middle school reluctant reader, reading, reading strategies,

Reading Strategies for Kids Who Hate Reading

How to get Reluctant Readers to Like Reading

This great post is from Canadian blogger, Rebecca Writes. All my posts on Reluctant Readers are here.

The most popular ones are:

Best Books for Boy Readers, Reluctant or Otherwise

Boys and Summer Reading by Jen Robinson of Jen Robinson’s Book Page

Great List for Reluctant Boy Readers by Children’s Author Andy Sherrod

Top 5: Out of the Box Ways to Get Reluctant Readers Engaged Using Electronic Devices

Top 10: Baseball Chapter Books

NY Times Top Selling Graphic Novels


What do I mean by reluctant reader? A reluctant reader is a child who has reached 10 or 12 years old, who can read, but doesn’t enjoy reading on their own, a child who almost never picks up a book to read for pleasure. And yes, avid readers can produce reluctant readers; two of four of my children fell into this category.

Here are a few tips drawn from my experience:
  1. Take advantage of the times your child is held captive. Keep good books for children in the bathroom. Stack a few by the bed and make reading the only activity allowed after bedtime. Unless your child is prone to carsickness, take lots of books on a long car ride. Never ever draw attention to these books or suggest that they try reading one.
  2. Notice what type of television programs your child likes most. Do they like dramas or are they drawn to documentaries and science shows? It’s my own opinion that many reluctant readers are “just the facts” people who prefer nonfiction to fiction. Try leaving biographies, nature books, science books, books of math puzzles, books on W.W.II, sports books, joke books, books about foreign countries, or collection-of-facts books scattered about the house. If you can’t resist pushing novels, make them factually based novels.
  3. Don’t worry that their reading material is too lightweight. Lightweight is good; dumbed down is not. Your purpose at this point is not to produce a well-read child, but a child who knows that books can be fun and reading doesn’t have to be a chore.
  4. Have quiet time at your home and make sure that everyone (Dad, too!) is included. After the supper dishes were done was the time that worked well for us. Only quiet activities are allowed—drawing, homework, paying bills, reading, etc. Half an hour is long enough, but you can try longer if you think you can swing it. Chances are that at some point your reluctant reader will run out of other entertaining quiet activities and open a book.
  5. Don’t stop reading to your child. Ask your child to read out loud to you once in a while. Ask them to read a page or a paragraph from the book you are reading to them. Try reading aloud from a really engaging book, but only a chapter or two—just enough to intrigue them—and then be too busy to read for a few days. See if they will continue on their own.The all-time best novel for reluctant readers is Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins. It’s easy to read and I’ve never met a kid who didn’t like it. Read a chapter or two to your child and see if they don’t read on ahead to see what happens. Other Scott O’Dell books are good, too, but introduce these after they’ve been hooked by Island of the Blue Dolphins.
  6. Tidiness may be a virtue, but being too tidy doesn’t promote reading. A reluctant reader does not love reading enough to go find a book that has been put away. Books strewn everywhere is a good thing when it comes to getting kids to read.
  7. Buy appropriate books at garage sales, thrift stores, and used book stores. If you pay the new book price for a book, it’s going to eat at you when it doesn’t get read, and pressure to read a book is counterproductive when you are dealing with reluctant readers.

If you have more ideas, feel free to add them in the comments.

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Deborah Jackson

    Number 1 contradicts itself. Making a “reading only” time is like a prison sentence to the reluctant reader and can have the opposite effect. In the car ride, you say never to draw attention to the books or suggest reading them. I think that is the key. The more you push the reading, the more they resist. I know. I have an avid reader and a reluctant one in my household.

    Short, humourous, or nonfiction will sometimes get him to read. No pushing or he becomes more defiant.

  2. One tip that can work is to have the child watch TV with the sound off, using closed captioning to read what the actors are saying. The child will be reading, but it may feel more like watching TV.

  3. Oh, and another idea, encourage the child to read comic books – sometimes they are more fun for children that age, especially if they are struggling readers.

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