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Reluctant Readers – How to Spot One and What to Do If You've Got One!

Reluctant readers come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s really hard to predict who will become one! They don’t necessarily struggle with the mechanics of reading, but they do find it hard to focus on a book. As the Oxford Owl website puts it, “reluctant readers have the skills needed to devour books, but don’t – or won’t – use them.” While there is a good deal of evidence pointing to the fact that boys are more often found to be reluctant readers, this by no means excludes a significant number of girls who fall into the category too!

Because of the wide variety of children (and adults) who can fall into the category of a reluctant reader, finding a solution is never as simple as a ‘one size fits all’ approach - it takes trial, error and often needs frequent changes of tack.

Below isMy Primary Tutor’s advice on strategies that can help to engage your reluctant reader:

Try eBooks

Of course, ideally (especially after the year of remote learning that many children have had to endure) we’d like to get kids away from screens, but there is evidence that using eBooks increases children’s engagement with books significantly, so it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The trick is to allow reluctant readers to engage in books in whatever way makes sense to them, and if that means using an eBook then so be it! Oxford Owl has a huge free library of eBooks available.

Try Dyslexia-Friendly Books

Reluctant readers are not (necessarily) dyslexic, but books that are laid out with visual appeal in mind, and easy-to-read fonts can often help even children who aren’t dyslexic. Barrington Stokes have a great range of books – and, even better, their content is matched to the age of the child, while the text is suited to suit a lower reading age – meaning that if your reluctant reader has slipped behind where they ideally should be in reading skills, they are not limited to reading ‘babyish’ books.

Continue to Read Aloud to Your Children

It sounds counter-productive, but any adult who has ever listened to, and enjoyed an audio book can tell you that there is a great deal of pleasure to be had from someone reading to you. For reluctant readers, being read to encourages them to engage with, and enjoy the story without worrying about the technical process of reading. If reading aloud isn’t your thing, there are many children’s audio books on offer – my children have recently been bought a Yoto player and a selection of books to go with it, which they can set going independently (and often do).

Don’t Pressure Children to Read

If children feel the stakes are high around reading, they are going to feel more stressed about it. A fear of failure, stubbornness, anxiety...all these things can cause a child who is being pushed too hard to push back and refuse point blank to read.

This can be the most damaging thing of all, so avoid it at all costs. Praise the positive, wherever you can find it, and ignore the negative – this is a more nurturing way to encourage children towards the behaviours you want to see.

The Power of Choice

Finally, encourage your child to choose what they read. It is very tempting to try to steer your child towards books which you yourself read and loved as a child, and there is nothing wrong with this – a big part of loving reading is sharing that love with others – but ultimately we must recognise that what we read is a choice, and if your child is choosing to read Captain Underpants over The BFG, that is their choice – as long as they are engaging with it and enjoying it, they are getting what they need!

At My Primary Tutor there is a group of experienced and qualified teachers waiting to help your child! We are standing by with advice and a great range of sessions on offer - just email Karen on and let's start a conversation!
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