10 Practical Ways to Encourage Reluctant Readers

Pile of fiction and nonfictionbooks

“I hate books!”

“I hate reading!”

“Books are boring!”

These are comments that are heard in household and at school. And it is becoming more prevalent. To me, this is a tragedy. Books can open up the world to a child. The can learn new things. They can escape to another time, another place, another country, or even another planet or alternate dimension. Reading books can be relaxing, exciting, entertaining or just pure escapism.

My story

Reading was not always fun for me. I have dyslexia. My parents loved books and learning. I grew up with my mum saying to me, “You can a new thing every day of your life. You can learn a word, a new skill, or a piece of information that you did not know before.” This statement is true, and is something that I have lived my whole life and have passed on to my own children. But in the beginning it was not easy. My mum helped as much as she could.

Everyone is different. With my dyslexia, the words tend to move about the page. I mix my b’s and d’s and even, at times, the p’s. M’s and w’s are a problem too. I get words mixed up when I read. My eyes pick up words from above or below the line that I’ll be reading.

The Wild Book Quote

When I write, I find that I still drop off e’s off words. I can mix letters up in words, or whole entire words and sentences, as my brain races ahead. When writing on the computer, the red line will appear, and I know the word is wrong, but can’t figure out how to correct it. I can even pick the correct word from the list, but can’t figure out where I went wrong. I am getting better. It is hard work, but so worth it.

As a child my mum showed me how to place a ruler above and below the line that I was reading, and to place my finger under the word that I was reading. As I got better following the line, I took the top ruler away, then eventually the bottom ruler. Then I didn’t need my finger and I could track across the page and not get lost. Well not often. And I learnt to speed read. However, even now, there are times, especially when I am tired, that I still pick up words from around the page and I have to re-read the same passage a couple of times before it makes sense. Please note that this worked for me. It isn’t a method that will work for everyone.

Access to books is vital

I believe that if a child is interested enough in a book’s subject, they will read it. My parents let me have access to their library from an early age. I read the usual books for that era; lots of Enid Blyton. The Folk of the Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair and Naughty Amelia Jane were among my favourites.

I loved horses so my mum bought me horse books. But, not just story books like Black Beauty. No. She also bought me books on riding, and taking care of horses. At the school library I read every book about horses that I could get my hands on. Horse Breeds of the World was my favourite.

I also liked a book on tying knots, and the Guidebook of Australian Birds. My sister and I would spend hours pouring through it, identifying which birds might live in our area, and then trying to spot them with the binoculars.

My children

My own children had different interests from each other, and their interests were different to mine.

My daughter loved animals, dinosaurs, and all books to do with those two subjects.

My son, he loved space, science and dinosaurs. From age six, I read to him Universe in Focus: the Story of the Space Hubble Telescope, The Magic School Bus series, and anything with dinosaurs. We read other books, but these were the main themes.

Different kids like different books

We went to the library often. They had their own library card, and I would pick out some other books to read, as well as have them pick their own books.

I am sharing this with you to show that, if you have a child that hates reading, for whatever reason, that, if you tap into what they are passionate about, they will want to read.

I Spy a Great Reader

I recently read, I Spy a Great Reader by Jackie French. In it she shares her own experiences with Dyslexia, her very helpful family, and her passion for working with children to help them find that ‘magic book.’ So many times, as parents, we can get it wrong. Even well-intentioned parents.

On page 232, Jackie shares an experience she had during a writing workshop. Sam seemed so enthusiastic throughout the workshop and appeared to be a boy that loved reading. The boy’s father painted a very different picture. Sam read very well but didn’t like books. It seemed that the parents had loads of books at home, but only ones that they liked and approved of.

When Jackie suggested, The Day My Bum Went Psycho, Sam’s eyes lit up. But the father called it rubbish and said his son wouldn’t like it. So that was the end of that. The light in Sam’s eyes went out, and so did any chance of Sam learning the fun of reading.

So how do you encourage a child who either has trouble reading, or can read but hates it? The key is to tap into what they are passionate about.

Top 10 ways to encourage reluctant readers:
1. Look at the winners and shortlisted books of Kids Choice and Children’s Book Council of Australia.
2. Have your child ask around. Ask librarian and booksellers.
3. Ask other kids.
4. Ask their best mates.
5. Borrow lots of books from the library.
6. Tell them that if they find a book boring that they can stop reading and try another book.
7. Check out comics. (My favourite was Footrot Flats as a kid)
8. Teach them to ‘taste’ a book. Show them to leaf through a book, and check out the style of writing used. Read the blurb at the back of the book to see if it enticing. Read a paragraph from different pages.
9. Teach kids to keep a list of books that they like.
10. Try the nonfiction section of the library – both junior and adult.

(Taken from I Spy a Great Reader by Jackie French. Chapter 10, Getting Kids Hooked on Books. Pages 239-247)

I said earlier, that if you have a child that hates reading, for whatever reason, that, if you tap into what they are passionate about, they will want to read.

On page 244 of I Spy a Great Reader, it tells the story of a boy, a friend of her son’s, that Jackie has called Paul. At age twelve, he barely read or write. But he loved chooks. One day, when Paul was over at their house, Jackie received in the mail a veterinary textbook on chook diseases. Paul loved the book so much he immediately started reading it. He borrowed it and finished it three days later. Later, Paul discovered farming magazines and other books about chooks. He loved non-fiction books.

So here are some bonus hints to encourage reading:

  • Offer non-fiction books about ‘real’ people and things.
  • Give your child magazines about their favourite subject, or ones on different topic so they can explore which ones they are interested in.
  • Encourage them to read the newspaper.
  • Find websites about interesting subjects.
  • Recipe books and get them to pick out what they want for dinner.

A final note:

It may be tough and difficult road, but it is not impossible. A child, when given the right help, support and encouragement, can learn to read and enjoy it.

Click here for some great strategies for parents and caregivers to help with their child’s reading from the Primary English Teaching Association Australia. It has some great hints and tips for parents to help their child to read at home.

Further information about Dyslexia and how children can be helped, can be found at Dyslexia Daily.

Help for reluctant readers and writers can be found at ABC Jenny.

Original Blog post can be found here.

2 thoughts on “10 Practical Ways to Encourage Reluctant Readers

  1. Hi Megan,
    Absolutely LOVE this post.

    I especially love the opening words to catch our attention, your own personal story and the fabulous suggestions for our little reluctant readers..

    Keep going with the blogging.

    Cheers
    Karen 🙂

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