For some children, the habit of reading comes easily, while for others it can be a challenge.
Whether it’s literacy barriers, time crunches, or simple disinterest, we’ve collected some concrete, tried and true methods that can be helpful to even the most reluctant readers.
Tips for students in grades K-4
Take turns reading aloud.
Studies show that reading aloud to young children is one of the best ways for them to develop word mastery and pronunciation. It’s also one of the best ways to model reading for your child. The more they observe you reading, the more likely they will take it up on their own.
Reread favorite books.
If a child enjoyed a book, let them read it again and again. This not only helps them develop their literacy skills, but it also plants seeds that soon grow their love of reading.
Let them choose their books.
There are many different kinds of books, including graphic novels, children’s magazines, local newspapers, and more. Experts say that this helps them gain a sense of control over what they read and why. Listen and observe carefully, because your child’s curiosity just might lead you to a new family favorite.
Make it fun.
To young reluctant readers, reading is anything but fun. First, talk to your child about what they think will make it fun and work with them to make changes. You can also take this opportunity to get creative. Consider the following:
- Make a reading space/corner in your home with pillows, blankets, lights, etc.
- Find online reading games at sources such as PBS Kids (free), ABCMouse, and Khan Academy (free).
- Consider audio books, interactive reading apps, and other nontraditional methods.
Tips for students in grades 5-8
Dig deep into stories with them.
Around this age, children begin to critically evaluate stories, understand story archs and complex characters. This is a great time to dive deep into a story with them by discussing the themes, plots, and lessons learned. As you show your interest, it will encourage their interest as well.
Let them criticize a book.
If your child doesn’t seem to be enjoying a book, don’t force them to read it. Instead, let them criticize it and explain why they don’t like it, then let them choose a different book. You can even help them write a review. There is no greater way to discourage reading than forcing a child to read a story book they don’t enjoy.
Make it special.
Sometimes, a child needs to go on a personal literacy adventure to discover their love for reading. One way to do this is by visiting a local second-hand bookstore, your local library, or reading-related event where you both can share one-on-one time together choosing books.
Mix up the genres.
At this age, a reluctant reader might not have found the right genre yet. This will take some trial and error for them to discover what they like and don’t like. The easiest way to kick-start this process is to ask your local librarian for suggestions.
Set up a reading time/space.
Students are busy and sometimes just need a routine where reading becomes a habit. Whether it’s a reading corner, a comfy chair, or the kitchen counter, try to make time and space for your student to read for 20 minutes or more every day.
Additional tips for teenage and young adult readers
Let them have a fun book.
At this age, most students are busy reading textbooks and research for class projects. Make sure they have at least one book they can read for pleasure, or “run away to.” According to recent studies, this provides a mental break, exercises social brain functions, and helps to develop a growth mindset.
Join a book club.
Occasionally, peer pressure and shared opinions about a book are positive reinforcers for reluctant readers. This isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth looking into. Visit your local library or ask your child’s teacher about joining a book club.
Set a reading pace.
Much like how a musician or an athlete paces themselves to avoid burnout, some readers need to set a daily reading pace. This can be divided up by pages, chapters, time limits, etc. This especially comes in handy while reading lengthy books or long book series.