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Tips for Choosing Children's Books for Reluctant Readers

Updated on April 30, 2014
THE GIRL WITH BOOKS by Alexvalent The girl with old books on a white background
THE GIRL WITH BOOKS by Alexvalent The girl with old books on a white background | Source

Choosing books for reluctant readers

Parents and other adults know that reading is crucially important to children’s education. However, children are sometimes reluctant readers. There may be many reasons and circumstances, which make children reluctant readers, and there is no magic bullet, no one book, that will turn all reluctant readers into voracious readers. What book you choose will depend very much on the individual child, and the reason that they are reluctant to read. Make it interesting, fun, and exciting, children will not read boring books. Experiment until you find the book, or genre that inspires that particular child.

A little boy, C found learning to read difficult, but was very interested in and excited by, cars and other vehicles. An aunt sent him the first three books in a series about a bus, which by using different tops, became different vehicles for different jobs. The books were colourful and had lots of pictures and the stories were interesting. C wanted to read the books and they inspired him so much, that he proudly took them to school to show his teacher his new-found reading ability. C’s teacher thought the series so good for encouraging boys to read, that she recommended them to the parents of other boys in C’s class.

Some children learn to read quickly but as they grow older exciting hobbies, activities and pastimes seem more interesting than reading. In this case, find a type of book that the child has never encountered before. One suggestion is a series where the child chooses the story’s progression and ending.

Some Imaginative Ways to Tempt the Reluctant Reader

Many parents think that comics are bad for children. Sometimes children find comics easier and less scary than real books. Children reading comics are at least reading. It is possible to find editions of proper books presented in a comic book or graphic novel format.

Poetry may prove useful in encouraging some reluctant readers. Children’s brains are naturally receptive to sounds, it is how they learn to talk. They enjoy poetry, especially rhyming and strongly rhythmic poetry. Try T.S. Elliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, nonsense poetry, or Roald Dhal’s children’s poetry. Many children enjoy funny or comic poetry and, while they are laughing and enjoying themselves, they are reading.

Anything is less frightening, when you can laugh at it, and humour can make reading easier. One child, J, found reading difficult and slow. He was a fun-loving boy with a well-developed sense of humour. A relative sent him a children’s joke book and then a book of humorous stories a few weeks later. J soon became a confident reader, because he was so busy concentrating on the fun and humour that he forgot that he was reading.

There is often a huge gap between intermediate reading books with two sentences on a page, very large print, and the simple stories in first reading books and children’s books with blocks of close scary print. A short story collection may prove less frightening. A two or three page story is much less frightening to a reluctant reader than the discouraging feeling that he or she must wade through many pages, bearing unrelieved close print.

Academically bright or advanced children may get bored with the books suitable to their age. The difficulty with an advanced reader is that the books suitable for his/her reading ability may contain subject matter unsuitable to his/her chronological age. One little girl, aged nine, had tested for her reading ability at 13 ½ years and it was very difficult to buy books for her. A wise teacher gave her a copy of “Watership Down” and within minutes she was engrossed in the story. Other classic books such as “Duncton Wood”, “Biggles”, “Robinson Crusoe” and some of the other nineteenth century classics, will stretch the child and not contain unsuitable content.

A little imagination will help you to inspire most reluctant readers. Finding interesting, exciting and fun books is the key to galvanizing reluctant readers. Experimenting will help you to find the type of book to inspire the individual child. First discover why the child is reluctant to read and that will help you to think about what may be a suitable book or genre for the particular child. You may need to think laterally, as in the above case where a joke book followed by a book of humourous stories removed a child’s fear of reading. . Find a good, preferably, independent book shop with a good children’s section, and make friends with the staff, who will have good knowledge of what is available. They will help you to find the right book to turn your reluctant reader into a competent, confident, able, and engaged reader


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