Rebecca Stark is the author of The Good Portion: God, the second title in The Good Portion series, a series written to encourage women to immerse themselves in the depths of Christian doctrine.

The Good Portion — God explores what Scripture teaches about God in hopes that readers will see his perfection, worth, magnificence, and beauty as they study his triune nature, infinite attributes, and wondrous works. 

Rebecca also blogs at Out of the Ordinary.


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What to Do with a Reluctant Reader

A tweet by Jules this morning reminded me of this old, old post, and I decided to repost it.

What do I mean by reluctant reader? A reluctant reader is a child who has reached 10 or 12 years old, who can read, but doesn’t enjoy reading on their own, a child who almost never picks up a book to read for pleasure. And yes, avid readers can produce reluctant readers; two of four of my children fell into this category.

Here are a few tips drawn from my experience:
  1. Take advantage of the times your child is held captive. Keep good books for children in the bathroom. Stack a few by the bed and make reading the only activity allowed after bedtime. Unless your child is prone to carsickness, take lots of books on a long car ride. Never ever draw attention to these books or suggest that they try reading one.

  2. Notice what type of television programs your child likes most. Do they like dramas or are they drawn to documentaries and science shows? It’s my own opinion that many reluctant readers are “just the facts” people who prefer nonfiction to fiction. Try leaving biographies, nature books, science books, books of math puzzles, books on W.W.II, sports books, joke books, books about foreign countries, or collection-of-facts books scattered about the house. If you can’t resist pushing novels, make them factually based novels. 

  3. Don’t worry that their reading material is too lightweight. Lightweight is good; dumbed down is not. Your purpose at this point is not to produce a well-read child, but a child who knows that books can be fun and reading doesn’t have to be a chore.

  4. Have quiet time at your home and make sure that everyone (Dad, too!) is included. After the supper dishes were done was the time that worked well for us. Only quiet activities are allowed—drawing, homework, paying bills, reading, etc. Half an hour is long enough, but you can try longer if you think you can swing it. Chances are that at some point your reluctant reader will run out of other entertaining quiet activities and open a book.

  5. Don’t stop reading to your child. Ask your child to read out loud to you once in a while. Ask them to read a page or a paragraph from the book you are reading to them. Try reading aloud from a really engaging book, but only a chapter or two—just enough to intrigue them—and then be too busy to read for a few days. See if they will continue on their own.

    The all-time best novel for reluctant readers is Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins. It’s easy to read and I’ve never met a kid who didn’t like it. Read a chapter or two to your child and see if they don’t read on ahead to see what happens. Other Scott O’Dell books are good, too, but introduce these after they’ve been hooked by Island of the Blue Dolphins.

  6. Tidiness may be a virtue, but being too tidy doesn’t promote reading. A reluctant reader does not love reading enough to go find a book that has been put away. Books strewn everywhere is a good thing when it comes to getting kids to read.

  7. Buy appropriate books at garage sales, thrift stores, and used book stores. If you pay the new book price for a book, it’s going to eat at you when it doesn’t get read, and pressure to read a book is counterproductive when you are dealing with reluctant readers.
If you have more ideas, feel free to add them in the comments.

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Reader Comments (5)

Excellent post! I did not have reluctant readers, but I know many mothers who do. I would also suggest getting books on CD. Another thing is to see what hobbies the child is pursuing and getting books about that as well.

I continued to read out loud to my youngest child even when he was 13 years old. We read the Space Trilogy by CS Lewis out loud that year.

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim Shay

Another irresistible book is Abel's Island by William Steig, especially for boys.

I think the one of the most effective things for a reluctant reader is to see his/her parents reading and then hearing them discussing books at the dinner table. Every kid likes to pipe up and enter the conversation.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim from Hiraeth

I grew up hating to read, my dad published over 70 books and I didn't read any of them. Now write action-adventures & mysteries for readers 8 - 13, especially boys, because I understand what it takes to interest a reluctant reader.

Books for Boys Blog

My Youtube Videos

Max Elliot Anderson

July 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMax Elliot Anderson

I blog on reluctant readers a lot! Here's some ideas:

Here's an extensive book list for Reluctant Readers (compiled over 1.5 years)

Audio iPhone/iPad App for "Books on Tape" -- some are free

Use electronic devices to reel them in:

Audio Books -- some are free

Select Books to Match Interest using Book Trailers (like movie trailers)

Make Reading Fun

eBooks that can be personalized with your voice:

Graphic Novels (NYTimes Top 10)

All my posts on Reluctant Readers (40+) are here: including many, many book lists from other people.

Hope this helps!

July 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPragmaticMom

Max and PragmaticMom,

Thanks for the links!

July 20, 2011 | Registered Commenterrebecca

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