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  • Writer's pictureJordan Raglow

Motivating Reluctant Readers

We all know reading is good for our kids. The science, studies, evidence, and anecdotes are all very clear – kids should be reading. A lot. But, much like getting our kids to eat their veggies, or getting ourselves to hit the gym, this is much easier said than done.

So, what can we do if our kids simply don’t like to read? For some kids it may be easier to get them to go to the dentist or clean their rooms than read a book. Or, maybe, your child will read, but the only thing they seem interested in is Captain Underpants or Nate the Great and their teacher has strongly encouraged that they challenge themselves more.

I’m not knocking graphic novels by any means! I think they are a great way to get kids engaged in a book, particularly reluctant readers. However, they are not the only books out there that have the capacity to captivate your child.

I’m a firm believer that all kids have the potential to be readers if two things are true. First, they feel confident in their reading ability. Let’s face it, no one wants to do something that they aren’t good at. The first order of business is to determine if reading is something that your child feels sufficient in their ability to do. If not, reading interventions or a tutor may be necessary, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Assuming that their reading abilities aren’t what’s holding them back from hitting the books, they need to find a book that they enjoy. I like to think of it as a “gateway book.” This is the book that unlocks a whole new world for the child.

It’s no different than how I feel about running. I tried running for years even though I absolutely hated it. I did eventually stop running, but I didn’t stop exercising. I simply tried a different form. I biked, swam, lifted weights, did yoga, until I eventually found the right routine that suited my needs and desires.

Books are the same way. Just because a child doesn’t like what the teacher is reading in class, or what their friends are reading, doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t enjoy reading any book ever. There are endless book options out there. To assume that there isn’t a single one that a child would enjoy is silly. With enough effort, they will eventually find one that they don’t hate. Perhaps even one that they liked!

Below is a list of series and authors that I found were often hits even with the most reluctant of readers throughout my classroom years. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s meant to serve as a starting point. Go to the library, try a few of the authors or titles out and see what your child vibes with!

(*Disclaimer – I have read many of the books listed below, but I have not read every single title. It’s important to do your own research and decide what books, authors, and genres are right for your child based on maturity and your family’s values.)

Chapter Books

If you have a child that’s ready for chapter books here are some authors who write relatable and engaging stories. I’ve used many of these authors for class read alouds or novel studies and I’ve found that many of my students really enjoyed them. The best part is that they all have written many books. So, if your kiddo really loves one of these authors there are many titles to choose from!


Another great way to get kids engaged is through a series. Much like a T.V. show, knowing that they can jump right back in with the same characters or book structure can be a great way to keep the reading momentum going. Here are a few series that were really popular with my students.

Chapter Books


Picture Books

*If you have a reluctant reader, I highly recommend trying some nonfiction books with them if you haven’t already. Some kids simply don’t get into reading about characters, but they may love some cool facts, have a favorite animal, or really enjoy learning something new. Nonfiction books can be a great way to get them to see a new side of reading.

Just one more final thought to leave you with on motivating your reluctant reader. Reading, much like exercise or healthy eating, is a habit that can be created but it requires effort. Merely telling your child to go read is probably not going to cut it. Here are a few tips on how you can help your child develop the habit of reading.

· Read with them. I have yet to meet a kiddo who didn’t enjoy being read to by a trusted adult. Snuggling up and reading a book together is a great bonding experience and can really help open the world of reading to your child. Try working this into your everyday routine. It could be before bed, right after school before the chaos of dinner, homework, and activities sets in, or it could even be first thing in the morning. Just do what works for your schedule.

· Model by reading yourself. Our children are more likely to engage in the activities that they see us engaging in ourselves. It’s much easier to get our kids to eat their veggies if we are also eating them. Reading is no different. If your child sees you engaged in a book, they’re more likely to pick up a book themselves.

· Make it fun. Kids want to do things that are fun – duh! Make reading into a more enjoyable experience rather than a chore. Maybe designate a special chair or spot in the house just for reading. Get a new stuffed animal or cozy blanket that is specifically for reading time. Even a cool new bookmark can help motivate a kiddo to grab a book. If you want to get really crazy with it, build a fort and read inside with flashlights! The possibilities are truly endless!


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