How can we as parents turn around reluctant readers?

Do you have a child you really have to coerce into reading? Does it sometimes feels as though everybody else’s kids are racing through books whilst your child will do anything they can think of to avoid it? We, as parents, would all love our children to be enthusiastic readers. But there are so many reasons why our kids might be turned off reading, or never even turned on to reading in the first place. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Despite more books being published on a yearly basis than ever before, newspapers are all awash with lamentable statistics of how children (and adults) reading for pleasure is sharply dropping. Where youngsters are concerned, this can impact on general academic achievement, writing skills, concentration and powers of the imagination.

But here’s the good news: There are SO many ways in which this situation can be turned around; some things will take steady, patient work on your part and other methods may, like magic, work overnight. It’s impossible to know how our children will respond unless we try. Here are a few of my favourite methods to transform a reluctant reader into one raring to go.

  1. Reading to animals

For many years, links have been made between increased confidence for reluctant readers when reading to animals rather than humans. Animals do not judge, they do not constantly interrupt or correct and their patience and attentiveness are boundless. Reading to such an audience, whether it’s canine or feline or of a small and furry variety, has shown to dramatically improve the confidence of reluctant readers which does, of course, directly correlate with increased fluency and ability in reading.

Going one step further, organizations that recognise the effectiveness of this have actually trained dogs to wag their tails when a child starts reading – could anything really be more encouraging for a child who normally doesn’t want to read?

If you don’t have a pet of your own, a great number of organizations and animal shelters exist to encourage a link-up between readers and furry friends, but have a quick look at this one in the US. And here is a brilliant article written by Melissa Taylor on the benefits of reading with animals.

2. Model reading

Few things can be more powerful than modelling behaviour to our children. If you keep on and on at your child to pick up a book and read, chances are they will do quite the opposite. But if you pick up a book yourself (and not just once but habitually, day in day out),  you don’t need to say a word. The message you are silently sending is this: Reading is great. I am making time for this activity because it’s enriching and rewarding. Let your child witness you deriving pleasure from this activity (so it wouldn’t hurt, for example, to read humourous books, poetry or articles from time to time and laugh out loud whilst reading) and, over time, they may well want to follow your example. After all, if you’re getting so much from this, why can’t they?

3. YOU reading to your children

I have banged on about this a fair amount in this blog, how good it is for children on so many levels. But for a reluctant reader, it can be even more powerful. If you read the kind of stories they want to hear (and note, this may not coincide with those beloved tales from your own childhood or the ones you want to read), you are on to a winner. For example, if your child loves watching movies but you struggle to get them to pick up a book, find out if a book has been written about that movie (either before or after it has come out) – you’ll find that very often there is an accompanying book. You and your child can discuss what does and does not differ between the book and film.

Oh, and this may sound really sneaky (actually, it is really sneaky), but get hold of a book you think your child will like. Read this to your child in the evenings, get to the really exciting part and then suddenly get ‘too busy’ to read the book and leave it lying around somewhere. More often than not, your child just will not be able to resist if they’ve enjoyed the story and pick it up on their own before too long.


Good luck! I would love to hear if anyone has any experience with any of these 🙂

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