How To Help A Reluctant Reader

Does your child avoid reading? Has his teacher informed you that he has problems reading in class? Figure out why he’s such a reluctant reader and what you can do to help.

By Ashwin Lobo  • 8 min read

How To Help A Reluctant Reader

Reading — some children seem to love it, whereas others can barely stand the thought of it. Reluctant readers are those who don’t enjoy reading very much and hesitate whenever they are called upon to do so. If given the choice, they probably wouldn’t read at all. When they are forced to read, reluctant readers are often disinterested. They may stare down blankly at the page as if they can’t comprehend a word. Even when they do read aloud, it is often in a dull tone that makes their lack of enthusiasm fairly obvious. However, a lack of interest isn’t the only reason why your child may be a reluctant reader.

Reasons why children are reluctant to read

  1. Indifference: Some children may just not enjoy the activity of reading. They may have different interests such as art, sports, dramatics or music and they may not want to spend their time reading. These children usually have normal reading capabilities but they are uninterested in using them.
  2. Learning difficulties: Not all children dislike reading simply because they aren’t interested in it. Some of them genuinely find it difficult to read. This is because they may suffer from a learning difficulty that makes the task of reading a big challenge. The most common reading-related learning difficulty is dyslexia. Dyslexic children find it difficult to sound out words. This means that they struggle with pronouncing the syllables or letters of a word in order to figure out what the word is. They may also find it difficult to focus on a particular portion on a page, jumping randomly from one word to another. Children with attention disorders may also struggle with gaining proficiency in reading. This is because they find it difficult to sit still and concentrate. They may be able to read adequately but since their mind is elsewhere they often find it difficult to comprehend whatever they read. If you suspect that your child has a learning difficulty, then it is best to take him to a qualified expert in order to get a proper diagnosis.
  3. Emotional issues: Children suffering from low self-esteem may also be reluctant to read. It takes a lot of courage for a young child to stand up and read in front of a class, especially if her teacher reprimands her or her peers laugh at her when she makes a mistake. If your child has faced a similar incident, it may cause her to dislike the activity of reading and hesitate to read whenever she is called upon to do so.

Since children may be reluctant to read for a variety of reasons, tackling each of these issues requires different methods. It is also possible that a child may be reluctant to read not just because of one of the above reasons but a combination of them. For example, a dyslexic child naturally finds it difficult to read. This difficulty may also make him disinterested in the activity. Additionally, his inability to read may lead him to develop self-esteem issues if he is criticised and compared to peers with normal reading capabilities. As a parent, it is first important to understand the reason as to why your child is reluctant to read before you attempt to solve the problem.

How to tackle the problem 

  1. Empathise with your child: Understanding why your child dislikes reading can go a long way in solving the problem. So, speak gently to her and try to find out why she is averse to reading. Has she had negative experiences with reading in the past? Does she think books are uncool? Does she have difficulty reading? Once you find out the root cause of her reluctance to read, you will be better equipped to tackle the issue.
  2. Make your home a library: If your house is filled with books, your child will find it hard to resist the urge to pick up one of them. Stock books that are easy for a child to read and are related to your little one’s interests. This will increase the likelihood of him picking up a book as well as increase the time he actually spends reading it. Books with eye-catching covers and lots of pictures are attractive to young children. Also, read some books yourself. Your child will be more likely to take up the habit, if he observes that you value it.
  3. Read to your child: Just because your child is reluctant to read doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like being read to. Listening to the stories you are reading to him may also spark his interest in taking up the activity himself. 
  4. Use technology: If your child is comfortable using an electronic device, get him to read on a phone or an e-reader. You can even adjust the font size and brightness so that your child is comfortable reading on such a device. Audio books can also be used for children who have visual difficulties. When used appropriately, technology can be very helpful in motivating reluctant readers.
  5. Refrain from being pushy: Children are a lot more perceptive than we give them credit for; so, your little one is quite likely to see through your attempts to get him to read if you act too pushy. This may lead him to resist your efforts, especially if he already dislikes reading. Keep in mind that sparking his interest in reading is much more likely to help than simply forcing him to.

Parental efforts can go a long way in changing the mindset of a reluctant reader; but, at the same time, don’t expect quick results. If your child has developed a dislike for reading over time, it can take a while before things change. But don’t be disheartened, just put in a little effort each day and eventually your child should discover the joy of reading for herself. 

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