Some of us were blessed with children who love reading. Others of us have children who need more encouragement to learn to love reading. Reading is an important part of life. Whether you’re reading for information, reading for fun, or reading because it’s required for school or work, reading is part of life for most people. So we might as well enjoy it, right?
So what is a parent to do if you have a child who just doesn’t love reading? (To be clear, I’m not necessarily talking about children who are having trouble learning to read. I’m talking about children who are able to read but simply don’t enjoy it.) Because it’s something your child needs to be able to do in many situations and will probably be required to do in most situations as an adult, I feel like it’s worth spending some time teaching our children to love reading!
20 Tips for Helping Kids Love Reading
There are lots of ways to help our children learn to love reading! There is one thing most of them have in common, though. What is it? Patience. Yep. It’s a process, and it won’t happen overnight.
The truth is that it may take some time for your child to learn to love reading, and that’s okay. One of the things I love most about homeschooling (besides being able to tailor our curriculum to each child’s needs) is the ability to give our children the time they need to grow and learn. It doesn’t have to be a race or a contest to see who can reach the finish line first.
So if you have children who don’t love to read, try not to worry! Instead, try some of the suggestions listed below. And then be patient. Give your child the time he or she needs to learn to love reading.
1, Don’t push your child to learn to read too early.
Sometimes young children don’t enjoy reading because, to be honest, they are under a lot of pressure to learn to read at an early age. If you have a young child who isn’t interested in learning to read, you may want to think about whether or not your child is ready to learn to read.
If your child isn’t quite read, don’t worry! Just keep reading to your child and enjoying books together. As he or she gets older and is ready to learn to read, I think you’ll find that the process is much easier and the outcome is much more positive.
2. Be patient if you have a struggling reader.
One of the ways to ensure that a child hates reading is to push a struggling reader to learn to read faster and better. If you have a struggling reader, there are some tips to keep in mind to help the process of learning to read go much more smoothly and be a much more positive process.
3. Keep reading to your child even after that child can read on his/her own.
I remember many years ago when my son (who is now 24 years old) was learning to read. He simply did not want to learn to read, and I had no idea why. He was capable. He was ready. But he simply was not interested. When I finally thought to ask him why he didn’t want to learn to read, he told me he didn’t want to learn to read because I would stop reading to him once he could read on his own.
He somehow got the idea that, once he could read on his own, I wouldn’t read to him anymore. He loved our read-aloud time and didn’t want it to end. So he decided he must refuse to learn to read in order to make sure I didn’t stop reading to him.
Once I knew why he was resisting learning to read, I assured him I wouldn’t stop reading aloud to him no matter how old he was! (In fact, we continued our read-aloud time each morning well into his teenage years.)
NOTE: Even if you have a teen who’s working and doesn’t have a predictable schedule, you can continue enjoying good books together! Several years ago, we published an article called Read with Your Teen in 2018. The information is still very relevant!
4. Read alternating pages.
When my son was learning to read and before he learned to love reading, he was willing to read if I read every other page. In other words, he would read a page out loud to me (of whatever book we were reading together), and then I would read a page out loud to him. I once asked him why he was willing to read alternate pages out loud, and his response was, “If I’m gonna be punished, you’ve gotta be punished too!”
We laugh about it now, but at the time it really was an eye-opener for me! I had no idea he felt like he was being punished when I had him read aloud to me.
Looking back, I realize he felt like we were on the same team when we took turns reading out loud to each other. He felt like I was willing to do the thing I was asking him to do. He felt like I was being fair. And those are good enough reasons to take turns reading out loud to each other!
Eventually, he learned that reading out loud to each other was fun. He started to enjoy using inflection and timing and creating voices appropriate for different characters to make the reading more fun. At first, though, he just needed to know I was willing to hang in there with him and do what I was asking him to do.
5. Read books covering topics your child already loves.
If you have a child who just doesn’t enjoy reading, you can probably readily name some of that child’s other interests. Most children have at least one or two things they love to do, watch, play, etc. Try to find reading materials covering the topic(s) your child already loves.
This might include news articles, books, or magazines. You might find them online or in print.
As you’re working on teaching your child to love reading, it’s important to be flexible! Look for resources your child will enjoy reading and take some time to enjoy them together. You’ll be surprised how much this will contribute to your child’s interest! After all, he or she is already interested in learning this information, so there’s a natural interest there already.
Find books, magazine articles, or online articles about video games, dog training, sports, fashion, caring for pets, making arts and crafts, making friends, dance or music, or whatever else your child loves!
6. Limit screen time and allow your child to get bored.
Yep. Boredom can be a good thing! If you limit screen time and allow your child to get bored, he or she will be much more likely to pick up a book to read.
When my children were young and were all still at home, I chose a time of day when screens were allowed. For example, no screens until 4:00 p.m. (I realized my son in particular would race through his school work just to get it done quickly so he could play video games if I allowed him to play games as soon as his schoolwork was done.) By setting a time of day when screens were allowed, it encouraged him to take his time doing his work, but it also required that he find other things to do if his work was done and it wasn’t yet screen time.
Providing good books for him to read made it much more likely that he would pick up a book to read–at least until 4:00 when screen were allowed!
7. Let them stay up late to read.
During the years my children were little, I always set a time they had to go to their rooms in the evenings. I needed a few minutes in the evenings to get things ready for the next day and to relax and get ready for bed.
My kids knew they could either go to bed or read a book when they went to their rooms. Sometimes they were worn out and went on to bed. Other times they weren’t quite ready for sleep, so they read books until they got tired.
Either way, I got a short break, and they either got the sleep they needed or some time to read!
8. Introduce them to audio books.
My kids and I love audio books! When my children were younger, we used to love listening to audio books on long drives or while we were folding clothes or doing other kinds of housework.
Audio books are great for helping your children understand that books are fun and stories are entertaining (or informational–but that may not be of interest until later).
You may even be able to check out some print books along with audio books at your local library. One of my daughters used to love listening to the audio version of a book while following along in the print book. She sometimes wanted me to read the book to her (which I did), but if she wanted to read the book multiple times or “on her own” while I was doing school with a sibling, she was happy to listen to the audio version while “reading” the print book. In fact, I believe this is one of the things that helped her learn to read well.
9. Keep a chart.
Some kids are very motivated by keeping up with progress on a chart. If your child is motivated by that kind of thing, take advantage of it! Print a reading chart and keep up with the number of pages read or the number of books read or even the amount of time spent reading. Make a plan for your child to earn a reward after reaching a certain goal.
10. Get creative with your read-aloud time.
Some of us parents (ahem… raising my hand) tend to be too structured and inflexible. Most children are more willing to vary the schedule and the plan and do things differently. In fact, many kids love a little variation and get bored if things are exactly the same day after day. (Some kids thrive on routine–and that’s ok too! Do what’s best for your family.)
If you have kids who like a little variety, try these ideas for creative ways to read aloud. The article is about ways to vary your read-aloud time during the summer, but most of the ideas will work any time of year!
11. Or simply read aloud together at a certain time each day.
Of course, it’s perfectly fine to simply read aloud to your children at a certain time each day too. When my children were all little, we began each day by reading the Bible together and then reading a just-for-fun book.
After our Bible reading each morning, I read a Doctor Dolittle book to them. (These books would have been too difficult for my kids to read on their own at young ages, but they loved listening to me read them.) In fact, we read through the entire original series of Doctor Dolittle books (the ones by Hugh Lofting), and we loved our time together each morning! My children started referring to our morning time each day as our “Bible and Doctor Dolittle” time. (That will always be a fond memory for all of us!)
My sister and her children enjoyed reading together before bed each evening. My kids and I tended to be too tired to enjoy reading together before bed, but you have the option of doing whichever fits your family best. If reading before bed helps you and your kids unwind, enjoy some time together, and settle down to get ready to go to sleep, do it!
12. Let your kids read comic books or graphic novels.
I know what you’re probably thinking. Comic books and graphic novels shouldn’t count as reading. But if they motivate your child to love reading and to want to read more, I think you should consider them! It’s a place to start, and it will hopefully lead to a desire to read more. In any case, it’s a way to help your reluctant reader not feel so overwhelmed by so many words on a page, so I encourage you to consider it.
13. Model a love of reading.
If your child sees you reading, he or she will be more likely to see reading as something enjoyable. I keep a book in my car, and I read it if I’m stuck in a traffic jam, waiting for my grocery pick-up order, or waiting to pick up a child from an appointment or activity.
You could also take some time to read in the evenings instead of watching TV or for a few minutes before bed.
I read a book if I’m out running errands and stop to eat lunch by myself at a restaurant or fast food place, if I’m standing in line at a store, and when I’m sitting in a waiting room. I’ve even been known to sneak in a few minutes of reading while I brush my teeth and blowdry my hair! (Full disclosure: I usually use a thumb book page holder or some kind of device to hold my book open in those situations. Or I might read on my Kindle Paperwhite since I don’t have to worry about holding the pages open.)
14. Join (or start) a book club!
A book club can be a great way to get kids interested in reading! It gives them a reason to see other homeschool friends, it gives them something in common to talk about, and it can be so much fun.
If there’s a book club available for homeschoolers in your local area, join the fun! If there’s not, you may want to consider starting your own book club. There are lots of reasons why a book club can be a great idea for kids, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Not quite ready to start a book club? Try hosting a poetry teatime instead!
15. Create a fun place to read.
Most kids (even older kids and teens) enjoy having a kind of fort or other fun place to read. Decorate a corner of a bedroom with bean bags or other fun and comfy seating, good lighting (maybe a fun lamp), and bookshelves to give your children a place to enjoy reading. Some kids enjoy having a canopy over the area to help block out distractions and make the area feel cozier. You might even consider putting up a canopy with lights to make the area feel even more magical.
16. Read (and talk about) the books they’re reading.
I read aloud to my kids through their teenage years. Once they started working and had wacky schedules, it was hard for all of us to sit down and read together, but we made time for it as often as possible. Even when it became impossible for all of us to sit and read together, I often read the same books my kids were reading.
If, for example, my kids were reading a book for history or literature, I read the book too. Yes, I had the teacher’s manual and could have gotten away with asking (or assigning my teens to answer) questions from the teacher’s manual. But I found that it was much more fun, much more of a relationship-builder, and much more of an incentive for my teens to do the reading if they knew I was also reading the book and was going to discuss it with them as we read. It was worth the extra time and effort.
17. Read the book and watch the movie.
When my children were kids and teens (and even now that two of them are adults), we loved to read the book and then watch the movie. (P.S. – The book is almost always better than the movie!) To be honest, it can sometimes be frustrating when the movie varies a lot from the book, but discussions about the differences let me know that they really were paying attention as they read, so that’s a good thing! There are lots of books that have been made into movies, so pick some and give them a try!
For older kids and teens:
Here is a list of lots (and lots!) of children’s books that have been adapted into movies. It also includes a list of questions to discuss after you’ve read the book and watched the movie.
18. Give them a fun reading log.
Some kids enjoy keeping a log of books they’ve read. If your child doesn’t enjoy this, skip it! But if you have a child who likes to see progress in written form, this can be a great motivator.
I’ve kept a list (in a notebook) of every book I’ve read since I was in college. I love going back to see which books I’ve read over the years and at different stages of life. No, your kids probably won’t have a feeling of nostalgia (at least not right now) when they look at their book lists, but it could still be a fun way to keep track of the books they’ve read and help them be able to physically see their progress.
19. Cook/bake recipes or make crafts/projects from books you love.
There are lots of cookbooks and craft books for kids! You might try cooking or baking some recipes or making some crafts from cookbooks and craft books that go along with books your kids love.
Or you could buy some fun cookbooks and craft books that aren’t related to anything you’re reading but that look like fun! After all, cookbooks and craft books require reading and following instructions (and often other skills–like math), so you’re still accomplishing your purpose.
I’ve listed a few suggestions to go along with a couple of popular books series. You can try these or look up whatever books your kids love and see what you can find to go along with them.
Little House on the Prairie
When my kids and I read the Little House on the Prairie books, we also bought The Little House Cookbook and made some recipes together. (That cookbook has been updated since then. It’s now available in a beautiful full-color edition.)
There is also a book of Great Pioneer Projects. While it isn’t necessarily based on the Little House book series, it still fits nicely with that series.
Got kids who love the Harry Potter book series? You should try some recipes from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory. Or you might try some recipes from the House-Elves Cookbook or The Unofficial Hogwarts for the Holidays Cookbook: Pumpkin Pasties, Treacle Tart, and Many More Spellbinding Treats.
There are all kinds of Harry Potter-related craft and activity books! There’s a Harry Potter Crochet Kit, Harry Potter Knitting Magic pattern book, a watercolor book, an origami book, a craft book, a paper model book, and even a joke book!
20. Go to the library or the bookstore together.
Most young children (and even most teens–though they may not admit it) enjoy spending time with their parents. It may be motivational to your children if you take some time each week (or every other week–or whatever works for your family) to go to the library or the bookstore together.
The library, of course, is cheaper since you don’t have to buy those books. But, if you’re able and willing to buy some books now and then, you may want to include trips to the bookstore occasionally too.
Not only will you enjoy spending time together picking out books (and reading them together!), but you’ll also have time to talk in the car on the way to and from the library or book store. Teens in particular often do some of the best talking while riding (or driving) since there’s no pressure to look you in the eye while you’re talking. You might as well take advantage of the situation!
If you think about it and use your imagination, there are many ways of helping your kids love reading! I’ve listed 20 tips, but I’m sure you probably have some to share too! Please leave a comment with your tips and ideas.