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How can I encourage a reluctant reader?

Kids may express reluctance toward reading for a variety of reasons. Often, adult guidance; variation in style of writing, text length, and subject matter; and well-chosen books are just the ticket to attract reluctant readers.

As with anything kids would rather not do, forcing them, comparing them to other kids, and using other negative reinforcements backfire. There are many ways to encourage kids who are reluctant.

Here are some ideas:

  • Encourage reading for fun. Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney says that sometimes adults focus so much on getting kids to read they forget about the fun. But kids who are having fun will read.
  • Go graphic. There are many high-quality graphic novels that draw in readers through illustrations, short-form text, and engrossing story lines.
  • Seek out sports. For kids who'd rather be physically active than read a book, consider books about teams or by athletes, such as You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! by Jonah Winter about the famous lefty; Hothead by Cal Ripken Jr.; or other books about sports.
  • Think big print. The Here's Hank series by Henry Winkler features a dyslexic hero and a large, easy-to-read typeface.
  • Let them follow their interests. You may not love Captain Underpants, but if that's what your kid wants to read, put aside your judgment for the greater good.
  • Find characters who reflect your kid's experience. Kids like to see themselves in the stories they read. Look for books with characters and situations that mirror their experience -- for example, kids of color or with divorced parents or who live on a farm or who love dogs. Whatever helps kids identify with the story will keep them more engaged.
  • Look for different reading opportunities. Reading is valuable no matter what the format: Pokemon cards, product labels, game manuals, recipes. Mix in shorter-form material with longer stuff.
  • Get techy. Ebooks and storybook apps that offer some multimedia along with the narrative can be entertaining and educational and may draw in kids who are turned off by text alone. Use them alongside traditional reading.
  • Fact-check. With their amazing stats, incredible images, short-form text, and start-anywhere formats, books of facts such as Guinness World Records and Ripley's Believe It or Not entice kids who'd rather not tackle longer stories.​
  • Take turns. With a book your kid has chosen, take turns reading a page (or two) to each other. Ask questions along the way.
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Kid, 11 years old

Sometimes having them read graphic novels can help- though I would like to add that graphic novel adaptations of good books are ofen horrible and really don't capture everything about the story. I'm talking graphic novels that are supposed to be graphic novels. For 4th-8th graders I reccomend Raina Tegemier, and a book called New Kid. Also, reading a book before bed with a parent can also really help. Things in the fantasy section can be great because of the exiting plots, and if your kid is reading something a below grade level then that is fine.
Adult written by jgh2680

The most important tip for helping reluctant learners is missing from this list! The one that thousands of parents have used for generations! Take the children to the library and let them browse and sit and read quietly. Take a pile of books home and talk about them.
Adult written by jgh2680

As a middle school teacher, I know from experience that it is difficult sometimes to help reluctant readers. I can agree with the idea of offering kids graphic novels. The action and pictures help these kiddos get into the story. The idea that Ben Carson's mom had when young Ben was a reluctant reader in 8th grade, was to take him to the library, where every reluctant reader should go to see all the possible topics out there, and have him choose two books to write a summary about for her to look over by the end of the week. I believe every reluctant reader is an avid reader who has yet to have the light-switch of love of reading turned on yet. It could be a read aloud that does it. I read "All Things Bright and Beautiful" to my kids at bedtime. My daughter's 5th grade teacher read "The Hobbit" aloud and instilled in her a love of reading great books. Best of luck with your young lady or gentleman. Keep drip-dripping books and reading and one day the light-switch will turn on.
Teen, 13 years old written by Sierra Akbari

Find a book that he/she could be interested in and read a few facts from the book out loud to your child and they will like the facts, like the book, and start reading books they enjoy.
Teen, 13 years old written by plox

Reading is definitely important in middle school and high school. I find that classmates who don't like to read and do it as little as possible end up having trouble with writing assignments and English class in general. So, rmc2018, encouraging kids to read can shape their lives. I don't think that the reward system works for many people, though. It could easily backfire. Plus, couldn't a kid just say she had read a certain amount of pages, but not actually do it?
Adult written by Claudia W.

Your reply was two years ago, so as a 17-year old, I am curious if you like reading now and what might have changed that? I agree that some students don't like to read books and that is OK! I am sure they read on digital platforms and that counts as reading, too! There are many ways to learn!
Teen, 13 years old written by goaliepowers

I would definitely see what genres the kid is interested in. You should find a book about something they are interested in. That might help them along.
Kid, 11 years old

Set goals. My cousin used to have an aversion to books and reading, so her mother developed a reward system for her: for every ten page of a book she read, five dollars would go into a jar labeled EAT OUT MONEY. At the end of the month, everything in that jar would go to whopper sundaes. Needless to say, she doesn't hate books anymore.
Adult written by M.T.O

Agreed, Let reading be fun for them. Victoria Anderson springs to mind, I recently read her 'Larry and Family' to my little brother, which he found funny. It makes quite a few references to a lot of the childhood classics.