Spoiler alert, I’m writing this as a parent with a reluctant reader. Sometimes kids love reading independently, looking at books, and listening to stories. But what if your child doesn’t want anything to do with books? How can we, as parents, cultivate a love of reading?
A lot of emphasis is placed on having your child read early and strong. And we, as moms, feel that stress. We hear about the child, who is reading chapter books at age 4, but we never hear about children who excel in other skills like building an elaborate block city or showing incredible kindness and empathy with friends.
These things are equally important for child development, and we know that kids develop at different rates. But reading got put on this pedestal somewhere along the way. What I’m getting at is that it’s OK if your child doesn’t naturally love books. You can do so many things to encourage a love of reading.
#1 Model a Love for Books
Reading your books in front of your children is incredibly powerful. If we want our kids to enjoy reading, they must see us enjoying it. For example, I grew up seeing my parents devour books. My childhood is full of memories of my mom and dad reading for hours on the weekends.
Reading as a hobby or entertainment was never a foreign concept for me. I knew that reading a story was always an option if I was bored. Seeing my parents’ love for books encouraged me to seek out books as I got older.
Let me ask you this – when was the last time you read a book for pleasure? Probably quite some time, especially if you’re like me during those early years when we are all just trying to survive. But I encourage you to carve out time to read while your kids are learning to read. You won’t regret it.
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#2 The Power of Audiobooks
The second thing we can do to encourage a love of books for reluctant readers is to utilize audiobooks. Listening to audiobooks in the car was the magic spark that ignited my child’s interest in stories. I can’t thank Junie B. Jones enough!
Listening to audiobooks is an excellent option for a busy kid who just wants to play. You can turn on a book while the kids are playing Legos, building a marble run, or chasing the cat – again. And my ADHD self enjoys listening to audiobooks while I am folding laundry, washing dishes, or trying to find that cat! It’s a win win. I’ll announce it to my kids, “I’m putting in my headphones, so you need to come get me if there is something you need.”
#3 Manage Your Expectations
Lastly, setting appropriate expectations for yourself and your kids is essential. I’ve seen conversations, especially in the homeschool community, saying that we need to read these long classic books to our young elementary school-aged kids. And yes, I get it. I also want to read Little House on the Prairie and Charlotte’s Web. But it’s OK if kids need more time to be interested in books like these.
Meet them where they are, then slowly build. For us, this meant reading some Shimmer and Shine books that retold TV episodes they loved. So, what? They were excited about the book, and excitement has been my goal.
Over time, they’ve built their reading stamina and now ask for more complex stories. Additionally, implementing Tea Time into our routine created a fun and low-stress environment to read to the kids.
Developing a love of reading takes time, especially when a child is a reluctant reader. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We did audiobooks for probably a year before my kids started showing an interest in hard-copy books.
And that’s OK because now I see them consistently excited when we sit down and read together. They shout “More! More!” when I tell them that it’s time to stop. Additionally, independent reading time is a favorite part of our day now. Keep at it. A love of books for your reluctant reader will come.
Below, you will find a list of books my kids have loved: