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How to help reluctant readers

If you've spent more time pleading, bargaining, and bribing your kids to read than they've actually spent with a book, Mumsnetters have got some tips for you…

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Jun 2, 2021

Reluctant Reader

1. It's never too early to start

“Find a book your child loves to look at from a young age. Read it until you both know it off by heart – that's how the love of books begins.”

2. Seek out books with strong visuals (and ideally a film version too…)

“The Diary Of A Wimpy Kid books are real winners for reluctant readers – especially young boys. The books are presented in a delightful way, with cartoon illustrations, diary/scrapbook extracts, and notebook-like mid-page border designs. We showed the children the first film and they couldn't wait to follow that up by reading the subsequent books in the series.”

3. Alternatively, don't give them books at all

“One of my sons is a reluctant reader and is still a work in progress. He's really interested in animals, so I've made a box full of things that are NOT books for him to read – fact cards from National Geographic Kids magazines, cut-out backs of cereal boxes, bits and pieces printed out in colour from zoo websites, Top Trumps cards… You name it! For daily reading, we get out the box and he chooses things that appeal to him to read.”

4. Don't be snooty about what is 'good' or 'bad' reading material

“Let them read what they enjoy, even if it's far too 'easy' for them. My 12-year-old still loves Tom Gates. Of course, there's no challenge in there for him but he loves the stories – they make him hoot!”

“Comics, anime, graphic novels, annuals, magazines and even Argos catalogues are all a good place to start.”

5. Love your library!

“Going to the library is key. Seeing how many stories are out there that she hasn't read yet keeps mine really keen.”

Boy in Library

6. Don't force it: it just doesn't work

“It can put them off reading forever [if you force them]. Just make it fun and for pleasure, not to get them up to the next reading level.”

7. Sneak book characters into your daily life

“Ask your kids what their favourite character would do in a normal life situation.”

8. Appeal to their competitive instincts

“Encourage your children to do the Summer Reading Challenge that runs at libraries during the summer. Most libraries will put on various free events related to the Summer Reading Challenge, too.”

9. Create a cosy reading zone

“Dedicate a special area for reading and make it nice and cosy, with lots of cushions, a reading light and a special shelf for your kids' books. A special book bag, bookmark and a wallet for their very own library card will make things more fun too!”

Cosy Reading Relunctant

10. Show them how much you love reading

“Let them see you read, let them hear that you LOVE books, let them see that you look after them, let them hear that reading is a high-pleasure, high-status, life-enhancing activity!”

11. Rope in the siblings

“I encourage my older children to read to the younger ones. My son is dyslexic but he loves reading to his younger brother, especially if it's a book he knows well so the reading part isn't such hard work and he can make the most of the storytelling.”

12. Accessorize, accessorize…

“I recently bought my son a bedside lamp and he's suddenly really keen on reading to himself before going to sleep. So I read to him, then he reads a chapter and turns out his light. It also means that he can read the stuff like Beast Quest without me having to read it too…”

Kid Under Covers

13. If all else fails, reverse psychology can work wonders…

“My tip is to tell your child that it's very naughty to read books under the covers by torchlight at night then give them a book they like, a torch and a big wink.”