly, they may have a reading difficulty. A cause of reading difficulty is a weakness in visualising letters in words. This is called weak symbol imagery and must be intact in order for your child to self-correct their reading errors, which leads to independence while reading. Learn more about reading difficulty, including solutions, here.


Reluctant readers are often struggling readers, so it is important to know what is going on with your child’s reading experience. Once you’ve determined the area of weakness, it’s critical to provide your child with the tools necessary to become independent readers, which is the goal for all of us. No more “I hate reading.” Let’s get your child to love reading as much as you do!

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