7 Tips for Getting Your Reluctant Reader to Pick Up a Book

4765792911_b2356bf742_bIf you love to read, few words from your child strike you to your core like, “But Mom (or Dad), I hate to read!” Even children who are good readers would often rather do anything but pick up a book. For boys, the situation is glaring: in every state and in every grade, boys lag behind girls in reading skills. That lag accumulates as they go through school, and a much lower percentage of male high school graduates go on to college compared to their female peers. Here are some suggestions to get your reluctant reader, especially boys, to pick up a book this summer.

  1.  Connect with your child’s passion. Basketball, spaceships, dinosaurs, or whatever else your child is interested in can provide an opening where a book can fit. Whether it is a biography of LeBron James, a science fiction tale like The Hunger Games, or even a novelization of a movie that they love, that interest can get them to give the book a chance.
  2. Let them have fun. Yes, nobody is going to mistake Captain Underpants for classic literature, but an important part of getting your child to read regularly means building the habit of reading. A book of jokes and riddles is a great choice to throw in the car for reading while running errands since it can be started and stopped easily. Having to listen to, “Hey, Dad, how do you keep an elephant from charging?” is certainly preferable to backseat bickering.
  3. Don’t be afraid of books with pictures. Especially for boys, pictures in books can be a lure to sit down and read. Captain Underpants, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, or graphic novels for older readers can all encourage reading. Keep in mind, though, that many of today’s graphic novels and comic books are aimed at adult readers, so give them a quick skim before checking them out of the library or buying them at the bookstore.
  4. Reading is key to learning a skill. A boy who really wants to learn magic tricks will devour book after book on how to do magic, and the Minecraft maniac in your house will enthusiastically add reading about how to program in Minecraft to all those YouTube videos they’re watching. Boys are more likely to read non-fiction than girls, a trend that continues to adulthood, so skill-building books, biographies, and other non-fiction reads may resonate more with a boy than fiction.
  5. Hook them into a series. Many books come in series now, such as The Magic Tree House, the Percy Jackson stories, or the classic Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries. Children often thrive on familiarity with reading (remember reading that one Dr. Seuss book over and over and over?), so a series with the same set of characters that hooks your child from the first volume can lead to wanting to read the whole series of dozens of books. Even for teen readers, many books now come in trilogies or short series like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter.
  6. Going on a trip? Grab an audiobook for the car. Many libraries now have audiobooks that can be checked out. Sites like Audible have over 180,000 audio books for sale, while hundreds of free audiobooks of public domain works (e.g., 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz series of books) are available from sites like LibriVox, Open Culture, and Loyal Books. An audiobook allows children to ignore the mechanical skills of reading and deciphering new words and just enjoy the plot, characters, and dialog. It allows them to lose themselves in the story and see the value of a book.
  7. Model being a reader. If children see family members reading, it becomes seen as something that people do, not just something to do for school. It is especially important for boys to see older men reading, because if his only encouragement to read is coming from his mother and his (mostly female) teachers, he will likely begin to see reading as something that girls do.

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