Book-bored to bookworm: expert tips to get your child reading

Young boy reading books
Worried that your child always chooses screen time over books? Mum and teacher Phoebe Doyle asks the experts about turning your child into a busy bookworm.

Why is my child reluctant to read?

Is your child ready to read fluently?

“I believe that there are a number of different reasons why we see such a diverse range of reading skills, but the most obvious one is simply whether the child is developmentally ready to read,” says Rhisiart Tal-e-bot from the Young People’s Workforce. “This is partly why boys generally seem to be more reluctant than girls to take up reading, because more often than not they are slower to reach that developmental stage in their lives.” Don’t rush your child and let them move at their own pace, consulting with your child’s teacher about how you can support their reading development at home.

My seven-year-old just doesn’t enjoy reading. Can I change her attitude?

Pick up a book yourself! “In order to engage children from an early age in reading, it is crucial that they are familiar with the activity and are used to seeing reading material around them,” says Rhisiart. “It is also vital for children to be used to seeing positive role models in their daily lives reading; parents reading books and newspapers, for instance. Children should have age-appropriate stories read to them – the experience needs to be great fun and utterly fulfilling. Children need to realise reading is a rewarding and enjoyable experience that enhances their lives; without the motivation to read, children will inevitably be unwilling to take it up.”

My daughter loves reading; my son won’t pick up a book. 

Some say the boy/girl gap in reading abilities is hard-wired and biological, while others argue there are societal influences at play. Rhisiart believes the causes of this oft-seen reading reluctance from boys include our own cultural prejudices, which may involve us encouraging boys to engage in more ‘practical’ physical activities. “Unfortunately, in our society, it’s rare for fathers to say to sons, ‘Let’s go and read together’, or for boys to see their male role models reading at length for pure enjoyment. We all must stand back and question what our children observe and digest in our homes.”

How can I help my child engage with books?

Educationalists tend to agree that it’s all to do with finding what makes them tick – letting them read about what they are interested in. “People have a terribly snobbish attitude to reading, where if we are not reading so-called ‘literature’ then the activity is not valid somehow,” explains Rhisiart. “Children need to be positively encouraged through praise whenever making an effort to read, even if this is just a matter of ‘reading’ pictures. In addition, children should be allowed to read at their own pace and not be pressurised.”

Encourage an interest in reading outside of school as well as in class by creating a reading-friendly home, and combine literacy and handwriting practice with our 9 fab ideas for fun activities to do at home. You can also have your say in our forum discussion about reluctant readers who found their own reason to become bookworms!