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Hit the books!

How to fire up your reluctant reader

How to fire up your reluctant reader

Studies find that kids with a zest for reading acquire stronger vocabulary and writing skills and a better understanding of human nature and different cultures. Unfortunately by age 8, many children, especially boys, are less likely to read for pleasure as their interests turn to friends, video games and other activities. 

Motivate your child to read by appealing to his personality and interests. 

Read aloud

Continue reading together even after your child can read independently. Model fluency — a critical reading skill that enables us to read quickly and accurately with proper expression. Lack of fluency often fuels reading frustrations, which can affect learning as children advance to the upper grades where reading demands increase. Besides, this is just a great way to bond!


Together, explore a story’s themes and difficult situations. Invite your child to critique and discuss how the story applies to the world as she knows it.

Tell a story

Recall a favorite tale or share a personal experience. Storytelling nurtures early literacy, helps with comprehension and reflects your values. Plus, research finds storytelling increases the overall well-being and happiness of families. 

Consider non-fiction

Explore different genres with your child. “Children often say they don’t like to read because they’ve only read things chosen for them by others," says librarian Helma Hawkins. “Find a subject your child is interested in and then find a selection of books or magazines on that subject and let her choose.”

Make ’em laugh

You may not care for Captain Underpants’ humor or Junie B. Jones’ grammar, but these books often leave kids roaring for more. 

“We read Junie B. Jones in the classroom and use the inappropriate things she says as teaching moments: ‘What could she have said?’” says Jill Conard, a first grade teacher. “We talk about bullying behavior and ways to create peace-building.” Unsure if your child is ready for a particular book? Read it first to decide if it's developmentally appropriate.

Appeal to their social side

Start a kids book club or see if your library hosts one. “Peers are instrumental in getting kids to read. If their friends are talking about books they like to read, that will motivate kids to read, too,” says Pam Rousselo, a fourth grade teacher. 

Fan the flame

Hook your child onto a series or a specific author. Legions of young fans rally around series like My Weird School, The Magic Tree House, Harry Potter and Little House on the Prairie. Comic books count, too!

READ MORE: Keep kids learning during summer

Subscribe to magazines

Kids love to get mail! Kids magazines cover topics ranging from current events, wildlife and science to sports and fashion. 

Motivate through incentives

Set goals and reward your child’s reading efforts with a special outing or treat. 

Tap the web

School and library websites frequently offer interactive reading programs. Visit author websites and search for online companions to traditionally published books like The Magic Tree House series, which feature interactive, educational games to supplement the stories. 

Another resource, guysread.com offers ideas to inspire boys to read. 

Read on the go

Download audio books to your child’s MP3 player and he can listen while he shoots hoops. You can find ten great sites for free kids' audio books at weareteachers.com

Share your e-reader

According to a 2012 study in the International Journal of Applied Science and Technology, upper elementary and middle school children, especially boys, read more books when provided with an e-reader. The e-readers provide privacy (no one needs to know your child’s reading level), they're light-weight and the book is readily accessible at all times.

Get creative

Carie Beth Russell, an educator and mom of two, has her daughters rewrite dialogue, plots and settings by covering picture book text with sticky notes. 

“Ask your kids to draw while you read aloud. Visualizing the story is a skill that must be acquired," Russell says.

Be a role model

Set aside daily quiet time for family reading. Create a peaceful and cozy reading nook in your home with a comfy chair and blanket.

“Laugh out loud at literature. Cry. Let your kids see you be moved and transported by text,” Russell says. “Join a book club and let them see that you value books by the way you spend your time. Buy lots and lots of books at locally owned shops and visit the library each week.”

Dads should make it a point to read in front of their children, too. Boys look to male role models when deciding if reading is a masculine activity. 

Rule out health issues

Learning disabilities, hearing and eyesight issues aren’t always immediately obvious, but can quickly sour a child’s attitude about reading. “Not only should you listen as your children practice reading, but also watch their eyes. A correctable eye problem can cause difficulties,” says Marlene Bosak, a children’s librarian whose son struggled with an eye coordination issue for years. Eye coordination problems may not be detected in a normal eye exam.

Christa Melnyk Hines, is the mom of two boys, a freelance writer and avid reader.