How to get your reluctant readers into books

Any kid can enjoy reading…you just have to find what’s right for them.

Image credit: Ben Smith via

So many parents I meet despair at how little their children read. They’ve tried all kinds of things, but the draw of the tablet, games console or TV or anything that just isn’t reading is just too great. Yet we know what a critical skill reading is and many studies tell us that people who enjoy reading are much more likely to have well-paid jobs than those that don’t. Practical and financial considerations aside, getting lost in a good book is one of life’s great pleasures and a considerable boost to mental wellbeing. But how do you get them to read?

Don’t get hung up on ‘quality’

I’ve heard so many times over the years mums and dads lamenting that they can only get their boys to read football books. What’s wrong with that? Assuming the book is written in correct English, this is something to promote. Don’t make your kids feel that certain books are beneath them and they have to read certain other books. For any of you who studied literature at school, how many of the books you read did you genuinely enjoy? Almost certainly you built up a mental barrier to enjoyment because they were compulsory and ‘worthy’. ‘Quality’ is and always has been a subjective thing. If the book is written in correct English and it gets your kid’s attention, it’s a good book.

Make reading an ‘act-ivity’

The best books prompt something inside you, whether it’s a wish for the book never to end, inspiration to try something out, or just a desire to tell others about it. Talk to your kids about the book they are reading. Ask them what they like about it and what could be better about it. Even better, get them to write their own story based on the characters in their book (even if it’s a factual football book!).

Start with the customer

You know your kids better than anyone else in the world, so you’re at an advantage here. Today’s businesses always talking about putting the customer first. This isn’t some airy-fairy stuff trying to make you feel warm and fuzzy about them (though it might do that as a by-product). This is all about increasing your likelihood of buying from them. Start thinking of your kid in this way (when it comes to books!) and you’ll start to find more appealing books for them. What are their interests? Do they have any special skills, like playing a musical instrument or something else? Do they have any medical issues or anything else they feel holds them back? Find books with characters that have these interests, skills or even issues. Once you’ve got them into these books, you can then start to suggest other books that are related (think of those emails you get from Amazon – ‘People who bought this also bought…’).

Schedule it!

Family life these days seems to be getting more and more hectic and often the luxury of sitting and reading, even for a few minutes, gets trumped by more pressing things. But, just as you schedule in the time your kids go to school and the time they go to their clubs or the doctor, you need to schedule in their reading time and treat it like it’s as immovable as these other appointments. This way, your kids will start to respect reading as just as important as the other things they need to do in their week. It may also help to keep a record of the minutes they spend reading in the week, following the principle ‘what gets measured gets done’. For boys in particular this can be helpful as it brings in the element of competition (whether it’s beating their time for the previous week or its beating a sibling!).

I hope you find these tips helpful. Do you have any others for parents struggling to get their kids reading? Let me know in the comments below. If you want to find out more about me and my books, click here. You can also get your free ‘Pete’s Time-travelling Underpants’ ebook by signing up to my mailing list here.

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