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4 reasons your child may be a reluctant reader – and what to do

It’s a rainy, late fall afternoon – the perfect time to cuddle up on the couch with a book. But when you say, “Why don’t we read together?” your six-year-old scrunches her nose and skips off to pet the cat. What makes some children reluctant readers, and what can you do to help them get excited about books and reading? There are a handful of reasons why some children just don’t seem to want to spend time with books and some easy ways to help.

First, it’s important to distinguish between a ‘struggling reader’ and a ‘reluctant reader.’ A struggling reader may not want to read because they don’t yet have the skills and one-on-one help for reading to be as fun as it can be. A reluctant reader may have the reading skills – they just want to do anything else with their free time. Why?

  1.     It’s too ‘sitty’. They would swim in the lake until dark or do cartwheels around the block, but ask them to sit still and r-e-a-d? No thank you! For many children, sitting just lacks some appeal compared to moving their bodies. If that might be the case for your child, be creative: read a page and then do a lap around the sofa or read outside so they can bop away as you turn the pages or take body breaks between pages. Make reading a moving game! We also know families who’ve had success getting their reluctant readers on board by having them first design and build a special reading place of their very own, under the table or in a makeshift tent with stuffies and a few of their other favorite things.
  2.     It’s too boring. We like to say that if a child can read but they don’t like to read, they just haven’t found the books they love yet. Whether they’re into dirt bikes and dinosaurs or ponies and princesses, let them choose books (or even magazines) they get excited about. No, it may not be your first choice and maybe someday they’ll appreciate the classics you’ve been dreaming of reading together, but for now, we just want to focus on getting them ‘hooked’ on reading.
  3.     It’s too tricky. Sometimes we forget that the brain needs to learn how to read – we can’t do it naturally like breathing and that it’s one of the hardest things our children learn to do. Read along with them, create a routine, discover what parts of reading are challenging for them and help them choose ‘just right’ books at their level (they know almost all of the words, understand what’s happening, and can read the book smoothly). You can also ask their teacher for recommendations for your child’s level or explore simple assessments.
  4.     It’s too blurry. Has your child had an eye exam recently? They may have vision challenges or even attention challenges that can affect learning. Consult an optometrist and consider glasses and other tools and resources that could help. 


Not all children fall in love with reading at the same time or in the same way – but with books about their favorite subjects and some creativity with the venue, your little reader is sure to emerge! Remember to be seen as a reader yourself – don’t just save it until after bedtime. When children see that you value and make time for reading, they’ll be inspired to do the same.

Little Red Reading House is a magical storybook home in Inglewood that helps families discover the joy of reading together. Visit our website to learn more about family reading visits, free resources, events and more.


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