15 Ideas When Your Child Hates Reading

Short quiz:

Which best describes why you are reading this post:

A.) Your child is a struggling or reluctant reader

B.) You are looking to refresh your family’s bedtime reading routine

C.) You are trying to restart your family’s reading routine

D.) You are trying to create a family reading routine

15 IDEAS WHEN YOUR CHILD HATES READINGNo matter what you answered, we’ve got a few ideas to get back into reading with your child. Summer is coming and it’s the perfect (and important!) time to spark or rekindle a love of reading outside the classroom.

  1. Let your child choose the book to read, even if it means rereading a story your child already knows and loves. Also keep in mind the range of book and story formats. Poetry and comic books, for example, can be a great way to launch an avid reader. Keep all the books at your child’s height so they are easy to pick up and read.
  2. Take a picture walk first. Look at and discuss each illustration before reading the story aloud. If it is a new book, make a prediction about what the story will be about.
  3. Keep the book in front of your child so your child can follow along with the print and enjoy the illustrations.
  4. As you and your child read, track the print with your fingers. Touch the spot below each word as you say the word together.
  5. Use the illustrations to predict what will happen next in the story or to unlock a new, unknown word.
  6. Read with expression! Make the stories come alive by using a different voice for each character.
  7. Make a word hunt with the book by searching for all the high-frequency words. If your child learned sight words throughout the school year, ask your child’s teacher for the list of all the words. Then reference this list as you hunt for words in the story. For more advanced, but nevertheless reluctant, readers, this activity can be adapted to focusing on unknown or new vocabulary words. Use text and illustration context clues or add a synonym when the new word is introduced.
  8. At the end of the story, team up with your child to retell what happened using the illustrations for reference.
  9. After a major event in the story, ask each other,
    “How does the character feel right now?”
    “What makes you think so (the illustrations or a particular word or phrase)”?
    “How would you feel if that happened to you?”
  10. At the end of the story, share your favorite parts. What were your favorite characters, passages, illustrations, and new words? What made you laugh the most?
  11. Ask each other, “Would you want to be friends with the main character?” “Why/Why not?”
  12. Make a special place to read together, such as in bed, under a tree, in a homemade fort, in a comfy chair, or in your home library.
  13. Make reading together a routine! Set aside time every day, even if it is just 20 minutes. You might read together during breakfast, before naptime, right before bedtime, while commuting on a train or bus, or while waiting at the doctor’s office or laundromat.
  14. If your child is old enough, take turns reading. Alternate reading every other page so you both get practice and a break from just listening to the story.
  15. Feel unsure about speaking and reading in English? Or want to expose your child to another language spoken in the family? A book in another language is just as helpful to your child’s education and love of reading. You might also reach out to older siblings, cousins, and other family members to read the English book with you and your child. Retell the story and ask and answer questions in your native language.

Feel free to skip around and pick and choose which works best for your family. Many of these ideas are most helpful for students ages 4 to 8, but can be adapted for older readers.

And finally, the number one way to engage (or reengage) your child in reading: Ask your child’s teacher! He/she is committed to helping your child succeed in this year and beyond. Together you can brainstorm ways to specifically address your child’s needs and explore why your child may struggle with or feel frustrated/shy/resistant/ambivalent about reading.

Get started with our Diversity Starter Pack PreK–2.

Further reading:

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4 thoughts on “15 Ideas When Your Child Hates Reading”

  1. Jill, this is an excellent post. All these tips are good. I wonder, though, if you could provide the same kind of expert guidance for getting middle school children to want to read. All the data seems to indicate that the raw number of books read by children declines as they age. I am often at a loss when parents come to me and describe a middle grade student who is of above-average intelligent and achievement in school, but who balks at reading anything that is not assigned for school. In other words, no free, voluntary reading, even with trips to the library and bookstore where the child gets to choose her own books. Books taken out or purchased just gather dust. This happens even in cases where the schools have little homework. Kids would rather watch videos or Snapchat with their friends.
    Would you recommend advising parents to take away their children’s electronics for a couple of hours a day if they do not read, or make electronics use contingent on free reading? Help!

  2. Jill, I’m a writer/grandma, babysitting 3 days a week. The parents ask and I agreed to read daily. The boys like picking out their books at the public library. They love to choose one if I’m buying. But the older boy doesn’t enjoy reading aloud much. I’ve printed out some of the 7 TIPS FOR DAILY READING and my version of 15 Ideas When Child Hates to Read; that is, I rewrote to remind myself of the way I think it might best work for me and the two boys who are four years apart. I’m anxious to shake up the routine and apply some of this great advice. Thank You for the resources, too. Feeling well-prepared for this summer.

  3. Hi Jill,
    My 5th grader only like to read graphic novels. His writing style is not very strong as he likes to write in bullet points. I am wondering if it is because of just reading graphic novels. How do I motivate him to read other books so that he improves his vocabulary and writing?
    Thank you.

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