Book Talk Tuesdays: What to Do if You Have a Reluctant Reader

reluctantRaving Readers Chase Delivery Trucks

If you want to read the whole story, check out a post I wrote last year about turning reluctant readers into voracious readers. You might wonder, “Why is my child a reluctant reader?” Good question! I confess that I started life as a reluctant reader. My dad read to us every night, and I loved listening, but I didn’t want to read.

When I started school, I disdained the reading textbooks. Dick and Jane lived vanilla lives and Spot didn’t do anything like Outlaw Red. So I refused to read. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want me to ‘learn’ to read such boring stories.

One night when I was eight, my dad closed The Summer of the Falcon at a cliff hanger. Despite my cajoling (o.k., whining and begging), he refused to keep reading. I stomped upstairs and planned my revenge. After the house grew quiet, I snuck downstairs and filched the book off the end table. I grabbed a flashlight and rushed back upstairs and finished the book on my own. Quite a feat for a non-reader.

I had no interest in what school offered, so I refused to ‘learn to read’ for two years. In actuality, I knew how to read because I had followed my dad’s finger for years as I sat in his lap and he read to me. Sometimes, all it takes is the right book to spark a child’s imagination and help her see the value of reading.

The second reason children read reluctantly lies in the reading level of the material. Hand a child a book with too many big words, and the child will display reluctance. Shucks, I don’t like reading books with too many big words (books about engineering, for example).

If you don’t know your child’s reading level, you can do a quick test by asking her to read a couple of sentences aloud to you. If she stumbles over most of the words, the reading level is too high. Think about how often you look words up in a dictionary (or press the word on your reading app) to find a definition. Finding books at the right reading level—not too hard and not too easy—is key to helping reluctant readers.

There’s No Shame in Picture Books

Reluctant readers may need more time reading picture books. The ability to read chapter books depends on a child’s maturity, attention span, ability to imagine, and background knowledge. Picture books aid readers in understanding the story and new vocabulary. Many picture books have higher reading levels (those by Patricia Polocco come to mind), but plenty of engaging pictures.

Nowadays, libraries have thousands of books written especially for emerging readers. Popular picture book series such as the Berenstain Bears have simple chapter book series as well. Familiarity with characters helps reluctant readers transition into longer books with fewer pictures.

Tips for turning your reluctant reader into a raving reader. #BookTalkTuesday #parenting Click To Tweet

Don’t Stop Reading (Aloud)!

Reading aloud to our kids provides quality time with them and allows us to interact and discuss a plethora of topics. I read out loud to ALL of my students–high school seniors down to seventh graders. When you read out loud, you can choose books with a higher reading level than your reluctant reader’s. This allows you to engage your reluctant reader’s mind with exciting stories that she may not have the ability to read on her own.

With our girls, we chose to limit screen time until they loved to read. Ok, we limited it after that, too, because we didn’t think there was much worth watching. We wanted reading to become their go-to form of entertainment. This lead to interesting parent-teacher conferences later on.

Teacher: “Mrs. Ojeda, your daughter reads too much. Every time I look at her in class she has her nose buried in a book.”

Me: “And this is a problem because?” But I digress. As parents, we have the power to shape our children’s lives through our actions and guidelines. Don’t be afraid to guide your kids!


Q4U: What are some of your favorite read-aloud books?

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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