“6 Strategies to Motivate Your Reluctant Reader”  is the third in the “Raising Readers” series, a Kidskintha initiative meant to encourage parents and children to explore imaginative worlds through the written word.

There was a phase in our reading journey when my kid went slightly off track and derailed my ambitious plans of getting her to read books that I enjoyed in my childhood. I kept pushing books at her and she kept turning to movies. At my wits end, I turned to a good friend of mine who also happened to be a very talented teacher who suggested a few solutions. Those strategies worked, my reluctant reader found her lost motivation.

Troubleshooting the problem of reluctant readers.

The first question my teacher-friend asked me, “Why is kiddo not reading?”. I couldn’t answer the question because I didn’t know. I was too busy trying to solve the problem without understanding what the problem was in the first place.

The issue, which I dug out after many rounds of conversations consisting of open-ended questions with my pre-schooler, was that she didn’t enjoy reading the books I was forcing on her. (oopsie!).

But, the reluctance to read can arise due to many reasons, like:

  • Vision problems

A good sign that a vision issue is behind the hesitation in reading for your little one is-  eye strain. Watery or itchy eyes, complaints of headaches, eye pain, holding books really close or too far.

  • Kind of books offered to them

Maybe they’re not interested in your recommendations! Despite best intentions, enthusiastic parents (such as yours truly) might overwhelm their kids with a personal favorite childhood booklist. And most kids might not know how to express their displeasure at being forced to read books they don’t enjoy. So the kid could take the easiest way out and avoid the activity altogether. Fear not, there are ways to make amends with your kid as I did with mine.

  • Developmentally not ready to read independently.

Maybe she/he is just not developmentally ready to read independently? Our last article detailed the prerequisite skills for reading with a handy checklist for parents and resources to help parents who wish to dig deeper.

6 strategies to motivate reluctant readers:

Without further ado, the strategies are:

1. Let them choose their own books

Take them to a bookstore or library and let them go and maintain a safe distance. Children will naturally gravitate towards what interests them so once you catch them with their nose in a book, observe if the book holds their interest or not. Let them come to you, hopefully, with a book. Many kids will pick and skim through books so be patient. Sometimes you might return empty handed and at other times your kid will be immediately drawn to a particular genre or series. If she/he picks up a comic, let her. If she picks up a book far above her reading level, it’s alright. Trust in their instincts to choose a book that speaks to their imagination.

Don’t make the mistake I did- I was vocally judgemental about graphic books & comics which possibly didn’t help my goal of helping her become an independent reader.

2.Introduce audiobooks

Audiobooks are a great way to listen to stories and help develop excellent listening skills. Back when my kiddo was a preschooler, the only audiobook I could find was that of Alice in Wonderland.(this particular version). We spent many hours listening to the soothing voice of the narrator. An excellent alternative to keep your kid engaged in stories when you’re busy or when you’re burnt out reading to them.

3. Oral narratives

Take a detour into Charlotte Mason philosophy of education and the concept of narration. One focus activity is called “Picture study” where the caregiver/parent holds a picture and asks the child to describe what he/she sees in the picture. It’s a very effective way to develop observational and narrative skills in your little one.

4. Keep reading to them

Allow the child to pick a book and even if it’s the ten-thousandth time you’re reading the book aloud to them; soldier on. My husband and I have read ‘Goodnight Moon’ so very many times to my kid that we still can narrate the book from memory after 13 years. Repetition is how kids get better at a skill so indulge them even if your toes curl and your heart sinks at the prospect of reading their favorite book.

5. Incentives.

External rewards have their place in encouraging habits and skills so unleash your creativity. Tangible regards work with young children so create a daily calendar with space for a gold start or heart for the days they choose to read a book. It’s a visual reward as well as a progress checker. Monetary reward also helps, in the short run and using small denomination coins mind you, or you’ll find out that your kid is so motivated with earning money that she’s blazing through books and driving a hole in your pocket.(As I found out to my embarrassment ).

6. Take a break from all media.

I reserved the last resort for the end. If all else fails, take a break from all media. No t.v., no internet, no books, no narration. A break for all sensorial inputs related to reading. Explore art and craft. Spend time in nature. Slide back into your reading habits outlined in the earlier article only when your kid leads you back to a book. In my case, it took about 3 (very anxious months for me) for my kid to pick up a book. Eventually she did. And let me assure you, your kid will too.

Reading widely and deeply is  critical for your child’s success in school/college/ workplace. So, try the above 6 strategies if your kid has hit the proverbial wall. If you come up with solutions of your own, please do share with us in the comments below.

“6 Strategies to motivate  your reluctant reader” Image by Comfreak from Pixabay
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Preeti Konaje

Preeti is the Head of Content (Consulting) at Kidskintha. An inquirer at heart, she constantly seeks to question and challenge the status quo. She holds a M.A.Ed with expertise in pedagogy and instructional design. In the recent past, she has designed and facilitated teacher workshops on engaging pedagogical methods. She is particularly interested in issues related to gender biases in education.

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