November 15, 2012

How to Motivate a Reluctant Reader

I’m an excitable person by nature, but today my excitement is at an exceptionally high level. Melissa Taylor (let's take a moment to appreciate her beautiful name!) from the FANTASTIC site, Imagination Soup, is guest posting for me and sharing her suggestions for instilling and promoting a love of reading in our children. In addition to creating the incredible resource that is her website, Melissa is a mom, teacher, and writer, and she has written a brand new book about children and reading that I’m thrilled to share with you all today!

Book-NookAs an educator and a blogger, the most frequent question I field is how to encourage a reluctant reader. Which, from personal experience with my own daughters, I know is a big challenge for us as parents, and the reason I wrote the book, Book Love: Help Your Child Grow From Reluctant to Enthusiastic Reader.
Since we know that kids aren’t all the same, first we must consider why our child doesn’t like reading.

Is it too boring, too tricky, too blurry, or too “sitty”?

To figure this out, you’ll need to ask questions and observe your child over several days.

Too Boring
Some kids just haven’t gotten hooked on stories yet. All we need to do is find that right book, engage them in compelling stories that we read to them, make reading more social with book clubs, or make reading enticing with electronic books.

Too “Sitty”
More challenging are those kids who need to move and/or have short attention spans. This was my oldest daughter – she hated to sit still. Actually, she still does.  She needs to read and bounce on an exercise ball, or wiggle and read in an indoor tent, or fidget with her Mind Putty while reading.

Too Blurry, Too Tricky
But what about children for whom the basics of reading are hard? These are our kids who struggle with rhyming, letter sounds, remembering sight words consistently, tracking words in order across the page, or losing her place while reading. These are brain issues – either with vision or with learning. When you’re seeing red flags that indicate issues, knowledge is power. Get your child evaluated by a professional as soon as possible. You can’t help him if you don’t know what’s going on. Ask your pediatrician for assistance in this area.

P.S. Too Young
All this being said, don’t worry too much if your 4, 5, or 6 year old doesn’t seem interested in reading. Wait, watch, and be patient. Most of the time, it simply means they just aren’t developmentally ready. My youngest daughter didn’t get hooked on books until the summer before second grade. That’s okay. (Despite what the schools may be telling you – they’re being pressured to pressure you. Ignore as best you can.)

8 Ways to Encourage Book Love
  1. Get your child a library card. Let him max it out and see how many of those books he can read. 
  2. Create a cozy reading nook with decorations, pillows, and lots of books. 
  3. Read to a stuffed animal or a pet. 
  4. Try comics and magazines. 
  5. Read the captions on a favorite cartoon with the sound turned off. 
  6. Read aloud to your child until she is hooked on the story. Stop and get too “busy” to continue. Chances are she won’t be able to resist finishing the book on her own. (insert evil laugh here!) 
  7. Read aloud to each other using silly voices. Free printable bookmark of ideas here
  8. Let him stay up late reading in bed with a headlamp. 

You can find more engaging ideas, activities, products, and book recommendations for reluctant readers in Book Love: Help Your Child Grow from Reluctant to Enthusiastic Reader

Thank you SO much, Melissa! How darling is her book nook area?? Her post couldn’t be more timely for me, as I have often wondered if my kiddo will love books the way I do. And the child has a hard time sitting still! The “too sitty” advice really made me sit up and take notice. Julia’s reading is taking off this year and I’m constantly wondering, ‘How’s it going? How is she doing? Should I be doing anything, or not doing anything, in particular?’

You must go explore the wonderland that is Imagination Soup – you’ll find everything from book reviews, cool and interesting game and craft ideas, and ways to promote fun in literacy for your kiddos. You can also find her on her new obsession, Pinterest (I so relate), or at Book


  1. Very cool. Congrats on the book, Melissa Taylor! And Imagination Soup is amazing. :o)

  2. Such great advice! I'm just now getting into the "am I doing enough" phase with Juliet---I think she likes reading, but does she love it? I hope so, but am not sure yet. This book looks great--well done and congrats to Melissa!

  3. Melissa, Thanks for giving me the chance to share with your readers! I'm a big fan of your blog so it's an honor!!

    ~ Melissa @imaginationsoup

  4. Miss Melissa, the pleasure was ALL MINE, I can promise you!! :)