Reluctant readers – how to help

5 - 11 years
Mother and son reading

In the middle years of school, some children (often boys) may lose interest in reading. ‘Reluctant readers’ may struggle with reading, not show any interest in reading or simply refuse to read independently. If this sounds like your child, here are some ideas to help you turn your reluctant reader into an enthusiastic bookworm!

Keep it simple

  • It’s a great idea to scan through the material your child is reading to check it is at their reading level. Making sure their reading material is not too advanced for them will help them to enjoy reading and stay engaged.


If there are more than 5 words on a page that your child doesn’t know, or isn’t sure of, it’s probably too difficult – encourage them to try something else.

  • To increase your reluctant reader’s confidence and motivation for reading, try to find ‘Hi-Lo’ books (High interest/Low reading level books). Hi-Lo books are exciting and engaging for kids, but are carefully written so they can be read easily – making reading fun and rewarding for reluctant readers. Talk to your child’s teacher or the school/local librarian for some Hi-Lo book recommendations for your child.

Follow their interests

  • Let your child choose what they want to read. Allowing them to read books, magazines or comics about topics they’re interested in will help encourage them to read.
  • Read and read again. If your child just wants to read the same books over and over again, that’s OK! Through repetition, your child will become familiar with the text and eventually be able to read it with ease and confidence. This experience of reading success can help them to enjoy reading and give them the confidence to give new books a try.
  • If other activities such as music, videogames, or sport are your child’s passion, try to use them as springboards to their reading.
  • You can find reading material on just about anything at the library. From video game guides to super heroes, sports to crafts, libraries have something to cater for every interest.

Make reading fun!

  • Your child is more likely to develop a love of reading when they see it as a fun and enjoyable hobby.
  • Most kids enjoy silly things. Try to find books that will make your child laugh, such as books of jokes or funny rhymes.
  • Find the book version of the movies and TV shows your child likes, and read them together. Talk about the differences between the two versions of the story. Ask your child which they like better, and why?
  • If your child likes to learn how to do new things (such as perform a magic trick or make a kite), encourage them to find out how by reading about it.
  • Play games! Scrabble or Boggle are particularly good for building vocabulary and spelling. Other board games and trading card games are also good, as there is lots of written information and instructions to read as you play.
  • If your child is competitive, try a reading challenge with a reward at the end. Tell them they can read anything they want but they must read for a certain number of minutes (or number of pages) and encourage them to tell you about what they read.

Mix up the medium

  • Words are everywhere and supporting your child’s reading can be done in a wide range of places. Encourage your child to try reading words wherever you see them – on household objects, sign posts, newspapers or on the bus.
  • Encourage your child to explore a range of different reading materials such as graphic novels or manga (just make sure it’s age appropriate!), audiobooks, e-books, magazines, instruction manuals – anything with words that your child would find interesting.
  • Your child could even improve their reading and comprehension skills by keeping a diary or a journal to jot down their thoughts and ideas at the end of the day. You don’t need a diary to do this, any old notepad will do.

Read together

  • When you enjoy or have a passion for reading, your child will be more likely to enjoy it as well. Let your child see you reading and talk to them about the things you read.
  • Despite knowing how to read, your child will still love to hear you read to them. Your child will benefit from having you sit down with them and read a chapter from their favourite book.
  • Reading aloud can make reading a fun, social activity. You could encourage your child to read to you and follow it up by asking them questions about their reading material. For example, questions like “What did you think of that ending?” and “What do you like most about that character?” will help with their language and reading comprehension.
  • You can also try taking turns reading sentences or pages of the same book to each other.
  • Look up information in cook books, instruction manuals, phone books, atlases, dictionaries or on the internet together with your child – this can help show your reluctant reader how useful reading can be.

Get help if you’re worried

  • If you’re worried about your child’s reading ability or reluctance to read, contact their teacher. They will be able to work with your child at school as well as suggest other activities or resources you could try at home to help your reluctant reader become a bookworm.
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Last modified
1 August 2019