At a recent Abound presentation, a parent asked the following question: My second grader doesn’t like to read and I am not sure what to do. Any ideas?

There are lots of reasons why a young child might not like to read, but the most likely reason (and the one we worry most about) is that the child is struggling as a reader.

Think of it this way – nobody likes to do things that are too hard; it makes us feel frustrated and often feel bad about ourselves. This is as true for reading as it is for anything else. And it can lead to a vicious cycle—getting good at reading, like anything, takes practice.

So what should the parent of a child who doesn’t like to read do? We recommend the following:

  1. Make sure there isn’t a reading skill problem. Talk with your child’s teacher and find out about his strengths and weaknesses in each of the core skills that promote strong reading. (You can find out for yourself, too, by using the Abound Parenting tool.) Be sure to rule out any and all struggles and/or be sure that your child is getting the kind of instructional support he needs at school.
  2. Make sure the book choices aren’t the problem. Sometimes the issue is a mismatch between a child’s reading ability and the book the child has chosen or was given to read. To develop strong reading skills, a child needs to be practicing at a level that he can manage. So it’s important to figure out which books he can read easily and likes, and encourage him to read those – even if, in your mind and maybe his, they seem too simple compared to the books his classmates are reading. One good approach is to find the last book he read successfully and see if that author has written others, or if there are similar ones you can find for him. Books in a series can be easier for kids because they already know the characters and the general plot lines. Don’t hesitate to talk to the school librarian or the librarian at your public library for suggestions.
  3. Make sure you are also reading books to him regularly. That way, even if he doesn’t like to read on his own, when he listens to and talks about books with you, he will still be building up vocabulary and conceptual knowledge. In other words, he won’t miss out on those experiences that will boost his general understanding of the world and all the rare or sophisticated words that are in the more advanced books you can read to him, but that he can’t read on his own yet.

Children generally like reading when they have strong skills and have the right books in their hands. For those developing readers who don’t seem to like it, parents need to do the work necessary to figure out the underlying problem – whether it’s a skill issue or a book-match issue — and to be sure those reluctant readers are getting the right instruction to help them work on whatever skills they need to build. And then they need practice!

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