6 Surprising Ways to get your Learners to Start Reading Books

This has to be the most frequently asked question at my parent’s evenings, ‘my child hates reading, how can I get them to start reading books?’

Firstly, no child hates reading. We just need to tap into what they like to read and perhaps remove some of those pesky distractions to keep them reading…

Why does my child ‘hate’ reading?

Start by asking your child why they’re reluctant to pick up a book. If that leads to a dead end, then these could be some likely causes:

  • Your child hasn’t found a book that interests them yet
  • Lack of confidence
  • Unsuitable or overstimulating environment
  • They associate reading with school
  • Your child rarely sees reading happen in the home
  • Difficulties with sitting still for a long time
  • Speech and language difficulties and/or hearing loss.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and if you think your child could have an undiagnosed additional need then please seek advice from a medical professional.

How can I get my child to read?

Before I let you in on a few secrets, I’d like you to think of your child’s reading journey in the same way you did their weaning or walking journey…

When your child was learning to walk, how many times did they stumble, fall or get frustrated? 50, 100 times, or more?

Did you or your child ever turn around at any point and say ‘nope, walking just isn’t for me’?

The point I’m trying to make is that we all need to shift our mindset when it comes to reading. It’s a necessary skill for life. Just like walking, talking and eating. But the act of ‘reading’ can actually come in many different forms.

And this is how you’re going to get your child to not just start reading books because you’ve asked but because they want to:

  1. Routine, reward, repeat – choose a time of day (with your child) and allocate that as reading/story/time with books. During that time your child could read for anywhere between 10-30 minutes a day (start small and work up). Some days they may wish to be on their own, other days you could share a story together. Either way, that time is their sacred reading slot. You could set a reminder or an alarm for the same time every day, so it becomes a habit. Every time they do this successfully, make sure there’s a reward shortly after. Doesn’t have to be monetary and don’t go overboard. Just a simple acknowledgement of ‘wow, you did so well reading on your own’ or ‘I’m really impressed with you for reading today’.
  2. Hook them with a series – once your child has found their genre of book or author they enjoy, you’re on to a winner. Jeff Kinney, Rowley Jefferson and Dav Pilkey are great authors for fans of comedy, Harry Potter, The Worst Witch and The Spiderwick Chronicles are great for all things magic, Percy Jackson is a brilliant fantasy series and the lists go on. There really is something for everyone. If you’re lucky enough to have a library near you, ask them for a bundle so you can try before you buy! Think of it like a pick ‘n’ mix of books.
  3. Don’t dismiss audiobooks – these can be a great ‘in’ for some children. You could stick one on and follow the story together or they could have it on in the background as they’re drawing. It can be very engaging and freeing for your child!
  4. Read with or to younger siblings – ask your child to read a bedtime story to younger siblings. This is a great way for them to feel responsible and build their confidence. Once they’ve done this happily, they’ll look forward to reading their own books too.
  5. Watch the film – there are some really brilliant adaptations out there! If your child is keen to watch one of these films, you could use this as a way to get them to read the story first. And there’s nothing better than a family movie night, is there?
  6. Let them choose – if your child isn’t involved in the selection of reading material, they’re likely to lose interest. If they’ve got control over what they read, they’re going to be excited and look forward to getting stuck in. They may choose magazines, comic books, graphic novels, that’s fine. These are good entry points for reluctant readers. You can build on these as their confidence grows.

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