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10 Tips for Inspiring Reluctant Readers

Totally Awesome, Super-Cool Bible Stories as Drawn by Nerdy Ned Tommy Nelson book,Boy reading a book

My six-year-old is a reluctant reader. She loves to be read to, but she doesn’t enjoy picking up a book and deciphering the letters herself.

Many of our little ones are like that, aren’t they? (And maybe a few of our older kids, too!)

There are a lot of different reasons kids are reluctant to read — a few of which are related to a real learning disability — but there are quite a few things you can do to foster a love of reading in your children.

10 Tips for Inspiring Reluctant Readers

1. Relax! Some people love to read, staying up all night just to finish a book. Some people would rather clean their toenails than read anything. Whether your child’s resistance is the result of a lack of skills, insecurity, dislike, or a barrier to learning, getting upset about the resistance is a sure way to make it worse. In fact, she’s probably already uptight because she isn’t reading as well as she wants to. Yelling at her or berating her about reading is going to make the issue a power struggle rather than encourage her to start reading more.

2. Read to them. It is impossible to overstate the importance of reading to your children. They learn so many new words and ideas, and their imaginations go wild listening to engaging stories. We expect to read to our pre-readers, but it’s equally important to read to our older kids, too, for as long as they’ll let you. I read fiction to my high school science students every week; they loved it.

3. Read around and over them. Let your kids see you reading. Sit down with a book in the morning or evening. Spend time reading God’s Word quietly or out loud. Begin a family Bible memorization project, reading the verses with your husband (aloud) each evening before or after dinner.

4. If they’re especially reluctant, read in very small bites, just ten minutes at a time. More than that and you could risk making reading seem boring and tedious. Less than that and it won’t seem like reading.

5. Choose books that have movie versions – it’s not cheating! My family has had countless great discussions and debates on whether the movie or book was better and why! We always try to make sure we read the book first so our imaginations are not influenced by the movie. When comparing a book to the movie, you can ask your children questions such as, “Did the characters sound and look the way she imagined?” or “What was different about the movie version, and were any scenes altered from the book?”. When I taught high school, we did this with Jurassic Park. It’s not hard to find book-movie combos at all reading levels, even for our littlest: Gigi, God’s Little Princess, Hermie, and Berenstain Bears all have print and video options.

6. Try nonfiction for a change of pace. Some kids enjoy stories, but some love to read about real places, real people, and real action. Some of my favorite nonfiction series are: iExplore, Mini Encyclopdia, and Ready to Read, which all have a wide selection of titles and topics.

7. Let them break the rules. The first time my six-year-old ever read to me willingly was the night I said to her at bedtime, “You can stay up as long as you want if you read to me.” She sat down and read an entire chapter of Frog and Toad are Friends. I’m not sure if it was the later bedtime or the thrill of breaking the rules, but it was the first pinhole in the dam of her resistance.

8. Find a hook. Reading is reading, whether it’s a magazine-style quiz, a comic, or a story. My Life Out of Ten and The Beauty Book are full of quizzes (and might even get your daughter writing, too!). Nerdy Ned is a refreshing Biblical comic book novel and a great alternative to the secular Diary of a Wimpy Kid comic series.

9. Make them laugh.All kids like to laugh, and silly books are an instant hit. Find a book of jokes and pranks or a story full of everyday mishaps (like My Life as a Smashed Burrito).

10. Turn off your television. And video games. And tablets and readers and everything else. Like it or not, books can’t really compete with flashing lights and music for the attention of a reluctant reader. If you make unplugged time a habit, your kids will fill the time. Help them fill it with reading.

Your Turn

Are any of your children reluctant readers? How do you plan to use National “Read a Book Day” (September 6) and International Literacy Day (September 8) as a motivation to inspire them to dive into reading? We’d love to hear about your kids’ favorite books that they love to read!