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Top tips for engaging reluctant readers

June 21, 2017

Many parents are keen for their child to develop a love of reading and books but if you have a reluctant reader in your family, getting them to pick up a book can be difficult! Get them on board with our tips for reluctant readers

Reading a book by the sea

What makes a child a reluctant reader?

Many children view reading as something that must be done at school, but not for pleasure or enjoyment. It is often important to start by finding the root of any underlying causes of the reluctance; is it that the books your child is trying to read are too challenging or are they not enjoying the types of books they are reading?

What’s the difference between a reluctant reader and a struggling reader?

A reluctant reader isn’t necessarily a child who finds reading difficult, they may just not be interested in books, have a shorter attention span or prefer to do other activities for pleasure. Whereas a struggling reader finds learning to read more difficult, perhaps due to a learning need or speech and language difficulties.

A reluctant reader may be an able reader or they may have reading difficulties which make books harder to enjoy.

For extra help for children struggling with reading, find out how we support SEND children to achieve their best.

Is my child a reluctant reader?

If your child refuses or resists reading time, shows little interest in books or becomes frustrated and misbehaves when asked to read, they may be a reluctant reader.

How can I help a reluctant reader?

Often reluctant readers have difficulty connecting with a book, so the first step can be acknowledging their feelings of frustration, under-confidence or resistance, and let your child know that you are going to work through it together.

Once a child develops fluency in reading, they are far more likely to read more for enjoyment which helps them become stronger in their reading skills.

Choosing a book at the right reading level for your child can help grow their confidence and make reading fun!

Tips for reluctant readers

Below are our top tips for motivating reluctant readers in your family:

  • Create a reading routine. Set aside between 10-30 minutes a day to read with your child. Keep reading to and with your child even once they are confident, fluent readers. It can be a wonderful way to connect with them by discussing the book together and making predictions about what might happen next.
  • Dedicate a cosy reading corner. Creating an appealing place in the house or garden to read can be a great incentive! And cushions and blankets to make it even more snuggly.
  • Visit the library. Encourage your child to read a wide variety of books to keep them engaged. A visit to the library is a fantastic way for your child to access a large choice of books at no extra cost! Much has been written about the powerful impact of students that have a choice in what they read. When children are given the opportunity to choose a book, they are more likely to read it!
  • Choose visually appealing books. Particularly for younger children, bright colours, appealing front covers and larger print can often be key to engaging reluctant readers. Artwork or illustrations that are realistic, interesting or diverse can also draw in a reader.
  • Hook them into a series of books. Reading the first book of a series with your child will often lead to them independently wanting to read more and learn more about these characters and the plot of these books. They can make great gifts for birthdays and Christmas!
  • Watch the film. Often as an adult, this can spoil the surprise of a book but for a reluctant reader, it can help to engage a child in the story and make a book more accessible. Seeing a book come to life can be really motivating for a child.
  • Read using technology. Gadgets such as tablets and e-readers can help to capture children’s interest in books. Technology is changing the way we all learn, and given that most children see using a tablet as a fun activity, it is likely to increase their enjoyment and confidence – and therefore have a positive impact on their reading.
  • Listen to audiobooks. Mix up their reading by allowing your child to listen to audiobooks for part of the story. It can be really engaging to listen and follow along with a book.
  • Create a reading competition. Giving a reluctant reader an incentive to read books can really help their motivation. Why not take part in Explore Learnings ‘alternative book club’?
  • Read to younger siblings or family members. This can really empower a reluctant reader and help to build their confidence in their reading capabilities.
  • Pair reading with activities. Ask your child to read the instructions to a new game and teach the family, or read a recipe and cook together… they won’t even know they’re learning!
  • Let them read anything. Books are a fantastic form of escapism but reading magazines, game guides or football league tables are all a step in the right direction and may help a reluctant reader to see that they do have the ability to read.
  • Praise their achievements. All children need some encouragement sometimes, especially with activities they perceive as boring. Whether it’s a wall chart, stickers or simple praise, keep the momentum going by celebrating every time they complete a book or a chapter.
  • Follow their passions. Try introducing your child to books that reflect their hobbies and interests. Or better yet – let them find and select them themselves!
  • Find characters your child can relate to. Children can be more engaged in a story if the characters look like them or have a similar lifestyle. Look for books with characters and illustrations that they can identify with.

Activities for reluctant readers

Here are some more activities to motivate students and young readers…

Turn reading into a game

Try this – each take a different character and act out a book as if it’s a play. You can even add costumes and props to make it more fun.

Take turns reading

By taking a paragraph each, you can help to keep the focus on the story.

Read aloud

If you start by reading aloud to your child at bedtime, this can help them feel inspired by magical stories and twisting tales. If you can do special voices for different characters even better! As your child grows in confidence, you can encourage them to read sections back to you.

Make a book quiz

Creating some questions about the narrative or characters and turning it into a fun quiz with prizes can motivate some children to find out what happens at the end of a book.

Make reading social

A book club with friends (complete with snacks and games) can be a fantastic way to encourage children to get involved in books and reading.

Books for reluctant readers

Is your child reluctant to read? The right book could be the key to your child enjoying reading at home. Try experimenting with a wide range of reading materials and allow your child to take the lead on finding something they want to read for pleasure.

Here are some ideas to start reading…

Funny books

Laugh your heads off with these hilarious reads…

  • Danger is Everywhere by David O’Doherty
  • Aldrin Adams and the Cheese Nightmares by Paul Howard & Lee Cosgrove
  • Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Joke Book by Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake
  • The Accidental Diary of B. U. G. by Jen Carney
  • Timmy on the Toilet by Peta Lemon

Book series for children

Get stuck into a series…

  • Harry Potter by J.K Rowling
  • The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  • Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Non-fiction books

Discover the world with these non-fiction books…

  • Smart About Sharks by Owen Davey
  • Poo: A Natural History of the Unmentionable by Nicola Davies
  • Alastair Humphreys’ Great Adventurers by Alastair Humphreys
  • Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World by Kate Pankhurst
  • Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Visual books

From graphic novels to fantastic illustrations – get them reading with these highly visual books…

  • The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon
  • The Adventure of John Blake by Philip Pullman
  • The Encyclopaedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg
  • Anne of Green Gables by Mariah Marsden
  • The 13-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Find more fantastic book ideas in our recommended primary school reading list blog post.

How to teach a reluctant reader at home

Looking for more help to engage your reluctant reader? An online English tutor can encourage children to be fearless with every challenge they come across – all from the comfort of home!

From phonics tuition to reading and writing development – English tutoring can help to build up their core skills and help them to become engaged and confident readers.

Encourage a love of reading

If you’d like any more tips or advice for helping your child become a fearless reader, why not get in touch with your local Explore Learning tuition centre today?

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