Have you ever thought to yourself, “My child hates to read. What should I do?” You know reading is important and really the key to every other subject in school. There is reading research out there that shows that children’s emotions about reading have a huge impact on whether they’ll become lifelong readers. There are many reasons why a child may hate to read. 

stack of books behind help my child hates to read with 7 tips to motivate your child to read

When Your Child Hates to Read: Dig a little deeper!

As a reading teacher and a mom, I’ve heard, “My child hates to read” often. It breaks my heart, but it’s important that we dive a little deeper to find out what’s actually going on when your child is reading.

Questions to ask yourself about your child’s reading:

  • Is your child reading or pretending to read when they open a book?
  • Does your child find reading difficult? Are they struggling to sound out the words on the page?
  • Can your child read aloud to you with expression, and has amazing reading fluency, but when you ask them a question about what they read, they can’t remember anything about that page or passage?
  • Does your child rely on picture support when they are reading? Pictures are great, but sometimes if children over-rely on pictures, it can cause a lot of problems when those picture supports are taken away.

Reading is a complex process. There is a reason why I studied reading for my Masters in Education and still attend professional workshops to learn more about the process of reading. There can be many gaps in any of these reading areas that can cause your child to scream, “I hate to read!”

How to Help Your Child Who Hates to Read

I firmly believe that encouraging your child to read at a young age will help develop that love of reading. That being said, there is a concept in the reading field known as “Decline by Nine” where kids who may have loved to read earlier may suddenly stop loving to read.

reading quote children are made readers on the laps of their parents by Emilie Buchwald
I completely agree with children’s author Emilie Buchwald in that children are made readers in the laps of their parents. But what happens when they turn 9?!

In third grade, students switch from learning to read to reading to learn. Instead of reading Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie or other fun fiction books, they are now expected to read facts about ancient civilizations, ecosystems, or the Civil War. Imagine if your fun fiction books turned into what some may consider “boring” facts. Would you start to hate to read?

As one of my favorite children’s author, Kate DiCamillo states, “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.”

Kate DiCamillo's quote "reading should not be presented to children as a chore or a duty. It should be presented to them as a gift."

It’s hard to keep reading fun and light when this switch occurs, which is why that term “Decline by Nine” came to be. Nine-year-olds should not have that love of reading taken away from them! Obviously, those science and social studies facts aren’t going anywhere. Unfortunately, neither are those reading comprehension passages. So, how do we help?

7 Tips on How to Help Motivate Your Reader

information on 7 tips to motivate your child to read if your child hates to read
Does your child hate to read? Motivate your reader with one of these 7 tips!

Let your child choose their books.

stack of books to let your child choose their books

This seems simple, yet it can be difficult as a parent when you want your child to read the “right” books. If there are classics like Charlotte’s Web or a Ramona book you want your child to read because YOU read it as a child, read it aloud to them! 

Reading aloud is really important for every reader to hear, not just those Beginning Reader Bens. Not sure what type of reader you have? Click here to take a 2 minute quiz to get a little more information on your child’s reading!

Many parents tend to think that graphic novels aren’t “real books.” This is a whole post for another day, but they are reading, I promise! This is hard to take my own advice when my little interns only want to read Pokémon. If you want to encourage reading, don’t censor their books!

Make sure their books aren’t too hard for them to read independently.

open book to make sure your child's books aren't frustrating or too hard for them

There is actually conflicting research out there in the reading world about this. Some researchers believe that reading level does not matter and that kids should be able to choose any book they want to read. While I agree with this to a certain extent, if a book is too hard, most kids are going to shut down and not want to read it.

I will say my little interns know way more shark and dinosaur vocabulary than I currently do. There is something to be said if a topic interests your child, let them read about it. However, I still think if that book is too hard for them, you’ll end up reading more about the megalodon than you care to when you read it aloud to your child 😉

If you want a book list to start with your child, then take this two-minute quiz and you’ll get some book ideas sent straight to your inbox!

Not sure of your child’s reading level? I offer a personalized reading plan where I take into account your child’s interests and their reading ability to curate a book list just for them! After input from you, I’ll assess your child in different reading areas to determine their independent reading level. I also include options that are above your child’s reading level to work up to as well. You can read more about the Personalized Reading Plan here.

Surround your child with books.

boy staring at books to remember to surround your child with books

This does not have to be as expensive as it sounds! Although I have spent my fair share on children’s books 😉 Weekly or biweekly trips to the library should suffice for your reader! 

Have books in the living room, in their room, in the car, wherever you spend your most time. We have so many books. I like to rotate out our seasonal and holiday books so they spend some time in a bin in the living room so everyone has access to them.

If your child does not have choices on what to read, they’ll think reading really is all about those comprehension packets that come home for homework. We don’t want that to be their only option for reading!

Take this two-minute quiz to get a book list based on your child’s reading to bring with you on your next library trip.

Make a cozy reading nook.

girl in a tent with a book to make a cozy reading nook

This does not have to be a complicated, Pinterest-worthy space! You can build a reading nook under the dining room table with blankets. Or, you can make a reading fort. You can read outside and put your outdoor cushions down in the grass. Get creative here, but don’t stress!

My little interns still love their little chairs from Pottery Barn that we got when they were toddlers. They use them to lay down and read in. They also love to make reading forts using our Nuggets. If your child is older, you really just need to have a basket of books they can take into their nook ready to go. Which, if you went to the library and stocked your home with books, you already have!

Watch how easy it is to transform any space into a cozy reading nook!

Listen to audiobooks.

boys listening to computer to remind to listen to audiobooks

Some parents give me a lot of flack for this one, but hear me out! How many of us listen to podcasts or audiobooks while we are driving or multitasking? Why can’t our kids?

If your child hates to read, I would try audiobooks! I would argue practicing listening comprehension and following the story read aloud (sometimes even by the author!) can be harder for some kids than actually reading a physical book. I do not recommend audiobooks be your child’s ONLY source of reading. It’s definitely something to add to the mix!

Honestly, when I was new to teaching over fifteen years ago(!), I used to have books on CDs that my students would go to the listening center to listen to and follow along in the print book. You can do this now with easy apps like Audible or Epic. 

Since I already have an Audible subscription, when we are heading out on a road trip, I usually download a book that I know my boys will enjoy. Last trip, we listened to The One and Only Ivan. One of my little interns wanted to follow along with my copy of the book, so he was reading along while I drove.

Pick books that are also movies.

family watching a movie with popcorn to remind to pick books that are also movies

If you have a Reluctant Reader Rosie, you know one of my strategies to motivate their reading is to read a book that is also a movie. Be sure to read the book first! Then, your “celebration” could be to watch the movie at the next family movie night. How can your child hate to read if they are being rewarded with screen time!?

Since we listened to The One and Only Ivan on our road trip, one of the first things we did when we got home was to plan when we could watch the movie together! It’s a really great strategy to motivate the finishing of books, and you’d be surprised how many books have been turned into movies!

Still not sure what type of reader you have? Take this two minute quiz for specific strategies and books designed for your reader!

Join a book club.

Do you like to read just for the socialness of going to your book club? Your kids may have the same motivation as you! 

virtual book club screen shot to remind parents to have their child join a book club

My virtual book club is designed for Transitional Reader Taylors and Fluent Reader Freddies (still not sure what type of reader you have?! Click here to find out!). We discuss carefully selected books. There is “homework” each week which consists of reading and writing. Everyone’s favorite book club is the last one of the month where we bring our favorite snacks and drinks to celebrate our hard work that month!

Click here to see this month’s book club picks.

How Can I Help Your Child Love to Read?

Make sure they are ready…

Remember, these suggestions above are mostly for older readers. If you have a Beginning Reader Ben, you’re mostly reading aloud and giving your child exposure to books at this stage!

Make sure your child is developmentally ready to read. Sometimes as a society, we push kids into reading that aren’t quite ready. If your 4-year-old has no interest in letters or sounds, just keep reading aloud to them and they’ll learn those letters when they are ready!

We want them reading on grade level by third grade…

That being said, we want to have all of our kids reading on grade level by third grade. If you’re not sure where your child is reading or what books are appropriate for them, or you think your child is struggling in some way with reading, I highly recommend a Personal Reading Plan.

Your Personal Reading Plan will include:

  • Results of your child’s assessments
  • Reading strategies to work on
  • Games or printable activities to build those reading skills
  • My favorite tools or apps to help your child read

After working through your child’s plan, you will have access to me for questions and reading support for the month as you work through the strategies and activities. Let’s help your reader… together! Click here for more information on the Personal Reading Plan.

Even if your child hates to read… Remember to Read, Read, READ!

Whatever your child’s reading ability, remember to continue to read aloud to them! I loved listening to my mom read a bedtime story long after I fit on her lap. Chapter books are great options for older readers and it’s nice to read and discuss with older readers. 

Modeling your own reading may also help those reluctant readers. You know I’m here for you if you have any reading questions. I’d love to know which tips you’ve tried at home in the comments!

Kim Creigh, M.Ed