Thursday, 12 October 2017

how to help your reluctant reader

This post is a little different to my home and children organising posts, but its close to my heart and I think it definitely comes under "mum tips". It can be saddening, frustrating, and so difficult to have your child not want to read or if they struggle and you're not sure how to help.

A bit of history first so you know the perspective from which I'm writing. I now love to read and have read to my children every day of their lives. However, there was a huge period of my life where I hated reading. I loved words and poetry and learning about the English language and language acquisition, so I studied English at college and then university. My love of reading didn't come until university after finding out I was moderately dyslexic with a reading level and comprehension way below my brain function. Once I understood this and I understood where my fear and frustration with reading had come from I learnt how to further come up with coping methods.

I have since trained as a teaching assistant, tutored GCSE English, and taught coping methods to other dyslexic brained people like me. 

I will be doing another post better suited to children with dyslexic tendencies, but for now I'm going to focus on reluctant readers as this helps those children and a whole lot of other children who are experiencing difficulties or disinterest.

I'd like to point out that even though I read to all my children regularly, that I've still had two children that have been extremely reluctant to read at different stages in their life. One child for a few years and that has dyslexic tendencies, so please bear in mind that their reluctance probably has nothing to do with you and is in fact a stage most children go through at one point.

These tips will help if you find your child in this stage. It will help you and your child find that joy and excitement about reading. 

Focus on interests

If I buy or borrow a book and it's not what I thought or doesn't engage me I don't carry on reading. I don't expect my children to either, in fact I think it's really valuable to point this out so children can find a genre or author that appeals to them. 

Over the years I've been able to collect a lot of books so when my children bring home a book from school that's not appealing to them we can read one of our own. I buy from charity shops (who usually have 3 or 4 for £1!) or our local library sometimes, from Amazon on their 3 for £10 or used selection, and of course borrow from the library. We also do swaps with my children's friends which is extra exciting for them to know they're reading something their friend loved.

Visit your library

Let your child browse and pick up whatever they want to. Go to the fiction AND non-fiction areas. Let them choose whichever type of book they like. I will say this:

Children should read what they are drawn to regardless of the age suggestion

Of course, if your child is pulling out things that are scary or inappropriate you should parent them in this, but generally this holds true. I have a nine, seven, and three year old. Sometimes the nine year old reads a picture book that was bought for my daughter. Okay, maybe she can read something more complex, but so what? She will be reading at her level at school regardless, but reading something they enjoy is far more important for instilling a love of reading. 

For example, I'm more than capable of reading someone's physics dissertation, but would I want to be sounding out words I'm unfamiliar with the entire time or be reading something that's taking all my brain power to understand? Sometimes the answer is yes, but often I want to lose myself in another world for a while. Our children are the same. 

If your child is reluctant to read and they have a birthday coming up consider getting them a book voucher, they usually come on a card and they can get excited about feeling grown up and can take ownership in finding something they'll enjoy.

Try turn taking

Don't feel like your child should be reading all the time. Charlie and Lola books are fab for their dialogue. Give your child a character and get them to read that part, or take one of the above books and let them finish the sentence. I specifically chose this group because of the rhyming, simple language which feels less pressured for a child to read because a lot of it is can be guessed so really builds confidence. I'll pop links for each category of books below so you can find them, but these ones are especially good for children who are beginning to read (whatever age that is).

What's next

This involves a little acting or drama skills, but I like to sneak a peek at the next page and gasp; "You'll never guess what they've done/happened!". Or try pointing at the picture or speech; "Can you see what they've done/said?!".

This method gets the child more involved and is great with early readers where you may be exclusively reading or trying to encourage them to read. Then you can say, "Can you see what they've said?" and encourage them to read the next little bit or next part of speech, or even just to cheekily read when you tell them not to skip ahead.

Oh, and please use voices when reading to your child. They will remember it more if you do, but it also helps solidify the progression of the story, characteristics or mood of the characters, and will help them when they read to use expression.

I really hope this has been useful for you, if you have any other questions please leave it in the comments and I'll get back to you. I am passionate about reading so I apologise for this long post, but this subject is really important and a love of reading can really set up a child for whatever path they go down in life. 

Book suggestions by type of reader

(Click the image of the single book for an Amazon link if you want to buy one of the suggestions. These are affiliate links, meaning Amazon pays me a small amount if someone buys based on my suggesting you buy from them, but it's where I'd buy new books regardless! Don't forget about their 3 for £10 and used options on these links.)

early readers


I wrote about these already, but the rhyming and rhythm make them easier to read for beginning readers. (I couldn't find my copy of Oi, frog for this but there's three in the series and they're all funny and have a great rhythm with pictures that help with reading.)

progressing readers

With these books they either have wonderful artwork - solidifying the meaning for readers who may still be concentrating on their reading, or they have wonderful text shapes to help keep attention. The 13-storey tree house we borrowed, and Clarice Bean in on loan to a friend. But they're firm favourites and we will be getting more in each series.

The open book here is "The book with no pictures" and is excellent! Funny and clever and the font really adds so much to it! It's the open book earlier in the post too.


more confident readers that need engaging

I'd always suggest with more confident readers that you find fun books that cater to their likes and reading style. Some will have shorter chapters for ones with a shorter attention span (The BFG, Matilda), some are broken up with pictures to solidify understanding (Tilly and the time machine, Billionaire boy). The day the crayons quit is a picture book, but it is great for teaching expression, character analysis, and is honestly a really sweet read that can help with understanding and teaching kindness.

I included the Magic Ballerina ones as an example of how we've taken an interest (strictly come dancing and her dance class), and used it to choose a series that interests my daughter. 


Lastly these are some of our favourite non-fiction texts. Zoo-ology has the most amazing pictures and is seriously great for any age, but it also has facts on each animal that you can look up in the back, at my son's most disheartened with reading he would still choose an animal and read a clue about them for me to guess. And this atlas is a firm favourite because there's small pieces of information and a lot of drawn images for each area so children don't feel overwhelmed.


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