How to Get Reluctant Readers Into a Reading Routine

See savvy expert tips for getting kids excited about books.

Nov 13, 2023



How to Get Reluctant Readers Into a Reading Routine

Nov 13, 2023

When it comes to encouraging good reading habits, Louisiana-based teacher-librarian Amanda Jones knows a thing or two. Named Louisiana School Librarian of the Year in 2020 and School Library Journal’s 2021 Librarian of the Year, Jones has experience with reluctant readers who avoid reading or who have difficulty finishing what they start. She’s also witnessed the transformative moment when a reluctant reader gets hooked on a book. 

Jones has comforting words for parents concerned their child is not reading enough.

“Do not worry about creating a reader overnight,” she says. “Foster the love of reading little by little, and remember: Reading is reading, whether it is a novel, magazine, or the back of a cereal box.”

Below, Jones offers 10 tips for turning the page on reading avoidance. In addition to encouraging book discovery, each tip allows for bonding time between you and your child.  

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1. Talk about favorite films and TV series. Discuss your child’s favorite shows of the moment. Ask them to summarize the plot and describe their favorite characters — this helps build general comprehension skills. If there’s a book tie-in, provide it so your child can continue exploring the author’s universe after screen time is over.

“If a book has been turned into a movie, read the book as a family before going to see the movie,” Jones suggests. “You can compare and contrast as a group afterwards.”

2. Queue up some book trailers. Book trailers, modeled after movie trailers, are a great way to get kids excited about books. Created by the book’s publishers and sometimes reader fans, trailers will often incorporate animated graphics or illustrations from the book itself, which will capture the attention of young viewers.

3. Read funny favoritesKids love humor, so find the comics and silly books that make them laugh. Read them aloud during breakfast or make it an after-school ritual. Ask your child what they like about the material. If the funny book is part of a series, plan to make other installments available so your child can zip through them at their own pace.

4. Stock the shelves! Make sure there are books available to your child in every room of the house, especially the reading nook they’ve carved out — variety is key. Pack a bag of mixed reading material for the car so they have the option to skim on the go. 

5. Model reading in front of your child. Your child models their behavior after you, so it's important to show that you enjoy reading and make time for it if you want them to believe that reading is fun and fundamental. Jones recommends reading aloud to your child, too, even if they’re already reading independently.

“Kids are never too old to be read to,” she says.

6. Subscribe to magazines. Kids enjoy getting mail. A subscription to one or two magazines in their name will give them something to look forward to every month. The idea that the magazine is just for them makes it more appealing to read.

7. Research a topic of interest together. Using magazines as possible jumping-off point, gauge your child’s current interests (because a child’s interests are always evolving) and offer to explore these subjects further using the internet, focusing on sites that are child-friendly and not text-heavy. You can incorporate a primer in online safety while you’re at it.

8. Attend story hours, readings, and plays. Show your child that lots of kids and adults enjoy books by going to public readings and story hours at your local library or bookstore. Performed plays offer a chance to pair words with social cues in an entertaining setting.

9. Suggest books based on hobbies. Kids who love sports and other extracurricular activities may be surprised to know the amount of age-appropriate fiction and nonfiction out there that they can relate to. 

“Kids who love baseball, for example, can get hooked on biographies of baseball players and sports fiction once they realize those exist,” Jones says.

10. Offer access to multiple book formats. The easy-to-understand illustrations and simple text of graphic novels are popular with kids, especially reluctant readers. But parents and some educators often do not consider these “real” books, Jones says. 

“We need to change this mindset,” she says. 

Graphic novels can be a stepping stone to more complex reading, sometimes by the same author, allowing your young reader to stay within the same fictional universe and with the same characters they love. 

“Not only can graphic novels hook a non-reader, but there are many novels that also have graphic novel counterparts,” Jones says.

When a book your child might be interested in comes in multiple formats — say, as a chapter book and a graphic novel — Jones suggests offering them both so they can choose a comfortable point of entry into the story. 

“I do displays where I will have both,” she says. For example, I will display The Giver and then have the graphic novel version beside it.”

Looking for more tips? See all expert advice about establishing reading routines at home — including ways parents can be reading role models.

Discover best-selling books that will engage your reluctant reader below! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store

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