I’ve learned from reading plenty of articles about common strategies used by parents to help their little reluctant ones to read more. These strategies are common:
Discussing the importance of reading independently
Constantly discussing books, magazines, or articles
Asking them about what they are reading in school
Finding what they like and don’t like to read
Not pushing one type of media over another
Encouraging a variety of media
And when all of these strategies, help, but only for a short duration, your only option is to become firm. Be firm, concise, consistent, and invest your time. Combined with the above, you’ll find some success.
So, what does ”firm” mean?
Well, I’ll share my experience with my son. My wife and I implemented the steps above and had varying success levels. Given my teaching experience (Elementary Special Ed. Teacher) and my experience as a parent/father, I felt confident in what I was doing. Until, I failed.
After inconsistent success with the above strategies combined with a whole lot of ingenuous puffery, I finally resorted to good-old-fashioned firmness with my reluctant reader son.
So, now, every other day or so, we read together. He is to sit and read-at a specific time and for a specific duration. I’ll read too, to show that I’m invested. Seems like a ”well, duhh” strategy, doesn’t it?
The missing ingredient was Me. The above strategies were failing because, ”well, duhh,” I wasn’t investing myself-my time, my honesty.
I did invest in puffery, (a new and favorite word) though. I was full of air and lectured him with skill. You know, how important reading is, and how reading on your own helps with school, that there is no such thing as a reluctant reader, just a reader that hasn’t found that great book yet.
Then, I would leave him to his own device, return, and then find that he didn’t read much or none at all. I would lecture him again, with a bit of scold folded in, but not holding him to the reading, and this whole process would start again the next day. And…he continued to be a reluctant reader.
Yup, I was failing…miserably.
Why? Hmmm, well, I was taking the one ingredient from the equation that requires the most work, therefore the greatest success level, away…Me.
I hope to eventually remove Me. However, without Me for now, removing Me will undoubtedly bring failure again.
For a curated list of information, strategies, and tips for reluctant and struggling readers, click here.
Notice the Snacks: Above Photo. Only criticism: try balancing the snacks with at least one unhealthy snack. It won’t kill anyone. Where’s the pizza?
Erase that. I see the pizza. Very good!
Yup us boys-guys-dudes, whatever, like building stuff! Make it fun. Encouraging boys reading is about doing something more than just getting together and reading
Snacks!!! Building Stuff!!! Probably Destroying what was built too!! All based on Reading “Other World.” Hmmm.
Could it be this simple? It’s worth a shot, right? Try this at home and do something like this to get boys reading in the classroom. It can be done!
You know, throw in some type of competitive game, maybe a game associated with reading somehow, and you could be on to something. Okay, maybe not quite a panacea, but at least it’s something more than throwing great books in a basket that don’t get read, and nagging your son to read them, getting frustrated when the boys in your class are distracted 30 seconds into silent reading or reading instruction.
Making adjustments, trying new things will help boys reading habits and willingness to read more. It starts with knowing something more needs to be done.
I found a USA Today article on the best reading apps for boy reluctant readers. It advertises reading apps for boy reluctant readers like they’re a panacea. The article briefly explains that if parents have boys that are gamers and don’t like to read, well here is the solution to this age-old problem.
Why I Have Mixed Feelings
Just like any other educational media, reading apps for boy reluctant readers come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, often with too many bells and whistles dangling for the ride. I admit digital reading and interactive reading apps have a place in the arsenal if they are of high quality.
I don’t take any issue with high interest reading apps in general as long as they help to improve reading skills and not become just another video game.
However, I’m concerned that they have become just that, used as just another video game.
There is enough already that drags boys that don’t read enough away from quality reading. The only real answer to help reluctant readers to read more is to get them to read more books! Great books and conversations about great books, the answer. This is the panacea. It always has been the answer. Reading that looks and acts like video games on either phones or tablets, I believe should never take the place of great books. Raise the bar, not compensate for it.
Great Children’s Books- The Real Panacea, Please Stand Up
Unfortunately, the panacea is the most difficult of solutions to achieve, as books are becoming closer to indigestion for a growing number of kids not sources of great entertainment, escape, and enrichment, as they should be.
Uggh, why can’t parenting be any easier? Why is any real solution to any real problem or any real achievement always so damned difficult! Trust me, I seriously ask this all of the time while having small tantrums, here and there.
I’m not, in any way, judging parents here. Parenting is tough, truly. I’m just doing my best to help anyone concerned with their child’s reading habits, as I’m there too. I’m a children’s author for the sake of Pete (didn’t say that right). I’m not sure why this expression became popular by the way. Why should anyone worry about this Pete guy when we have so many hurdles ourselves, like my own 13-year-old reluctant reader, son of a children’s author who writes for reluctant readers, uggh…makes me feel like Charlie Brown on his back, that football missed again.
The hey, at least they aren’t playing Halo all of the time, and doing something that resembles reading, don’t knock it alright, mentality, kind of bugs me. That’s what I’m getting at here. Okay, it kind of really bugs me. Alright, it just straight up freakin bugs me, okay. Hmm. That felt good.
Suggestions for Phone Absorbed Reluctant Readers
Reduce their time on devices: yes, I know I’m being kind of well, no duh, here, but it’s true boys are reading less than ever, kids are reading less than ever due to electronics!
Get tougher if they avoid reading at home. If they don’t read a prescribed amount of time take away their device until they do. Sometimes this is the only thing that works with our 13- year-old. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to do this, but…you know.
Read around them and to them- Dads! This especially means you! I do my best with this. And you don’t have to walk around with a book in your hand, okay. Try once-in-a-while.
Have conversations with them, even if they seemed a bit forced at first, find the time to do so: opinions about tv shows, movies, school, their sports, their subjects, their teachers, even girls.
Talk to boys about why reading is so important, how it helps all aspects of life.
Do your best! That’s all you can do.
The suggestions above are just a few things to consider first before loading up your reluctant reader boy with reading apps that seem more like games because you are concerned with their waning interest in reading, due to playing games too much. It just feels off, doesn’t it? Just do your best to keep books in his/her life. That’s the best you can do.
If you’d like to download resources for reluctant readers, click here. Chances are I have curated something that could be of assistance… oh, and good luck.
Please let me know what you think of this post. I’d like to hear from parents with children with ADD or ADHD or teachers trying their best to ensure quality reading instruction, especially elementary teachers for students with attention issues. I have plenty of tips:)
In addition, I have plenty of resources that relate to this issue on my website. You can peruse these resources by clicking here.
Some of the Best Online Reading Programs for kids, ages 5-7 or so, are probably programs you have heard of already. Recently, I had a chance to work with a great company, called ABC Mouse. I wrote some leveled readers for them. ABC Mouse is one of many K-3 online reading programs for younger readers. This post will focus on what reading skills these programs should address, and what reading skill terms to look for when learning about reading programs or reading websites.
What Makes A Good Online Reading Program
There is plenty of buzz about the importance of learning to read well before the fourth grade. Statistics show that children who read proficiently by the end of third grade, read proficiently in grades 4-12 as well.
Reading Programs Should Address These K-3 Reading Milestones to Strengthen Reading Skills Needed Before 4th Grade
Matching sounds to letter symbols of the alphabet in the pre-primary and primary grades: K-1
Solid grasp on phonics: letter combinations and their sounds, long and short vowels, consonant sounds, and spelling and reading basic sight words found in K-3 texts
Effective word decoding strategies: through reading practice and targeted, explicit instruction, a child develops greater phonemic awareness and phonics skills to determine new words and remembers previously seen words with a decreasing amount of assistance.
Develop common vocabulary words used in K-3 texts and strategies to understand what words mean through reading the text without assistance.
Finally, comprehension should gradually increase in grades K-3. Comprehension at the K-3 levels is the beginning of the ability to identify the main point of what has been read, why it was written or its purpose, and be able to summarize a text adequately. Readers should be able to identify text structures or elements like topic headings, graphics, and bolded words in nonfiction.
Experience with Text
With fiction: Readers should be able to identify story elements, such as the setting, its plot, basic character development, basic thematic development, and author literary devices at a simple level: symbolism, word use, and sentence structure to convey meaning, dialogue, and simple foreshadowing.
Assessing online reading programs for kids
The point is not only that they are reading, but reading well and improving
An online reading program is yet another tool that teachers and parents can use to assist their children or students to read more, read better, and spark motivation.
Many have interesting and interactive features, actually most do. These are good things, but not what is most important: reading improvement is the number one goal, always.
So, if you invest in an online reading program, remember that it must strengthen reading skills first. This is its primary goal. Assess its interactive bells and whistles aside from its ability to strengthen phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, vocabulary development, and comprehension. These should be the primary goals of any program. If a program is effective in improving these skills and the bells and whistles enhance the program instead of detracting from it, you have a winner!
For other reading resources, such as online reading websites, click here.
There are many chapter books for boys, especially series books. I refer to books for ages 7 and 10 or so. They are early chapter books, the books that bridge the gap between picture books and middle-grade books. Middle-grade books are longer books with few pictures and divided into chapters. The chapters are longer, have more details, deeper themes and ideas as well. Chapter books, especially early chapter books, are usually between 65 and 110 pages and have illustrations on every other page or so. They have straight forward plots and are often action-based, especially early chapter books for boys.
Back to Books that Bridge the Gap Between Picture Books and Middle-Grade Novels-Many Readers Can Handle More
And by more, I mean that many chapter books, for boys especially, have all of the boy stuff: burping, underpants, boy humor, some farting, action, goofiness, and this is all fine and good. But what about chapter books for boys when these books are no longer that interesting or when boys are ready for more sophisticated reading, and trust me many are reluctant because chapter books are entertaining but lack depth and challenge. Readers at this age want more but aren’t willing to put the effort into longer books quite yet because they are still a bit intimidating and associated with ”school books” or books they read that are perceived as chosen by their teachers.
More Chapter Books Like These Please
We need chapter books that skillfully mix fun boy humor and action, great characters, and plots that are more in depth with real themes, subjects that boys do think about, however, aren’t intimidating to read like most longer, middle- grade books for third through fifth- grade readers or 7 to 11- year -old boys.
Boys are more complicated and deserve more than farts and burping at the ages of 7 – 11 years old. These are some issues that boys are aware of and have questions about even at ages as early as seven years old: they should be included more in early chapter books:
-Awareness of their own mortality and the mortality of the ones closest to them
-inner moral conflicts-treating others with respect no matter how others look and act
-choosing between right and wrong
-helping causes or being a part of something larger than themselves
-issues of sexuality
-understanding disabilities and those that have severe physical differences and learning how to treat them appropriately and with respect
-understanding and respecting the female gender
-understanding the behavior of adults: good and bad
-beginning to understand the good and bad and gray areas of society and how boys fit
-dealing with loss and the anger, confusion, and sometimes depression that accompanies it
-learning how to compete and improve physical skills without becoming obsessed with winning and dominance alone
-finding a worthy cause
-learning about their own emotions and feelings
-learning about the emotions of others
Now, the chapter book that weaves these subjects and themes with fun humor, boy topics, action-packed plots, that bridge the gap between simplified, fun chapter books or graphic books that are easier to read, are truly worth looking into. I wrote Jack’s Tales to be one of these chapter books for boys and I hope for girls as well. If you are a teacher with students in second through fifth grades that are reluctant to read longer middle -grade novels, or a parent with a boy or girl that is reluctant to read longer books, but is done with books like Captain Underpants and Diary of the Wimpy Kid (both great books but serve a certain purpose) go to my Jack’s Tales page and please give Jack’s Tales a close look, especially if you have a reluctant, boy reader between the ages of 7 and 10 or so.
If you are looking for resources on reluctant and struggling readers, I have plenty. Click here
Understanding Why Some Reluctant Readers, Just Say No!
The purpose of distributing this research is to provide a means for a better understanding of why some children, younger and older, choose not to read despite being able to.
I read a brief research article by reading expert and author, Kylene Beers. The article was Choosing Not to Read: Understanding Why Some Middle Schoolers Just Say No. I wrote an article (Part I) for a blog based on this research. This is part II. I wanted to write something that provides the information needed, from Kylene Beers’ research, information that seems lost these days. The article is early 90’s research. In addition, I tried my best to avoid writing just another piece of link bait sucked into the vortex of useless content on the web. This subject is worth deeper thinking. Kylene Beers provides this.
Old Reluctant Reader Research that Feels New
Kylene Beers’ article reveals that children who appear to reject reading by choice often don’t have any choice at all. The option of reading for enjoyment vanishes when, for whatever reason, reading becomes tedious without any personal payoff. Personal payoffs are new insights and connections and the emotions that accompany them. They could visualize the setting of an action adventure, the words creating mental scenes that have movement and color, something simple for most readers. This is enough payoff to enjoy the act of reading. Unfortunately, the feeling a reader has when immersed in a well-written book alludes these children until choice no longer exists. They avoid reading, and not because they choose to be lazy. They choose to be reluctant readers because it is human nature to avoid what we aren’t good at, is unpleasant or even painful.
Kylene Beers conducted several interviews with seventh grade reluctant readers, an equal number of girls and boys. She quoted several of these students. Their answers are honest and telling, and I believe help to provide a way with these reluctant readers.
Conversations with Reluctant Readers
Katy-A Reluctant, Seventh Grader
I never liked reading. It’s boring. And I don’t like it. You just sit there and nothing happens.”
“What would you want to happen?” I asked.
“I don’t know. What could happen? Nothing. It’s just words and you just read them. Nothing
“Do you think nothing happens to everybody that reads?”
“I don’t know. Some kids in here are really into reading, and they talk about the people in the books
like they are real or something. That’s pretty strange, if you ask me . . . They are like strange, always
going around with a book and going emotional over it . . . Why would anyone go emotional over a
“Could you ever go emotional over a movie?”
Yeah. I saw Beaches. My friend and me. It was so sad when that mother died.”
“Did you cry?”
“We both did. We just sat there and cried and cried.”
“So you went emotional over a movie?”
“What if that had been a book instead of a movie? Would you still have gone emotional over it?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Why not? The same things would have happened.”
“Maybe, but the book doesn’t have any pictures. I couldn’t see it, so I wouldn’t know what was
“So, Katy, did you ever see pictures in your mind from reading?” I continued.
“What about elementary school?”
Well, those books had pictures, and so I could see what was happening.”
“So you liked reading then?”
“When did you stop liking it?”
“Around fourth or fifth grade. The books got really longer and no pictures.”
“So what if you had books now with pictures?”
“That would be okay if they weren’t baby books.”
Does not enjoy reading
Does not make time to read
Does not identify self as reader
Defines reading as “knowing
Views purpose as functional
Has efferent transactions
Has positive feelings about
Martella-Another Seventh Grade Reluctant Reader
“Do you ever read anything?”
“Well, sometimes I read the labels on cans at a grocery store if I’m shoppin’ with my mom.”
“How about magazines?”
“Sometimes I read the captions under the pictures. That’s all.”
“Do you read your school assignments?” ‘
“No. Sometimes. Don’t have to read in math. Science usually has a film. In here [language arts], I
can usually just listen to what everybody else says and then just agree with someone.”
“What do you do instead of read?”
“How many hours of TV would you say that you watch?”
“When I get home, I do my homework, and then I watch TV, and then I talk on the phone, and then I
watch some more TV, and then I take my bath, and then I watch some more TV, and then I go to
“Why do you like TV?”
“Don’t know. You start watchin’ it and then you can’t stop.”
“Could reading ever be a way to be entertained?”
“Borin’. All you do is sit.”
“You sit when you watch TV.”
“Not really. You could be doin’ somethin’ else. And anyways when you watch TV, it’s like you are
there. If they laughin’, you just start laughin, too.”
Funny books–wouldn’t you laugh at those?”
“Not at a book. Nothin’ happens. It’s just words . . . I’m never gonna like it, no way.”
Extremely Unmotivated Readers-Characteristics
Does not enjoy reading
Does not make time to read
Does not identify self as reader
Defines reading as “saying words”
Views purpose as functional
Has efferent transactions primarily
Has negative feelings about other
Has negative feelings about reading
Beers noticed that Extremely Unmotivated readers have negative feelings about reading and identify with peers who have the same feelings. They refer to readers as book nerds or book boys. They think reading for enjoyment isn’t for them and they make fun of those who do read for enjoyment
According to Beers, These Reluctant Readers:
Think reading is “boring” because they don’t see the action of the words in their mind’s eye.
Few images are formed when they read, so reading remains the skill of word-calling.
Their purpose for reading is to be able to answer the teacher’s questions, an efferent purpose. They don’t read because they just don’t feel any motivation to do it
Define reading as a skill, as “saying words, looking at sentences, and answering questions for the teacher.”
Don’t identify themselves as readers and not wish to be identified as readers
Speak negatively about students who do enjoy reading
Distinguishing Traits of Unmotivated Readers
Unmotivated readers, according to Beers, have these distinguishing traits: Their view of reading is based on:
Their inability to connect emotionally with the text
Their negative attitude toward reading in the future
Their unwillingness to associate with those who do like to read
These characteristics make this an especially difficult group to reach.
Avid readers valued the time to read so much that they would make time to read.
Anita reported “staying up late if I have to so I can read,” and Maria said, “I’ll find the time somewhere.” As busy as these students were, reading was so integral to their lives that they made time for it.
Additionally, another distinguishing attribute is their identification of self as a reader.
Avid readers called themselves readers and took pride in their love of reading.
Adam put it this way: I’m a reader, an avid reader, like some people are avid sports fans. It’s what I do. I’ll always do it. I don’t care if anybody else thinks it’s nerdy or anything.
They valued reading and, therefore, valued the identity of being readers.
The Unmotivated Reader in Contrast:
Beers further observed that unmotivated readers did not respect those who enjoyed reading. They called them “strange ones” and “really weird.” They did not value the act nor did they value the students who partook in the act. They did not want to sit near these students, work with them, or listen to them.
Beers goes on to state:
Their distance–both in physical proximity and in personal interests makes connecting these students to books even more difficult. These unmotivated readers surround themselves with other unmotivated readers and together they create an anti-reading community that continually supports each student’s decision to disconnect from the reading.
How We Can Turn This Around!
Choosing Not to Read: Understanding Why Some Middle Schoolers Just Say No
Beers recommends a prescriptive program for these readers, a program that has these components:
“The comments and actions of reluctant readers would suggest that moving students into the unconscious enjoyment of literature requires more than sharing books with them. Prior to their school experiences, sharing may be sufficient. At that time, the focus is generally on enjoyment, which leads to aesthetic experiences. However, once school has planted firmly the notion that reading is an efferent experience, reluctant readers may need more than exposure to good books to change their approach to reading. They may benefit from a literature program:
that recognizes that they are not comfortable sharing their responses in a group setting,
that recognizes that what motivates them to read is different from what motivates students who like to read,
that recognizes that they may prefer nonfiction over fiction,
that encourages response-centered literature classes, and
that recognizes that teachers must model for these efferent-oriented students how to read aesthetically.
-If you found this informative and useful, I have plenty of research and easy to digest media on my brand new website about reluctant and struggling readers. If you are looking for more, please visit by Clicking Here.