Q&A about Reluctant Readers

At Miles Kelly we understand that lots of children dislike reading or simply prefer other children’s media. Here are our answers to some commonly asked questions on how to help reluctant readers discover the wonders of books!

What is a reluctant reader?

A reluctant reader is usually defined as someone who doesn’t enjoy reading –and who avoids it as much as they can. There are three main types of reluctant reader:

  1. Those who can’t yet read
  2. Those who can read but don’t want to – kids who would much rather be outside or doing something else more active
  3. Selective readers who only read books that are highly interesting to them, and who aren’t receptive to book suggestions from others

Importantly, reluctant readers are different to struggling readers. An example of a struggling reader could be a child who is learning a second language or someone with neurodiverse traits, such as dyslexia. 

How can I tell if my child is a reluctant reader?

Reluctant readers often resist reading when prompted. Some children become quiet and shy, while others may become notably frustrated or even cross. They may need lots of persuasion to sit down and pick up a book – and when they do, they put it to one side quite quickly. Another sign of reluctant reading in a child is having low confidence in their reading abilities.

Why is reading so important?

Even though children learn through all kinds of activities, reading is invaluable for several reasons. It builds confidence and self-esteem, develops a sense of belonging with caregivers and encourages an active imagination. Reading also expands a child’s vocabulary and general reading skills, which carry over to their development of writing skills. Another benefit is that children who choose to read for pleasure tend to be intrinsically motivated. This means that they feel a sense of internal reward and personal satisfaction – as opposed to external motivation, which requires someone else to validate an achievement.

How can I help my reluctant reader?

One of the best ways to help your reluctant reader is to be patient and compassionate. It takes time to build up their confidence. If your child struggles, listen to them and see if you can find out exactly what it is that they find difficult. Something may have happened that has led to a sense of anxiety. You can also lead by example – regularly read yourself and make sure there is plenty of varied reading material at home. If they love a particular film, tv programme or game, you could get some reading material based on that. If your child gets upset when you ask if they would like to read, simply move on to something else and try again another time. Lastly, whenever you try to help your child read, make sure there are no loud distractions and that they aren’t too tired or hungry. Set them up for success!

You can also yourself the following questions… 

Are their books too difficult?

One of the first things to check is the reading level of the books your child is reading. It could be that the text is too complex. It’s much better to start with a book that’s too easy than too hard. Small wins, such as reading one page well, will build their confidence. To work out if a book is too difficult for your child, see how many words on a page they find tricky to read. If it is more than five, that means the book is too hard for their current reading level. 

Are they bored?

Some reluctant readers refuse to pick up a book simply because they find the reading material unengaging. It’s important to find books that focus on their unique specific interests and passions to help get them excited about reading. Another idea is to choose books with funny stories or even joke books.

If your child specifically dislikes books, you can try other formats such ebooks, magazines, comics and graphic novels – or you could combine reading with activities. For example, you could visit a museum or wildlife park and then read about something they saw ­– or you could read recipes together and then cook the dish.

Do they feel under pressure?

Some reluctant readers become agitated when asked to read because they feel under pressure. At home, read for fun not just for school. There are lots of ways you can make reading a more enjoyable, interactive process – you could take it in turns to read the sentences or paragraphs or ask them to act out what they have read.

Reading time needs to become a special time for your reluctant reader to enjoy – for some children that will be at bedtime, for others it may be straight after school. Some kids like to create a routine by settling down with their favourite drink or snack in a comfy place.

It's particularly important that children are allowed to set the pace when they read, so that they don’t feel under scrutiny. It doesn’t matter if they read slowly, what matters is that they begin to enjoy the process. If you really struggle with getting a child to settle long enough to read, audiobooks can be a great way to encourage a love of stories or facts – they can play as you both listen. If they respond well to an audiobook, you can try introducing the book at the same time as the audio is playing.

Are they allowed to choose their own reading material? 

Sometimes a child may not want to read a particular book if they haven’t chosen it themselves. Let them choose what to read and allow them to swap it for something else if they discover it is too hard. In fact, let them read whatever they would like! If your child wants to read independently or on their own, that is also fine. You can ask them specific questions afterwards about the plot and characters as well as what they liked or disliked.

Do they find it hard to sit still?

Some children avoid reading because they have too much energy in their bodies! Let them move while they read. If they are simply uncomfortable and don’t want to sit upright, you could even build a reading den with cushions, their favourite cuddly toys, and blankets. 

Are they nervous about reading aloud?

Some reluctant readers dislike being asked to read out loud. A good way to practise this to ask them read to a toy or pet instead.


We hope this has helped! Have you got a reluctant reader? If they like stories, check out our picture book range for kids aged 3+. If they are fans of non-fiction, reluctant readers can get their teeth into our Curious Q&As for kids aged 5+.

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