Strategies to get your child from reluctant reader to motivated reader

A Reluctant Reader Photo Credit: DepositPhotos

Your child doesn’t want to read anymore.

It seems as though one moment you had a little avid reader, and the next thing you knew, your child had morphed into a reluctant reader. 

You are totally bewildered. What happened? When did it happen?

One of the most memorable milestones in a parents’ life is the day that their child begins to recognize sight words, memorize books, and then learns how to decode or sound out words. 

In elementary school, reading is a fun adventure as children discover books and the joy of reading. But somewhere around fourth grade through middle school, something changes for many children. Especially boys.

The change is from excited reader, to disinterested reader, to reluctant reader.

It is during this period that some children stumble with comprehension, inferences and and analysis of what they are reading, be it fiction or non-fiction.

They read a book, and when you ask them what the book is about, they cannot tell you.

They subsequently lose interest in reading and parents are at a loss, worried, or worse yet, frustrated with their child’s reluctance to read and wondering where to turn to for help.

Help for your child begins with you. You know your child best. What they like or don’t like, what their interests are, their strengths and challenges and so on. 

Here are some strategies that you can use to motivate your child into enjoying reading again. They are the same strategies that I used for many years when I worked in the youth services department of a public library.

Strategies to change reluctant readers to motivated readers

Identify where the problem lies

Gain some insight. Watch your child when he or she is reading to see if you can identify the root cause of the reluctance. Is it that they are having problems with decoding words, or not understanding the vocabulary? Or is it the subject matter, or the level of writing?

Fiction or Non-Fiction

Find out what your child prefers, fiction or non-fiction, and what they are interested in and want to know more about. Then you find a book to match their preferences and interests. 

Let your child select the book

Children are more apt to read a book if they choose the book themselves. Just make sure it is written at a level that is appropriate for him or her. Books for children will often indicate grade level or age level somewhere on the book jacket flap. 

Visit the library together

Book lists and the youth services department of a library are wonderful resources. Librarians are educated and experienced in eliciting information from children in a easy-going manner that put children at ease and more willing to cooperate.

Avoid criticizing the books your child selects

Don’t assume that books written in picture book or graphic novel format are “babyish.” A lot of books for older readers are written using those formats and the content is definitely not geared for babies, toddlers or even grades 1–3. Criticizing choices builds resistance. Instead, allow them to choose several books and then together you can narrow the choices down. 

Pair a print copy of the book with the audiobook version

Change things up sometimes. Reading along while listening to an audiobook can be a great way to help children develop reading fluency while being entertained. It may also help the child remember the story better.

Guide your child to books that reflect diversity

Make sure that your child sees himself/herself and community reflected within the pages of the book, or at least in some of the books. This is a must. This increases your child’s ability to relate to the information in the book or to the characters, setting, or culture presented in a novel, and is more likely to be drawn into the book in a meaningful way.

 Discuss the book with your child

Read the book ahead of your child so that you can discuss the book. Ask questions about what’s going on in the book. Be casual. Ask in such a way that it appears to be no big deal. What did you think about… I did not know that … What would you have done if that had been you? What do you think is going to happen? At this point you can get an idea of how much your child is comprehending while having have a nice, stress-free conversation.

Be genuinely interested in the book

When you ask questions about the book and are genuinely interested in your child’s opinions and thoughts, your child will feel special, a bit grown up or sophisticated by being able to have a discussion with his mom or dad about a book.

Take Breaks

If you see that your child is getting frustrated or restless when he or she is reading, suggest taking a break and continuing later on or even the next day. 

Always, always be encouraging and positive

Praise your child’s efforts and progress. Don’t get frustrated. Children are very perceptive. They pick up every little nuance of frustration, disappointment or impatience, and that erodes self-confidence.

One thing you should never do

Whatever you do, please don’t ever talk to strangers, librarians, teachers etc. about your child’s reluctance to read in front of your child. Put yourself in your child’s shoes. How do you think they would feel? Self-conscious, embarrassed? More reluctant? More annoyed?

Reading is so vital to success. Enjoyment of reading also provides a lifetime of access to free information, education and entertainment. If your child is experiencing frustrations when it comes to reading, address the matter right away. Start by trying out some of these strategies. 

And try not to worry too much. Sometimes things seem to work out with time. Your child will be just fine!


Mary Oluonye.

I am a writer and entrepreneur and my goal is to inspire self-value, promote Africa, and help people achieve their goals. 

I am deeply committed to inspiring my people to better respect and value who we are as Africans & People of African Descent.

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