7 Ways to Engage Your Reluctant Reader

I have so many childhood memories curled up reading a book. From a young age, I always had a book in my hand. It was part of who I was. A reader. Fast forward a few years and both of my girls are the same way. When my son was born, I never considered the fact that he may not be the same. However, I am quickly realizing he is more like his non-reader father, and less like his literature-loving mom.

So, what does this mean for us? And our homeschool? I asked myself this question many times over the past year. I wanted to engage him, but not push him. Homeschooling a reluctant reader has been new for me, but there are a few things I have tried that seem to have worked wonders.

Don’t Push What Doesn’t Work

When we started this school year, I had full intentions of teaching my boy the exact same way I taught my girls. I had a literature based program. I had Hooked on Phonics. This is what I knew. I never considered another option.

However, I realized early on that neither program would work for my boy. I was forced to find something else. I was forced to teach a way that I hadn’t taught before. This was hard. BUT, it was necessary.

If you have a reluctant reader, do NOT push them. Don’t break their spirit. Don’t kill their love for learning. Don’t push what doesn’t work.

Are you homeschooling a reluctant reader? Not sure how to fully engage your reluctant reader? Don't give up! Here are some tips that can help you and your reluctant reader.

Be Flexible

Instead, of pushing methods we are used to, we need to be flexible. Research other methods and programs. Talk to other moms who have been where you are.When we have multiple kids there is NO guarantee that what works for one, will work for the others.

I have years of curriculum on our shelves from homeschooling my girls. Many of these are not going to work for my reluctant reader. But, I am realizing that flexibility is something that I am going to have to get used to.

We have to be willing to change and meet our child where they are. This is one of the benefits of homeschooling!

 Allow Them to Choose the Books

Again, I have shelves and shelves of beautiful books. Classics. That I loved to read with my girls. I am not so sure my reluctant reader will ever enjoy some of these books like my girls did. BUT, he does enjoy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Scooby Do. Are these my picks? NO. But, if they are what he is willing to read, I want to encourage him to actually PICK up a book.

Is it going to be the end of the world if your child reads Diary of a Wimpy Kid instead of Shiloh? There was a time when I would have said yes. Now, I am realizing that when it comes to a reluctant reader, I have to be HAPPY that something peeks his interest. NOT worried about whether or not that book would be on a top ten literature list.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

Additional Tips to Engage a Reluctant Reader

The above tips are really the top three I think when it comes to engaging a reluctant reader. However, there are much more ways we as homeschool parents can engage our kids in reading.

Participate in Shared Reading

This is something I have done with all three of my kids. While reading books stop in the middle of a sentence and allow the child to read words that they know. When they are old enough for chapter books take turns reading one page while your child reads the next. This is a great way to share books together and allows our children to hear and read words they may not know while we are with them and able to help.

Don’t Worry About Reading Level

So, your 6th grader wants to check out books in the elementary section? So what! They are READING! Where they are getting the books does not matter. I think we too often times worry about the reading level on top of the book instead of considering the child who is behind it. Don’t limit your child to where you think their reading level is.

Have Books Available

In order for your child to read, he must have books on hand. Have them available. Get them a library card. Check books out for them, even if they are not interested. The key is to have books available each and every day.

Don’t Underestimate Technology

So, funny story, I tried Hooked on Phonics with my son earlier this year. It was a NIGHTMARE. He wasn’t the least bit interested at all. So, we tried sight words instead. And, it worked. Which was fine. Then, someone told me about the Hooked on Phonics App. I downloaded it, and guess what? He LOVES it! He has picked up on reading quicker than I ever imagined.

Bottom line? Don’t underestimate technology. If your child loves apps, let them read on a kindle. If they would rather play games, teach them to read with a reading app instead of a reading curriculum.  Our kids are living in a different world, and we have to be able to meet them where they learn.

These are just a few ways I have found to encourage a love for reading and to engage my reluctant reader. Remember parents, if something doesn’t work, keep trying. Eventually, you will find a method that works for your child. He will READ. Be flexible. Encourage. And don’t give up!


Misty Bailey is a work at home homeschool mom.  She loves helping new homeschoolers and has a Homeschool 101 eBook for those getting started. She shares everyday tips and encouragement for the homeschool mom on her blog Joy in the Journey.

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