How To Motivate Reluctant Readers

Stack on kids books

How to Motivate Reluctant Readers

I could seriously write a million (okay, slight exaggeration) blog posts on reading.  I believe that the ability to read and understand what we are reading is the foundation for everything else we learn. As you can see (or rather, read) I am quite passionate about the subject.

There is a lot to be said about reading to children from a very (very) young age and although that is something I am also quite passionate about, this here blog post is for those older and more reluctant readers.

They are in Prep, Year One and Year Two and they bring home their ‘Home Readers’ for homework, read to you each night, read the same books a few times a year, move up some reading levels and move on.

Then we hit Year Three, Year Four and Year Five and the responsibility is on them.  Library day either brings a sense of glee (yay, more books) or a sense of dread (whoops, I seem to have forgotten my library bag again – not by accident).

I mean, there are many adults who will gladly admit that they don’t read for pleasure, don’t like to read and only really do it if they have to.  Fair enough, but my argument is that the pleasure of reading THEN leads to an increase in our vocabulary which THEN leads to a deeper understanding and knowledge on many topics and texts which THEN leads to a person who is keen to continue to be a lifelong learner.

See? So very beneficial.

How to Motivate Reluctant Readers

So what can we do for those little vegemite’s in our homes who are not so keen to read?

Let Them Choose

There are so many text types that we can read and they don’t necessarily have to be books.  Find a magazine or comic book that your child might like to read, encourage reading the junk mail, signs when you are out, ebooks, the newspaper, brochures, instructions on how to make something – the possibilities are endless.  Just because your child hasn’t read an actual book this week, does not necessarily mean they haven’t read anything.

Set The Example

Many reluctant readers (not all) come from families who don’t set aside time to read or feel that it is important.  If your child sees you reading as a form of leisure (instead of watching television) it might make them more motivated to pick up a book rather than turn on the cartoons.

Make It Fun

There are many ways to make reading fun and engage your child in this process. Playing a game, reading directions or even a scavenger hunt is a fun way to encourage reading. Cooking together is always a good example.  Have your child choose something they would like to cook for dinner or dessert.  Look for a recipe together and have them read the ingredients list and the method as you work together to create a culinary delight.

Another idea is to go for a visit to your local library and choose books that you can read together or that they would be really interested in.  If you have a child who loves helicopters, talk to the librarian and see what they can find that might engage them in their favourite topic.

Boy reading book at library

Find a time every day where you can sit together and read.  When I have worked with reluctant readers, I will often suggest that we take turns reading a page (or even a sentence) each.  In most cases, they want to be with you and they want to hear the story so this partnership might make them more willing.

It is incredible how much difference it makes as you guide them through this process – just being with you and reading together might change their whole approach.

Make it Relevant

As a parent, I understand that it is sometimes easy to compare your child and their abilities. We might compare them to a child the same age or even a sibling.  This can be dangerous and unhelpful.  Try to focus on finding reading material and text types that are relevant to the actual ability and interests of the specific child rather than what you think they should be able to read.  Reading something is better than reading nothing at all.

If you feel that reading independently is important, then set small goals.  For example, you might ask them to read for five minutes on their own, every day for a week and then slowly increase this to seven minutes etc. Depending on the age of the child and the expectations of the school, a half an hour a day of reading is a great end goal to aim towards.

So I encourage you to grab a comfy cushion and ask your reluctant reader to come and join you for some together time.  We all know that just spending quality time with those we love,  makes even the most difficult tasks more meaningful and fun.

Happy Reading!


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