The Reluctant Reader

My son loves sport, electronic games (when he is allowed to play with them), television (ditto), chess, shooting goals, imaginative play, anything, anything but reading a book. He can read, but he will find a myriad of other activities that require his attention, rather than sit down with a book.

The importance of reading regularly is axiomatic. Children who read regularly will improve their literacy skills, broaden their minds, knowledge, and understanding of this world and in all probability become higher achievers than those who do not read. Therefore encouraging my reluctant son to read has become a priority in our household.

Here are some tips that have worked for us although I feel we still have a long way to go.

  • Join a library, take him regularly, and let him just enjoy the general ambience of the library. Let him choose books, with the librarian’s assistance, that he thinks are acceptable. This leads to the next very important point…
  • Choose books that are of interest to him (for example if he is interested in sport there are numerous books exploring this topic). Skinny books with some illustration are less confronting and easier for him to finish, than a huge, small print paperback.
  • Encourage him to read anything – the “sports” section of the paper; reading storybooks to younger siblings; asking him to help cook, and therefore reading the recipe; reading and writing shopping lists etc.
  • Try to change the culture of the household to value reading, and quiet reading times. This happens two ways in our household; peaceful reading times where each individual enjoys their own book, and bedtime reading. This serenity of a family sitting together quietly engaged with the book of their choice is something to be cherished in today’s frantic world.
  • Bedtime reading has become a highlight of our day. Each of my children is read to individually; sometimes storybooks, factual books, science books, or fairy tales. The day ends peacefully with each child having a one on one session with either parent.

I am trying to teach my child the importance of balance in life. He must do some reading and then, yes, he can watch some (supervised) television; he can spend some time on the computer, play some sport. Many things in life only become harmful when they are taken to an extreme. Playing on the computer for a short time each day is fine, playing for six to eight hours a day – a disaster. Reading is part of the general fabric of the day, a part that is valuable and pleasant, and when he has done an agreed amount he is free to pursue some of his other interests.

Other ideas that may help

  • Audiotapes provide an alternative source of literature. In our time of continual visual stimulation it is useful for children to hear a tale, to engage their imaginations and use their own minds to conjure up the images that accompany a great story. This is especially useful on long car journeys.
  • Discuss with each child the books they are reading, talk about their books and if possible, read them. Tell your children about the books that you read and enjoyed as a child. Encourage them to try some of your old favourites.
  • Read to your older children, they may love it! Children will benefit from being read to despite the fact they may be competent readers.
  • Keep offering new and different types of material. Children will have individual responses; provide a smorgasbord of different materials, for example crazy poems, spooky stories, pure fantasy and truthful reality.
  • Board games and the inevitable search for the rules will also put your children’s reading and comprehension skills to work in the most enjoyable of ways.


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