Encouraging Reluctant Readers

Close up image of an open book

This is a post I wrote a while ago; now we’re in lockdown at times it can be even more difficult to encourage reading.

My son is now in Year One and has always been a reluctant reader. Reluctant in as much as he’s not always asking to read a book and would much rather be running around than reading.

In the past I would worry a fair bit about this and how it would impact him in the future. However much I pushed ‘enforced’ reading sessions at home though, he wasn’t particularly interested and I didn’t want to turn reading into a chore.

Here are the strategies that have worked for us:

Sensible Rewards

When he started at school in Reception there was immediately a big focus on reading at home, with a diary to fill in and later on a challenge to see how many ‘reads’ the children could do. Whilst the competitive aspect did work well, my son did admit that he thought he wouldn’t be able to get to 100. So we devised a realistic scale of rewards for him, that he felt were achievable but still challenging. It doesn’t need to be anything big, a pencil with a rubber topper or a printed certificate are easy examples.

Pick Your Timing

Reading a bedtime story is part of many family’s routine, but for us, my son is often too tired right before bed and ends up getting frustrated. Instead (and just by chance) we’ve found that getting to school a few minutes earlier gives a good opportunity for reading in the car. It’s a nice short block of time where he is focussed and full of beans. Plus it gives him a great confidence boost before the school day starts.

It’s Not Just Books

Stop signThe majority of schools follow a structured reading programme, such as Read Write Inc or the Oxford Reading Tree. These are brilliant for learning phonics and exception words, but it can be hard to summon up enthusiasm for the (usually very random) stories at home. Reading doesn’t need to only involve books though, you can encourage your child to read labels, signs or even junk mail that comes through the door.

Choice is key

In the same way, don’t feel restricted to just the books that your child comes home with. My son likes to read his younger sister’s books to her and is still fascinated with the pop-up and sensory books at the library. It also works well with books with lots of text in, especially those with plenty of illustrations. Sharing the reading ‘load’ between you and your child is a less pressured approach, although you won’t get an opportunity to skip pages!

Keep Calm

The most important thing, as with most parenting challenges, is to stay relaxed. It’s very unlikely that your child will never learn to read, and all children develop differently*. Yes, there may be a child at school who got to 100 reads in the first month but it doesn’t matter, your child will get there at some point. And actually it’s not a massive issue if they don’t get there by the end of term.

What matters is your child being happy with the amount and quality of reading that they are doing.

* If you are concerned about your child’s development please consult a medical or education professional.

5 Replies to “Encouraging Reluctant Readers

  1. My son sounds just like yours, he’s always on the go at 100mph. He’s just not a sit still and read kind of boy. We’ve found that giving him a choice just before bedtime works well. Either go to bed at normal time with no story or he can stay up for a while to sit and read together. #KidsandKreativity

  2. I think your suggestions here are great, really like the 5 mins reading in the car before school, and that you emphasize choice. I’m not so sure about the schools idea of making it a competition… I worry that kids with less supportive parents will feel left behind, and kids with dyslexia or other difficulties will be set up for failure? x

  3. Some great tips here! My son is also in Year 1 and is reluctant reader, but he is slowly coming round to wanting to read more and more and as a result is steadily improving. Thanks for linking up to #KidsandKreativity, really hope to see you back next time.

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