Why some children are reluctant to read?

I love reading and have ever since I was a child – escaping to a world of excitement and adventure through the pages of a book was my favourite pastime. Unfortunately, lots of children don’t share my passion for reading.

Every class will have its reluctant readers but the reasons for this lack of engagement with reading will be varied and may be about the reading materials they are offered as well as their reading skills. A child may:

  • lack the skills of reading, both vocabulary and comprehension
  • have an underlying condition like dyslexia
  • be frustrated by their inability to read independently or fluently
  • be discouraged by environmental factors at home or school
  • lack reading choices
  • find the format and length of books unappealing or overwhelming
  • be bored by the subject and content of books available to them
  • be choosing books that are too hard for them

So, what strategies can you use to encourage reluctant readers?

Read aloud every day

Take the stress out of reading by scheduling time for a class shared storytime. Children learn so much from being read to. Listening again to a well-loved book or being able to access something harder and more exciting can help improve vocabulary, stimulate imagination and is the key to building life-long readers.

Find a book that you love – your enjoyment will be infectious. Get silly and add voices and sound effects or, if you don’t feel confident in reading aloud, use the skills of an actor by listening to an audio book.

Make sure the environment is right. Are children comfortable? Is the floor the best place in a classroom or should you use a comfy reading corner or let the children remain in their seats? Some teachers let children draw and write notes about the story as they listen.

Choice of content and format

“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” (JK Rowling)

Match the right book to the child by providing a variety of books from different authors and genres for them to choose from. Social media and video games are all tough competition for the experience of reading a paper and ink book so try graphic novels, comics and books with sound effects. Don’t forget non-fiction too.

Include different publishers so that you get an inclusive, diverse and accessible range. Barrington Stokes’ titles include a range of specialist features, such as high interest/low ability texts from well-known writers, specific fonts and yellow pages, to help visually stressed and dyslexic readers.

Ensure access to audio stories and author recommendations and chat – try Storyline Online  and Words For Life  – and make eBooks available on a Kindle/iPad (this can also help those children with visually impairment or dyslexia as font and backgrounds can be changed).

Make reading sociable

Why not start the day with a pupil-led book talk? Allow the children to share fun or interesting things from their reading with each other.

Encourage additional activities linked to the stories they are reading for example organize a competition or make a diorama.

Our reluctant reader recommendations

Allison King

Allison King

Allison King is a Chartered Librarian for the Education Resources Service at Juniper Education. Allison has many years of experience working in research libraries in the finance sector, children’s libraries in primary schools and the Public Library. She runs the well established Juniper Book Award and enjoys reading stories on the Storytelling Bookbus.