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Growth and Development

Helping Reluctant Readers

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For many kids, reading just doesn't come easily. Some kids have difficulty connecting letters and their corresponding sounds. Others have yet to discover a special story that sparks their imagination and shows just how fun reading can be.

For all kids, though, being at ease with letters, their sounds, and words is an important foundation for learning throughout life.

Read to and with your kids as often as possible, and try these other simple ways to help them become eager readers:

Start with your child's picks. Comics or joke books may not be your first choice to boost literacy, but the reality is they can be very motivating. Kids will often amaze you with their ability to read something that they really want to read.

Don't worry that these texts may not be substantial enough. They can help kids understand some fundamentals, like how events take place in a sequence and how stories are laid out. They also help build vocabulary and show that books can be visually appealing. Once your child is comfortable with the experience of reading, you can encourage other literature selections with a variety of challenging content.

Sometimes electronic books (e-books) can help get reluctant readers reading. When your son or daughter becomes interested in a book, regardless of the format, help make connections between the story and your child's own life. Start conversations that will build a love of reading and learning.

Read and reread. Many kids reach for the same books over and over again. That's not only OK, it's a good thing! Through repetition, kids learn the text and eventually read it with ease and confidence. Each new reading of the book also may help them notice something new and understand the story a little better. And that positive experience can inspire kids to give new books a try.

Read aloud. Reading aloud to your kids helps them build their vocabularies and introduces new concepts, facts, and ideas. You also show that you enjoy reading for fun, and help them connect sounds with letters on the page. Reading aloud provides together time that you'll all enjoy. And it doesn't have to end once kids get older — the comfort of a parent's voice and undivided attention is something kids never outgrow.

Create opportunities to read and write beyond the pages. Provide kids with many chances to read every day. Write notes and leave them on your child's pillow, in a lunchbox, or in a pocket. Ask friends and relatives to send postcards, letters, e-mails, or text messages. Leave magnetic letters and words on the refrigerator, and you may find your child spontaneously creating words, sentences, and stories.

On road trips or errands, play word games that strengthen language skills. You might try "I Spy" ("I spy something that starts with an 'a' ...") or games where you pick a category (like "food") and everyone has to name foods that begin with a certain letter. Kids often enjoy reading the signs they see while on the road (like those on restaurants and stores, plus road signs and billboards).

Get help if you're worried. If you're concerned about your child's ability or willingness to read, don't wait to get help. Consult with your child's doctor or teacher. They may be able to suggest additional resources to help your child become an eager reader.

Reviewed by: Carol A. Quick, EdD
Date reviewed: May 2013

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995–2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.

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