8 Tips for Motivating Reluctant Readers

reluctant readers
reluctant readers

School is back in session! As a former special education teacher, I know that this may not be a favorite time of year for many reluctant readers. However, as kids advance through school, being a competent reader becomes a necessary and important skill. Homework most nights includes reading for 20-30 minutes. And with Common Core standards, even math requires students to read word problems.

Here are some tips for motivating reluctant readers that you, as a parent, can employ at home. 

1. Let your child read what they want. 

Having third and fifth grade students, I know that daily reading is part of most students’ homework. Some teachers have students choose a book appropriate to their reading level from the classroom library to read. However, if your child prefers to choose a book of their own, let them! To many parents, a graphic novel isn’t “real” reading because it’s comic-book like. If there are words in it, it’s reading. If they enjoy it, let them read it.

2. Expose your child to new books and authors.

Children often get stuck in a rut, and once they find an author or series that they like, they read only that. There are so many great books and authors that it’s good to expand your child’s reading repertoire. I have found the book site and community Goodreads to be very helpful in suggesting authors and books. The site provides recommendations based on books that you rate highly. For example, if your child liked The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, maybe they’ll enjoy the Big Nate or Timmy Failure. You can also peruse lists like “Best Books for Reluctant Readers” or “2nd Grade Book List for Boys” to get other recommendations.

3. Find both fiction AND non-fiction books that fit their interests. 

Kids love a good reading series. There are fictional series books for almost every interest you can imagine, including dinosaurs, fairies, pets, cooking, sports, scary, historical, and so much more!  If you find that your child is interested in a particular subject in their fiction books, find some non-fiction books for them to read as well. For example, if your child likes to dance, they might like to read the Magic Ballerina series. However, they can also read picture books and biographies about famous dancers, like Misty Copeland and Anna Pavolava, as well as instructional books like step-by-step guides for ballet and other dance styles.

4. Listen to audiobooks. 

Listening to audiobooks can be an aid for struggling, slower readers. Many unabridged audiobooks are available for student-level books. They can listen to every written word of the story as they follow along in the book. This is a great way for students to enjoy books that may be of interest to them but may be challenging to read independently.

Do you spend any time in the car, shuttling children from one activity to another? This is a great time to listen to an audiobook. Our family is listening to the entire Harry Potter series this way, one disc at a time. While my youngest can read the books, they are wordy, and the book’s size is a bit daunting to him. However, he loves the stories, and we all get to enjoy listening to them.

5. Read what your child is reading.  

Reading the same books as your children is a great way to connect with them. Not only can you have conversations regarding the book, but if they have questions on an assignment, you are also a resource.

6. Have family read alouds. 

Children are never too old for read alouds! There are many picture books targeted towards older children. This is a great way to make connections with your child’s school curriculum.

As my kids get older, we enjoy reading chapter books aloud together as a family. This is when I choose more difficult books, both in readability and subject matter. Two of our most recent reads include Wonder and George. These books cover more serious topics that we can discuss together.

My son and I have also been enjoying some lighter reading as well. Together we have read The BFG and Alice in Wonderland. After we read the book, we then watch the movie together for additional quality time.

7. Read magazines. 

Magazines are a great reading resource for children with short attention spans. They provide lots of articles on a variety of topics. There are magazines available for a variety of interests. Tweens can read about the latest pop star in Tiger Beat. Nature and animal lovers can read National Geographic Kids, and sports fans can read Sports Illustrated Kids.

8.Make visits to your local library. 

The library is an amazing resource that provides all of its materials for free! Besides books, you can also borrow the magazines and audiobooks that I’ve previously mentioned. The children’s librarian is also a great resource for new book recommendations. And if your library doesn’t have what you are looking for, it is very likely the item can be found through the interlibrary loan system. Many of the Westchester County libraries also offer programs for older children like after school homework assistance and book clubs. Check out what your local library has to offer!

How do you motivate your reluctant reader?


  1. Great ideas Nancy! Another great resource is your child’s teacher! Ask what the hot book is in class! If everyone else in class is reading it they may also want to! I also found in my classroom that sometimes if they got to read on the IPad or kindle they were more likely to read a book even if the same one was in print in front of them too! There are lots of great free reading apps out there!

  2. Kristen, these are great tips! I didn’t even touch upon electronic devices and apps (possible future post idea?!!)! My kids and I enjoy reading actual books, but it’s so true that for many kids the IPad and kindle can be very motivating!

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