Motivating Reluctant Readers

Motivate reluctant readersNeed Motivation for Reluctant Readers?

When kids don’t like reading, school can be a struggle. Because reading is essential for success in all classes, their grades and tests suffer. However, motivating reluctant readers isn’t impossible.

Why do Kids Dislike Reading?

Kids don’t hate reading because they’re lazy, stupid, or don’t want to do well in school. Many factors contribute to children avoiding reading. Parents and teachers can succeed in motivating reluctant readers by discovering what causes an individual student to dislike reading.

Reluctant readers may be those kids who simply refuse to read. Other kids don’t like to read but can be coaxed. Some are good readers. Others have learning disabilities or are still struggling with decoding. Reluctant readers may find ways to protest reading by “acting out” in class when it’s time for independent reading. Or “forgetting” to bring a book home for homework. It may take some “detective work” to figure out why a child doesn’t like to read.

8 reasons kids avoid reading

  • Difficult text: The story or assigned reading may be appropriate for a child’s grade level but is too hard for the child’s reading level
  • Undiagnosed learning disability: Kids who dislike reading often have dyslexia or another reading disability which make reading difficult if not impossible.
  • Needs glasses: When children can’t see the text clearly, reading becomes a struggle. Poor vision is often overlooked when parents and teachers look for causes of poor reading comprehension. 
  • Boring text: Some kids are uninterested in the assigned reading or books suggested by teachers and parents. Bright kids are often bored by classroom material. Other kids don’t find anything in the reading that relates to their interests and experience.
  • Decoding: When a young reader can’t figure out what some of the words are, they lose interest in reading.
  • Unfamiliar vocabulary: If students come across too many unfamiliar words even though they can decode the words, they won’t understand what they’re reading. Nobody wants to read if they can’t understand what they’re reading.
  • Reading comprehension: Many kids have trouble understanding what they’re reading even when they can read every word and know what each word means. 
  • ADHD: Children with ADHD have a difficult time focusing on a single task, especially one like reading that requires sitting still and being quiet.

Strategies for Motivating Reluctant Readers

Motivating reluctant readers. A young boy enjoys readingBefore any plan is put in place to encourage a child who doesn’t like reading, parents and teachers must determine what the problem is. This includes having the child tested for learning disabilities and ADHD, and seeing an ophthalmologist for vision testing.

Once you’ve determine that a child doesn’t have a learning disability or need glasses, find books that focus on the student’s interests and experiences. For example, boys who are interested in sports may become more interested in reading when they’re reading about a famous sports figure.

Students who don’t read at their grade level may understand and even enjoy what they’re reading at their reading level . As soon as they’re asked to read something at their grade level, they no longer can understand.  Stories and books at a student’s reading and vocabulary level are an essential factor in encouraging kids to read.

Although we may not realize it, as we read we create a mental picture of what we’re reading. When children get “lost” while they’re reading, it’s often because they “lose” the mental picture. Students can back up in their reading until the see the picture again. In a classroom setting, students can read a paragraph and then share what they saw while reading.

Encourage some reading at school and at home just for fun. No tests on what the student read. No pressure to read faster. Allow students to re-read books they enjoyed.

Practice daily reading including ingredient lists on cereal boxes, cookie recipes, directions for building a model airplane.  Play alphabet and reading games on road trips. How many words do you see on signs or license plates that start with “B”?  What’s the name of the next town? How far away is it?

Some children who say they don’t like reading and avoid reading will devour joke, word puzzle, and “amazing facts” books. They often enjoy reading  joke, riddles and amazing facts aloud to their parents and siblings. Look for books that go with toys such as Lego books and American Girl doll books.

Try comics and graphic novels to get kids interested in reading, including The Power of Cute: My Very first Graphic Novel by Charise Mericle Harper and The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Chabon for early readers. Kids in 2nd, 3rd grade and beyond can read the popular series books: Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey and The Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

The books are funny and engaging if not great literature. At this point, the purpose is motivating reluctant readers rather than forcing them to read great literature.  These books, even comics, help kids understand main characters, time, place, and the sequence of stories. Kids enjoy the cartoon drawings while they continue to build vocabulary.

Reading to children can also get children interested in reading. Now they can enjoy a story without struggling with a learning disability. It’s another excellent vocabulary-building skill. As you finish each chapter, discuss the story line with your kids. Who are the main characters. What’s the main event of the story? What happens first, then second, etc. Make connections between the story and your child’s experiences. When you read aloud and talk about the story,  you’re also teaching the fundamentals of reading comprehension.

Limiting reading to electronic books certainly isn’t a long term goal. However, if a reluctant reader can get more interested in ebooks than paper books, it’s a good way to get them reading.

Take kids to the library. Most libraries have children’s story hour and other activities, and some even have toys and games. Reluctant readers may not want to choose a book to take home, but they’re being exposed to a fun reading environment outside of school. No tests or required reading aloud in libraries. Look for children’s magazines.Motivating kids to learn how to read

There’s no rule at home about where to read. Kids may have to sit at their desk with their feet flat on the floor when reading at school, but just about anything goes at home. In bed, sprawled out on the floor, outdoors in the grass, curled up in a big, comfy chair are all great places to read.

Having books, magazines, even comics that are fun to read and relate to a child’s interests will go a long way toward motivating reluctant readers.

Pick up a complimentary copy of the Dyslexia Toolkit for reluctant readers on DrLindasBlog. It’s filled with fun activities for reading even if kids don’t have dyslexia.

Do you have more questions? Please leave a comment below.





Phonics Centered — Consistent with Orton-Gillingham — Multisensory