Helping Reluctant Readers

  • 'But Mom, I Hate to Read!' — Tips for Reluctant Readers  (From


    Show your reluctant reader that books can help him do the things he/she loves.

    By Linda Strean, GreatSchools Managing Editor

    "But Mom, I hate to read!" These words make any parent cringe, especially one who loves to curl up with a good book. But some children, even those with strong skills, would rather do anything than read. Others have learning difficulties and find reading a struggle.

    What can you do to encourage your reluctant reader?  

    1. Connect reading with your child's passion.
    Whether it's soccer, skateboarding or space travel, get a subscription to a  magazine on that topic. Also consider general magazines for children, such as Highlights, Nickleodeon or Time for Kids. If it has his name on the address label, a magazine becomes a personal invitation to read.

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    2. Tell your child a joke or a riddle — and pull out the book where you found it.
    Joke books, riddle books and books of sports trivia are irresistible to some of the most reluctant readers. Keep a book like this handy in the car, in the kitchen, at the doctor's office, on vacation or at the ballpark.

    3. Read books with your child that have silly drawings or humor only a kid would love.
    You might not like the humor of the Captain Underpants series, but your 9- to 12-year-old may love it.

    4. Show your child that books are the keys to achieving a desirable skill.
    Does she want to put sequins on her jeans? Does he want to do magic tricks? Does he want to learn to care for a new a pet? Show them how books can give step-by-step instructions.

    5. Introduce series books.
    Some may not be great literature, but they can entice a less confident or skilled reader because of their predictable themes and familiar characters. Reading books like the Encyclopedia Brown series can help your child prepare for more substantial reading.

    Avoiding Pitfalls As You Encourage Your Reluctant  Reader

    If you have a son who is a reluctant reader, ask your librarian which authors have a following among boys. Walter Dean Myers, for example, writes about a wide range of topics from basketball to biography. Many of this award-winning author's books are more appropriate for teen-agers. Slam!, published by Scholastic Paperbacks, is about a Harlem high school boy who loves basketball and struggles with school. Shooter, published by Amistad, focuses on the aftermath of a high school shooting.

    But Myers also writes books for younger readers. Among them: The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, published by Scholastic Paperbacks, and Smiffy Blue, Ace Crime Detective: The Case of the Missing Ruby and Other Stories, Rebound by Sagebrush.

    California school librarian Ellen Phillips has worked for years with readers, both enthusiastic and reluctant, in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District in Mission Viejo, CA. She says summer is the perfect time to explore books that aren't required in the classroom.

    "My feeling about 'free reading time' is that it has to be free," she said. "To say you have to be reading a novel is unrealistic for some kids. Some kids just don't enjoy fiction."

    Phillips and other reading experts underscore the importance of reading with your child.

    "One of the big mistakes parents make is to stop reading to their kids once they can read chapter books," said Phillips. If you have an older child, she suggests reading the same book at the same time and then just chatting about it.

    "It helps you know if they're comprehending what they read, and it also  gives you something to talk about as kids get older," she said. "We sometimes drive some kids to hate reading by making them do something after they finish a book — make a diorama or write a book report.

    "As an adult, think about what you do when you finish a book you like. You tell someone about it. Basically, you just have a conversation."

    Any time is a great time for a good read and a good talk!