What To Do When Your Child Dislikes Reading

By Dr. Raymond Huntington

It may be hard to hear your child declare their dislike of reading, but there is a reason for it—probably several, in fact. Children who are lacking some of the reading building blocks that are essential for reading fluency and comprehension might find the entire process frustrating and avoid it altogether. What can you do?  Make sure your child has the basics down, then help them rediscover reading as an enjoyable pastime. Here are several tips:

Read together and pay attention. You might not be an expert in reading instruction, but if you observe your child’s reading, you will pick up what they do well and where they have difficulty. Listen for how they sound out words and word sounds (phonics) and whether they recognize sight words that don’t sound like they are spelled (for example, the). Take note of whether your child recognizes patterns and letter behaviors and decodes words to break down longer words into smaller words.

Let your child choose their own reading material. Whatever type of reading material piques your child’s interest, go with it. The more your child picks their own books, the more interested in it they will be. Don’t rule out magazines, comic books, articles, riddles and other forms of reading. Go to the library often and let your child wander. Get the help of the librarian too—they are very familiar with how to engage reluctant readers with the right type of books and other material. Sometimes, it takes finding the right books to engage your child in reading.

Try to make reading fun. It’s hard to do when your child has lost interest in reading, but do your best to encourage your child to read and make reading fun. For younger children, try matching words and pictures to work on vocabulary. Play word Bingo and other word games. Read fun and interesting books as a family with hot chocolate or lemonade after dinner a few nights a week. And as much as possible, let your child see you reading and talking about what you read with enthusiasm.

Don’t push too hard. To the struggling student, reading feels daunting and stressful. Try to ease your child’s mind a bit by setting small goals—15 minutes a day for starters. Every day that your child reads, encourage them to try reading on their own first. If they get stuck on a word or section, they can always come to you with questions. Establish the habit, but don’t force reading. If there’s a problem, it needs to be addressed before your child will ever embrace reading by choice.

When all else fails, read to your child. This might not work with older children, but if your younger child resists reading, read to them instead. Developing that listening comprehension and understanding of language is important. Plus, reading aloud will introduce your child to the joy of getting lost in a good story. Do this as much as you can while your child is still developing their own reading skills. 

If your struggling reader doesn’t like reading and you’re not sure how to help, call Huntington at 1-800 CAN LEARN. We’ll do an academic evaluation of your child prior to beginning instruction so that we have a good sense of where your student is and where they should be based on their grade. Once we pinpoint any skill gaps and trouble spots, we’ll develop a personalized learning plan that will help your student succeed.