How to help a reluctant reader this summer

Gigi Eligoloff| Published: 19th July 2021

My child won’t read and it’s causing arguments at home!

Angry child with book

Let us start by saying we’ve been there. Sometimes the response young children can deliver when it’s gently suggested that it’s time to read can invoke a level of parental despair worthy of an England player after penalties. Not to mention the tantrums. In some homes you might barely utter the words, ”come on just read the first page?”,  before the sky falls on your head and you mentally catastrophise a future where your children are still living at home watching YouTube videos about home-made slime aged 30!  

When a task becomes such a hot potato at home, particularly after the year we’ve all had, something has to give. And although deep down we all know that eventually our reluctant reader will somehow, through osmosis, teacher perseverance and a fair wind, learn how to read fluently… in that eye of the storm it feels impossible.

Book Adventurers isn’t just a book club for reluctant readers of course, but it does playfully seek to circumnavigate the initial demands of reading via the kinds of engagement and entertainment that modern kids will recognise instantly. We call it simply a good screen alternative. Simple.

The challenge of raising a reluctant reader is partly what inspired us to start re-thinking how children learn. We know from countless studies that children learn best through play but when a child finds reading ‘tricky’, or they hit a couple of bumps in the road, books begin to represent something bad and uninviting and  even begin to trigger that little voice inside your child’s head that says ‘I can’t do this’.

“Reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education and is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background.”

The Reading Agency

As has been widely publicised and endlessly discussed, reading books regularly as you grow up is the single biggest indicator of ‘success’ in later life. That success, whether it’s financial, emotional or spiritual is due in part to the meaning we can gather from stories and how it helps us relate and make sense of the world around us.

Reading is a gift, but how do you give it when your child sees reading as a red flag?

One of the first things to do when your child is going through an anti-book period is stop pushing. No matter how much we may be desperate for them to read, pushing harder is going to have the opposite effect.

Reading to your child with no expectations of them joining in (or answering  questions on their comprehension) is the best way to ease a child back to a life of book love.

Creating fun stuff to do around books is another good way to build stories and books into your daily life without making it feel like a classroom. Reading aloud with your child, and finding entertaining and ad-free online Read Alongs are all good ways to engage your child into the magical world of storytelling.

Digital natives and the good screen option

Reluctant readers are in part to thank for the creation of our interactive book club, Book Adventurers, because without them we wouldn’t have had to think hard about how our children respond to reading versus screen time.

We know our children love screens, they love the entertainment value and the mainly passive experience of watching other people do ‘stuff’. That’s why we wanted to create arts, drama and Read Along classes that would be available online and go ‘beyond the book’. to entertain but also inspire imaginative play and engagement in activities in these young viewers.

What else you can do

According to @TeacherToolkit the number one tip for engaging a reluctant reader  is to help them visualise.

“Children are very used to screens to support their interest. It’s all about teaching them that they have the most portable screen in their heads – their imagination! Read to your class as you turn off the lights and add some atmospheric music in the background. Get children to put their heads on the table, eyes shut and visualise the images to match the words”.

@TeacherToolkit

We’ve designed all of our digital classes to do exactly what their minds will soon be doing when they read a book. Using calm and atmospheric music, gentle graphics and subtle teaching moments,  we bring the magic of stories off the page, onto their screens into their lives.