Raising Readers. What to do when your child hates reading, how to encourage them to read by overcoming the 5 most common problems children face with reading
Raising Readers

Raising Readers; Why Won’t My Child Read

As a teacher I have all sorts of conversations with concerned parents, one of the most frequent conversations starts like this;

My child hates reading! How can I make them read?

In August we will be answering this question and focusing on how to encourage your child to love reading. This week we will examine the 5 most common reasons why children don’t read and what you can do to motivate them to read for pleasure.

Raising Readers. What to do when your child hates reading, how to encourage them to read by overcoming the 5 most common problems children face with reading

What is reading for pleasure?

Some reading is for learning, some is for enjoyment. Reading for pleasure is reading that a child does simply for fun. As a teacher it was very rare for me to come across a child who struggled with literacy and who also came from a family of readers. In fact I struggle to think of a single example!

When reading at home we are not trying to improve literacy skills, we are trying to get your child interested in reading.

Reading for Pleasure is not the same as reading for improvement. When a child reads in school they often do so under a label, with the weight of a judgemental educator’s eyes on them and a set of expectations predetermining their success. It can be quite stressful and competitive. Reading for pleasure is reading that focuses on fun, it is an incredibly important habit to develop!

A child who reads for pleasure will be a child with a greater capacity for empathy and strong mental resilience (source), who achieves well not only in reading but in a range of disciplines (source).

Here are the most common answers children have given me when I’ve asked them why they don’t like reading.

It’s boring

This is by far the most common reason that children give for avoiding reading. They find it hard to concentrate on written text, the story moves too slowly and their attention slips off.

If they tell you this breath a sigh of relief!  All it means is that your child hasn’t found their niche – yet!

Firstly; let them give up. That sounds like strange advice but don’t force a child to wade through a book they hate. Secondly; offer lots of choice. Change up the books that are on offer in your home so that your selection is as diverse as possible so that they have a chance to find something they enjoy.

I don’t have time

This is probably true, children today are so busy! Research from the literacy trust suggests that the percentage of children who enjoy reading is far higher than the percentage of children who read for enjoyment and the fault lies in over-scheduled leisure time.

The solution is to slow down and make time for reading. In fact, make reading a family priority. Choose a moment of natural calm when there is no need to rush, pick a book for yourself, get yourself a cup of tea and a few snacks for the kids and settle down together for a few quiet moments.

It’s too hard

Children regularly tell me that reading is too hard and their parents often dismiss this as ‘laziness’ or not trying hard enough. When was the last time you read a physics journal? My guess is never! If you never understand the words on the page then reading will always be an unenjoyable struggle.

When the aim of reading is improving our reading skills we want to provide an element of challenge in the text but at home the aim of reading is enjoyment. Never judge your child for picking an easy book, be glad they’re reading because establishing reading as pleasurable activity and part of their routine is what’s most important.

It’s pointless

Sometimes children won’t read because they see it as an isolated activity – and some children read solely for that reason! For a highly social child this can be a big turn off. Everything else they do is a chance to have fun with other children, something to be turned into a story they can tell later but no one at home ever talks about reading!

The solution is to make reading a worthwhile part of your child’s life. Give them a reason to read; write a menu for the week, pin up a family timetable, tell them about the book you’re reading, put notes in their lunch box. You could also try visiting your local library for story time to make reading a social activity.

I’m too slow

This is another common complaint but like all the others it can be solved.

Let your child pick a book that is just below their current ability or very well illustrated, read to them instead of making them do it themselves, keep lots of familiar books on hand so that reading is less challenging.

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Raising Readers. What to do when your child hates reading, how to encourage them to read by overcoming the 5 most common problems children face with reading


  • lifeonhushabyefarm

    So much sense in this post, I am a life long reader. My mother set aside an hour each night for us to sit quietly and read…it was so important in a busy family and lay the groundwork for a life passion. As the mother of a ‘reluctant reader’ I’ve seen her struggle and slowly, with a combination of ‘paired reading’ and encouragement have seen her fall in love with reading…it is so rewarding. Great post

    • Mrs Ted

      Well done for persevering with your little girl! I see so many parents give up trying at home and reading turns into work! We need more parents doing what you and your mom did! Especially now that kids are so ‘plugged in’!

      • lifeonhushabyefarm

        She was diagnosed with dyslexia last year ( aged 8) and it’s amazing the difference the small steps we have taken have made. We are lucky that they are device free still, but our eldest is asking for one for her 11th birthday…I’m dreading it but think that perhaps it is time for her…fingers crossed it will be ok!

        • Mrs Ted

          I think 11 is an amazing age to introduce devices! Well done! Delighted to hear a positive story about dyslexia, so many parents feel powerless in the face of it that’s it’s nice to hear of someone tackling it head on.

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