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What to do When Your Child Hates to Read

The Children’s Book Review

Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing Column 15

This editorial article was written by Lizzie Mussoline, M. Ed.

7 Tips for Reluctant Readers

If you are anything like me, having or teaching a reluctant reader can break your heart! We know that reading should be full of joy. But what do you do when your child says they hate to read? Don’t despair—we encourage you to try these tips to help build a love of reading for even the most reluctant readers!

Read aloud to a pet or stuffed animal

Often, reluctant readers feel insecure and lack confidence when reading aloud. Reading to a pet is a terrific way to boost their confidence with zero judgment. Fluency, or the rate of reading and reading with emotion, boosts reading comprehension and confidence. Reading aloud in a safe environment can help a child with this critical reading skill. If you do not have a pet to read to, try a stuffed animal, or reach out to local libraries or bookstores about reading aloud to a therapy dog. Second Star to the Right, a great bookstore in Denver, lets readers sign up to read aloud to River the therapy dog. Reaching out to local bookstores and libraries may provide similar opportunities.

A kid sitting on a bench in front of a stuffed animal

Focus on their interests and characters with similar life experiences

There are literally books about anything and everything, which is immensely helpful for a reluctant reader! Do a little digging and find out what makes them excited, what they are most curious about, and what they would love to learn more about. There are loads of fantastic recommendations on the TCBR website. Make sure to talk to a local librarian or your child’s teacher for suggestions that are sure to spark your child’s interest in reading!

Explore different genres and encourage them to choose their own books 

Introducing new genres to reluctant readers may have surprising effects. Some kids adore nonfiction because of all the amazing information, photographs, and text features, and the fact that they don’t need to read the book from start to finish. Instead, they can bounce around based on their interests and curiosity. Graphic novels are another genre that can grab a reluctant reader’s attention because of the visually appealing illustrations—it is not nearly as intimidating for a reluctant reader as a page with lots of text. Magazines like Time for Kids, National Geographic, Highlights, or ChopChop (a quarterly magazine that encourages families to cook together) We recently discovered a magazine called Bravery. Aimed at girls and boys aged 4-9, it features strong female role models for everyone to look up to. ** Don’t forget about all of the other fantastic genres out there such as realistic fiction, mystery, historical fiction, traditional literature (fairy tales, myths, etc.), biographies, memoirs, and functional texts (“How To” texts, recipes, anything that teaches you how to do something).



Audiobooks are a clever way to engage reluctant readers. Perhaps your child or student is reluctant because decoding, or the actual act of reading, is still difficult for them. Audiobooks can be helpful because your child only needs to listen, visualize, and enjoy the story. The hard labor and cognitive work of actually reading is being done for them. While listening, they may want to sit back and relax, or they can draw what they imagine, which can make the whole experience even more enjoyable for them.

Best New Audiobooks for Ages 3 to 6 (and Up) Header

Create a cozy book nook

Sometimes an inviting space to read in is just what a child needs. Let your child design their very own book nook space built just for curling up with a good book. Perhaps they want it to be inside a fort, tent, or even a special secret spot in your home. Wherever it may be, make it as inviting and cozy as possible. Pinterest and other similar sites can provide inspiration.


Read aloud as much as possible

In our home, we always make sure we are reading a chapter book aloud together as a family. It helps us wind down at the end of the day and bond over a shared text. We exaggerate and get into all of the character voices and, with dramatic flair, stop and act quite shocked when something outrageous happens. Reading the same book or text as your child has enormous benefits like sparking fun conversations, making connections, and even more in-depth analysis of characters’ actions, relationships, and motivations, for example. We also love deciding together what book we’ll read next. Watching the movie version together (if there is one) is a tried and true tip, one that we refer to often, as it tends to be a sure way to encourage a love of reading, even for the most reluctant readers. In case you missed it, you may find this article helpful:  5 Tips for Reading Aloud to Kids.

Family Reading Image

Thank you for reading the Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing column. Bookmark this link or subscribe to our e-newsletter so you do not miss out on the monthly reading tips. What to do When Your Child Hates to Read was written by Lizzie Mussoline, M. Ed.—follow her on Instagram: @wildflower_learning_denver.

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Lizzie loves literacy. And alliteration! With over a decade of classroom teaching experience, and years of one on one reading and dyslexia intervention, Lizzie understands the challenges and rewards of engaging with young readers. Her passion for helping children overcome learning difficulties to fall in love with reading led to the launch of Wildflower Learning; a private practice that serves the needs of young readers in Denver, CO. Follow @wildflower_learning_denver on Instagram for more literacy tips & tricks.

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