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15 Essential Tips for Engaging Reluctant Readers

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

A reluctant reader using a finger torch to read a book
Try using a finger torch to engage your child in reading.

Over the years, I've had many chats with parents about engaging reluctant readers. Initially this was as a teacher and then as a mum of three boys of my own. There seems to be more than a sprinkling of reluctant readers out there and it’s probably fair to say that many of us have torn our hair out at times trying to get a child to sit down to read! Often, we issue consequences - No playtime if you don't read! You can only go on the Xbox if you read your book! According to the author James Patterson, 'There's no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books.' So, how can you inspire children to read books? How can you instil a love of reading?

a reading nook to engage reluctant readers
Trying to engage reluctant readers can be tricky!

Engaging Reluctant Readers

Here are a few proven ideas for you to try. I've opted for a carrot, rather than a stick approach! Try to create an incentive for your child to read:

  • Find books which relate to their interests. Shops and libraries are full of books which appeal to all tastes and hobbies; be it Pokemon, football, unicorns or dinosaurs!

  • Try non-fiction books: quite often, these appeal more to reluctant readers, as they can easily dip in and out of them.

  • Let your child use a finger torch/head torch/normal torch to read. Build a den or set up a small tent for them to read in.

  • Create a reading nook. Find a quiet corner and add cushions or a beanbag and a cosy blanket.

  • Allow them to read ‘late’ in bed as a treat- what child doesn't love being able to stay up late?!

a comfortable place for a child to read
Find a comfortable place to read.

  • Give them topics to research on the iPad/tablet. Incorporate reading into school homework by finding the answers or information using child-friendly websites.

  • Try audiobooks: listening to books still exposes children to the language of books such as similes and adjectives.

  • Not a cheap choice but you could try an e-reader. This can be a good option for older children as they can control the type of font, print size and brightness of the background.

  • Try comic-style books- when my middle son was younger, he couldn't stand books that only had text in them. However, he loved (and still does!) comic-style books and devoured them in a matter of days!

  • Buy a comic as a treat (when did they become so expensive!!) during the half-term break or when you go away on holiday.

  • Sit and read your own books to show that YOU enjoy reading. Share your excitement for the new book that you've just got, talk about how you can't wait to read your book when you've finished work, etc.

an e-reader to engage reluctant readers
Your child could try an e-reader.

  • Read to your child - it doesn’t matter how old they are, they'll still love to cuddle up and listen to a story!

  • Try paired reading where you read the book along together, or take turns to read a page. Don't leave your child guessing at a word for too long, to keep the flow going.

  • Leave books, comics and leaflets lying around everywhere in the hope that they might pick one up and read it!

  • If you are getting a pet or your child wants to take up a new hobby - buy or borrow a book about it first. Encourage them to read the book and explain why the pet/hobby is a great idea!

  • Finally, don’t give up! It’s only in the past two to three years that my now ten-year-old has found the particular kind of books which he likes.

a heart shaped from books
Try to make a range of reading materials available.

As Roald Dahl said, 'If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.' With that in mind, I’ve created a list of recommended books for 7-11 year old boys. They are all books which my boys have (shock horror) LOVED.

🔗 Contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

If you have any recommendations for girls' books, or any tips to engage reluctant readers, share them in the comments below!

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