7 Ways to Help Reluctant Readers Discover a Love of Reading

6 min to read
A young girl reading a book

Reading is an essential skill in life. But learning to read—and learning to enjoy reading—isn’t easy for every child. An estimated 20 percent of elementary-age children struggle when learning to read. And among children who can read well, the percentage who read for fun is at the lowest level in 40 years.

If your child is struggling to read or is a reluctant reader, they’re not alone. There are plenty of reading strategies to help struggling readers. Here’s what you need to know:

Why Some Children Struggle with Reading

There are two main reasons why a child may not be reading much or at all: they are having difficulties learning to read or they don’t enjoy what they’re reading. To know how to help struggling readers, you first need to understand what’s holding them back.

Difficulties Learning to Read

Research shows that children learn to read through phonetic awareness. From there, they can develop their reading comprehension skills, but the first step is knowing how letters sound individually and when put together.

A child who struggles to gain phonetic awareness may have an issue like dyslexia. Among other things, dyslexia negatively affects a person’s ability to decode a written language. An estimated fifteen to twenty percent of the population has some form of dyslexia, and it’s the root cause of many children’s struggles with reading.

With proper help and instruction, most people with dyslexia learn to read and write well. But it’s not the only reason your child may be struggling with reading. They might need more phonics instruction.

Education experts have noted that a move away from phonics instruction in some schools has negatively affected certain children. These children speak their language fluently but, because they never fully learned the phonic sounds behind letters and letter combinations, they struggle to read.

Dislike of Reading

In the same way that some students dislike school, some dislike reading. It’s not that they can’t read, they simply don’t find it enjoyable. This could be due to a variety of reasons, but the primary reasons kids dislike reading include:

  • They are bored: Some kids haven’t been exposed to a type of reading they enjoy.
  • They are worried they’ll be tested: Anxiety about expectations can make children see reading as a chore.
  • They read slower than average: If a child is often in situations where they’re expected to read in a set amount of time, they can find the experience of reading anxiety inducing.
  • They are reading materials below or above their level: When children read things that are too easy or too hard for them, they can become bored or discouraged.
  • They are distracted: In a world of on-demand entertainment, some kids spend too much time staring at screens and never learn how enjoyable reading can be.

No matter what may be keeping your child from embracing reading—or learning how to read—there are ways you can help.

A mother reading to her young daughters.

How to Help a Child Struggling with Reading

If you’re looking for reading help for kids, there are a lot of great online resources. Not every child learns the same way and not every tip will work perfectly, but with there being so many reading strategies for struggling readers, you’re sure to find several that work well for you and your child. And many work well regardless of whether your child is having difficulty learning to read or just doesn’t like reading.

Here are seven strategies parents find helpful:

1. Try Reading Games and Challenges

Among the best online resources, you’ll find plenty of games and challenges. These include everything from phonics games for beginning or struggling readers to reading comprehension challenges for more-accomplished readers. Go over what’s available with your child and see which games and challenges sound interesting to them. Once they find a few they enjoy, they can learn while having fun.

2. Let Them Choose What They Read

Children are often told what to read, but that can leave some disinterested in reading. In addition to whatever your child needs to read for school, give them the space to pick out something to read for themselves—even if it’s a comic book or magazine. Any type of age-appropriate reading can help children improve their skills and develop a love for reading.

3. Read Along with Audiobooks

Experts have long extolled the virtues of reading out loud to children when they are young. But just because your child is learning to read for themselves doesn’t mean you have to remove the listening aspect of reading. Instead, consider pairing an age-appropriate book with the audio version. This can help children better understand how letters make sounds and can also help them stay focused on the story and not get bored.

4. Encourage Rereading

Is there a book or story your child loved? Let them know they can read it again. Small children often ask for the same bedtime story repeatedly, but even older children can enjoy revisiting their favorite tales. Doing so can help them master the words they may have struggled with previously and remind them that reading can be enjoyable.

5. Make a Fort

Kids love spaces that feel safe yet unique to them. Help your child build a fort and then stock it with books of their choosing. This can make the books feel special, and it gives your child a quiet place where they can read.

6. Combine Books with Movies

Books—even kids’ books—get made into movies all the time. Challenge your child to read a book that has a movie adaptation and then watch the movie together. This can give you and your child an opportunity to discuss how the two versions of the story differ and what about the book made reading it a uniquely enjoyable experience.

7. Limit Screen Time

While research on the effects of screen time is ongoing, experts agree that too much screen time isn’t good for children, and the younger your child is, the less time they should be on screens. Limiting your child’s screen time forces them to spend their time doing other things. For many, reading can prove to be the perfect replacement for the entertainment they usually get on a screen.

A virtual school student reads using strategies for reluctant readers

How to Tell If a Source Is Reputable

For children who are struggling with reading, a high-quality K-12 online school like Connections Academy can provide the perfect opportunity for your family to take more control over your student’s learning preferences.

A tuition-free public school, Connections Academy expands the way children can learn, focusing on their unique challenges and strengths and providing the flexibility they need to learn in the way that works best for them. Plus, Connections Academy empowers parents to be more involved in their child’s education. After all, who understands your child better than you?

As your child’s Learning Coach, you’ll partner with caring teachers and expert staff to ensure your child is getting the individualized attention they need. For children struggling with reading, this level of attention can be particularly beneficial—and can help them thrive in their reading and every other endeavor.

To learn more about the ways you can help your child overcome challenges, take a look at our article on helping children persevere.

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