Encouraging Your Late or Reluctant Reader: How My Child Caught Up

As avid lifelong readers, my husband and I were very excited to share our favorite childhood books and explore new ones with our sons. Our older son loved books and figured out how to read very early. Our very bright, energetic younger son had little patience or interest in books aside from a comforting bedtime routine with Goodnight Moon. He would run off within a few minutes of story time, bored easily. In kindergarten, he knew the letters but had little patience for figuring how to put them together or decipher them for writing and reading. And he saw no particular reason to share with his teacher that he knew the letters, preferring a run and avoid approach to classroom learning.

Flash forward to today as a straight A middle school student in honors science and accelerated math. How did we/he make the transition?

Here are my tips for encouraging a late or reluctant reader from my Mom experience:

young child at reading nookFind books related to their interests. My son loved pirates and castles so I looked for action packed stories to capture his imagination.

Kids usually love humor served with a side of snarky. While it would be nice to feed our kids a steady diet of thoughtful reading, entrancing them with humor can be well worth giving them a practical albeit offbeat reason to want to look at a book. For example, Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie series is great for kids just starting to read but who are easily bored by typical starting readers.

Try different genres, authors, styles and topics. Sometimes kids surprise us. What we thought they would like leaves them cold but something else engages them that we brought home in a whim.

A great library with a strong children’s department is your best ally. The children’s librarian can be an awesome resource for cool books on any given topic, as can sites like Amazon. And since we need to test different books to see what works, getting an assortment from the library is a lifesaver. The stack of rejected books would have been a big (and expensive) disappointment had I (ouch) bought them all. Scholastic’s web site with their guided reading range search capability is another handy tool.

Read regularly with your child, even if just for very short periods of time. Take turns reading and ask predictive questions that help your child think about the meaning of the book. For example,

  • “What do you think happens next?”

  • “Why do you think [name of main character] did that?”

  • “Who is your favorite character and why?”

  • “What is your favorite part of the book?”

Set up a cozy reading nook or other area of your home that encourages reading. Place a small assortment of appealing, developmentally appropriate books near by.

Model reading yourself (and any other influential adults in your child’s life). If your child never sees you read unless it’s your iPhone, they’re getting the message that reading isn’t that important to you. Reading an e-book or a traditional book or article speaks louder than words about how important you think reading is.

Explore books with fun activities that your child likes, anything from arts and crafts, recipes, nature walks or scavenger hunts. Reading and parenting blogs and Pinterest boards can be great resources for ideas.

Make up silly stories together based on a favorite book’s theme. For example, my son loved the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series, so we would make up funny riffs on the same theme together.

Have your child assessed if you or your child’s teacher thinks his or her delay is significant. From my mom experience, children can have trouble learning to read for different reasons. It is important to ensure that reason isn’t a learning disability or other challenge. For many kids it can just be a delay which calls for more time and effort to help them learn. If your school has a reading teacher, chat with them for advice and tips.


What have you found most helpful to encourage your child to develop their reading skills and a passion for reading?



Here are ideas for books from our experiences:


Adventure Books –

Everything I Know About Pirates by Tom Lichtenheld

Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life by Carole P. Roman


Funny Books –

Elephant and Piggie early reader series by Mo Willems such as There Is a Bird on Your Head! and Pigs Make Me Sneeze! Easy, funny first readers for kids easily bored by typical fare

These favorite picture books are a great way to engage kids in reading together:


Chapter Books:

My Weird School and then My Weird School Daze series by Dan Gutman are great chapter book series for kids who are not engaged in typical books because they are goofy and impertinent. For example Book #1 of each: Miss Daisy Is Crazy! and Mrs. Dole Is Out of Control.

Amelia Bedelia books by Herman Parish, bonus is they are great for kids on the autism spectrum or with other disabilities who tend to think literally to teach them implications and deeper meanings




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