Looking for tips to help your reluctant reader?
Tired of trying to trick or bribe your kid into reading?
Wondering if they are ever going to read chapter books like the neighbor kid?
You are not alone!
Teaching a reluctant reader can be a frustrating, infuriating, depressing battle.
But it’s a battle that you and your kid can absolutely win!
What is a Reluctant Reader?
A reluctant reader is simply any child who does not have an interest or a desire to read.
In my opinion, that does not include kids below the 1st-2nd grade level. Kids who are not interested in reading at that point – are normal, active, kids.
If they are refusing reading instruction during that age – leave them alone! You can do much more damage than good by forcing early literacy on a child who is not ready.
If that comes as a shock, please check out this article from The Washington Post that discusses research on the topic of early literacy.
A reluctant reader is also not necessarily a struggling reader. A struggling reader may have a desire to read, but is struggling with connecting all the dots.
The Worst Time of Day for a Reluctant Reader (and You!)
Now that is out of the way, let’s talk about your most dreaded time of day.
This time of day is why you clicked on this article.
It is why you need coffee in the morning and wine at night.
It is the reason you may even be questioning this whole pipe dream of homeschooling.
It is the required 10-15 minutes that your child is supposed to read to you…every day.
Oh, the groaning, the moaning, the slouched posture, the sighing, the eye rolling, the “Are we done yet??” questions.
Depending on how long you have been trying to solve this problem – that may be how you are acting – on the inside of course.
Is There Any Hope for the Reluctant Reader (and You)?
Yes, there is hope!
This is not a reflection of you as a teacher, homeschooling, or your child’s intelligence.
I know that, because my oldest child was a reluctant reader.
She understood how to blend sounds and had finished all of her phonics work without much trouble…but she just did not want to read.
I would set a timer on my phone for 10 minutes and we would painstakingly slug our way through “easy” reader books from the library. It was so painful!
I knew she could do better, but I just could not get her to give me her best work.
The Unexpected Game Changer for Reluctant Reader
I was sitting with her one day, listening to her monotone voice slowly reading to me as we both waited for the timer to ding and end our misery…when it dawned on me!
Maybe she hates reading so much because all of these easy reader books are horrible! The characters are so simple! The plots are so boring! No wonder she doesn’t want to read them!
Maybe I should start her on chapter books with an actual plot that she cares about! Something that will hold her attention and excite her to read more!
Wait, What?! Chapter Books?!
I know what you’re thinking.
How in the world can you get your kid to read a chapter book, when you can’t even get through a little easy reader?!
I am here to tell you that it is possible and it might dramatically change things for your child.
My reluctant reader is about to finish 4th grader is testing off the elementary charts for reading!
There is hope! Let me show you how I did it!
5 Tips to Help a Reluctant Reader Love Reading!
1. Use Bob Books to Confirm Solid Grasp of Phonics
Before I tested my chapter book idea, I decided to buy a set of Bob Books.
If you are at all unsure about your child’s understanding of phonics, I would highly recommend looking into this series.
It was written by a kindergarten teacher and comes very highly recommended.
Many “easy” readers for whatever reason have some pretty complicated words that can frustrate your budding reader. Possibly making them want to quit before they even start.
The Bob Books do a great job of only using simple words to let kids practice their phonics skills. Kids love that they can read the whole book without help!
Anyhow, I wanted to make sure that my daughter was ready to progress, so I bought the most advanced set of Bob Books (After completing this set, Bob Books states children are ready for chapter books) to be sure.
We worked our way through them and made sure she was solid on her grasp of phonics.
Your child may not be ready for set 5 and that’s okay! Look at the earlier sets and find one what fits him/her best.
2. Read an Exciting Chapter Book to Your Kid
If you don’t already do this, make sure you have interesting and exciting chapter books to read to your kids every day – it should be part of your daily routine.
You want your kids to see the value of reading and hopefully gain interest in reading!
They should look forward to you reading and want to know what happens next in the story!
If this is new, start by reading to your child during lunch or snack time. They are already sitting down and occupied with food, so that is your best shot to capture their attention!
Not sure about a book? I always recommend readaloudrevival.com. Sarah McKenzie has an amazing website with all kinds of suggestions about reading to your kids.
No time for that? Here are my recommendations to get you going:
As you can see, I love the idea of a series! I want kids to fall in love with the characters and keep following them!
3. Start Reading Yourself & Talk About It
What would you say if your kid ever asked you, “Mom, what books are you reading?”
Would you break out into a cold sweat and start wondering if scanning Facebook counts?
It would go a long way to show your reluctant reader that you enjoy reading! And that you do it for pleasure!
How do you do that?
Well, start reading a book – preferably not a digital one.
Read a chapter or two at night before bed and then talk about it in the morning. Somebody reading a good book LOVES to talk about what is going on in their book.
Maybe mention throughout the day that you’re excited for bedtime to dive back into that book.
Your kid will be intrigued and more likely to partner with you in reading for fun! You might be surprised how much this little investment of your time may change your child’s whole attitude towards reading.
4. Pick an Easy Reader Chapter Book for Your Reluctant Reader
Easy reader chapter books have pictures to break up the pages and add interest. They are also written at a younger reading level and have less words per page (The pages do not look like a novel you would read with small print and little space between lines).
There are a lot of great easy reader chapter books to pick from:
This is the book we started with! Princess Posey is super cute, clean fun!
The Circle C series is a really sweet series about a little girl who is tired of riding a pony and wants a real horse. My daughter got such a kick out of her! As a bonus, the series is written by a homeschool mom!
Encyclopedia Brown is another fun series that follows a young boy who is the son of the local police chief. He is a genius who can solve all his dad’s cases by just listening to them at the dinner table!
Want some more ideas? Check these out:
5. Read Together with Strategy
After you’re done with the Bob Books (only if you feel you need them) and you’ve established good groundwork with your reading aloud daily (your kid is always excited to plop down and hear what happens next in the story!) – introduce the easy reader chapter book.
There is a good chance your kid will melt down and have a panic attack at the terrifying object you are holding and asking him to read.
Have a plan!
First, read the first chapter yourself. That will calm your child, introduce the characters and storyline, and pique your child’s interest.
Then tell your child that you will take turns reading for 10-15 minutes.
- You read one page, he reads the next page
- You read one paragraph, he reads the next paragraph
- You read one sentence, he reads the next sentence
Whatever you think your child will go for!
Be sure to praise your child on that day, no matter what happens, for reading from a chapter book!
That should be a huge boost to her confidence!
What’s Next? – More Reluctant Reader Tips!
Continue to take turns reading every day, but challenge your child as they progress and let them take more of the lead (i.e. you read one paragraph, they read two paragraphs).
Here are more things I did to help my child progress her reading level:
Whenever we read, I kept a piece of white paper under each line. That way she was only looking at one line of text at a time. The whole page could be overwhelming and discouraging to look at.
I always had a pencil in my hand. When she came to an unfamiliar word, I would write it on that white piece of paper. Then we would break it down using phonics rules and sound it out together. Writing the word big on a piece of paper always seemed to help!
If she was feeling particularly whiny or frustrated, I would tell her that she only had to sound out 5 words. After 5 words, I would just tell her the words she didn’t know. She liked knowing that there was a limit.
We go to the library weekly (I know, I know, I talk about the library a lot! But that’s because its awesome!) I literally bring an Ikea bag, so that we can check out 40-50 books every week for my 3 kids. Having fresh, new books to read is huge to keep their interest up!
I provide lots of independent play time (AKA, I’m busy and you need to go play). All three of my kids usually find their way over to those library books and start reading!
I keep a tight reign on their screen time. A huge reason for that is a book just cannot compete with Candy Crush or How to Train Your Dragon. In the absence of a screen – a book with a good story starts to look really good! If screen time is a real challenge in your home, check out our Screen Time Struggles and what I did about it.
Even though my daughter can read very well on her own now, I still read to her every day. This is so important because it is time that we are together as a family. I love that my girls all look forward to sitting on my lap and reading the next chapter. We talk about the story which is also great conversation and reading comprehension.
Recap Tips to Help a Reluctant Reader Love Reading
There is hope for your reluctant reader!
Keep encouraging your child and working with them as they progress with reading. Your hard work and patience will pay off!
Before you know it, you will look up and see them reading on their own to their siblings and wonder what in the world is going on!
My former reluctant reader is now in 4th grade and reading books like this for fun:
Sometimes, I can’t believe it either!
Just remember –
Check out the Bob Books if you think your child still needs help with the basics of phonics.
Read aloud every day to your kids! It is so key to raising a life long reader.
Show your kids how much you enjoy reading too!
Don’t be afraid to dive in with an easy reader chapter book. Your kid may be a little apprehensive, but your encouragement and patience will help give her the confidence she needs to succeed!
If you still need some more help with motivation, be sure to check out my post – How to Motivate your Homeschooler to Get That Work DONE. It is huge for us!
If you have more tips that have worked for your reluctant reader, please share in the comments! I know other moms would love to read it!
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