How can we engage our reluctant readers?

Lexi Rees, author and founder of The Book Dragon Club

Today’s blog is written by Lexi Rees, author and founder of The Book Dragon Club.

If you’re a parent of a reluctant reader, you probably spend a considerable amount of time trying to persuade your youngster to read more; it’s an all too familiar struggle for many. As an advocate of children’s literacy, this is a topic close to Lexi Rees’ heart. Last week, she hosted a discussion entitled “How can we inspire reluctant readers” in Clubhouse (a new voice-only social media app that’s a bit like live podcasts). This sparked a wide-ranging debate with participants joining in from around the world and exploring a wide range of issues and tips. We asked her to share them with us, so over to her.

1. Throw out the traditional “reading record”

For reluctant readers, it’s important to understand it isn’t a race or a competition. Reading records can lead to a tendency to focus on the quantity of pages/ chapters/ books read. As a result, reading records can actually discourage struggling or slower readers. Try to make daily reading a habit and focus on reading for pleasure, rather than measuring progress on a quantitative basis.

2. Don’t rule out graphic novels

Comics, manga and graphic novels are often a highly successful way to engage a reluctant reader. Their character development and world building can be every bit as complex as any “traditional” book. Having been to the Manga Museum in Tokyo, I was thrilled to see it was actually also a very busy library, filled with people lounging around reading and borrowing books to take home. 

3. Audio books count!

During the discussion, I was surprised that one of the participants was berating themselves for not reading much personally, but then saying they listen to lots of audio books. Audio is another way of consuming a book, but it is still the author’s words that creates the mind-movie. It is 100% reading. Audio books can also be fitted in during the day in ways such that a reluctant reader isn’t even aware they are reading, e.g. during a car journey.

4. Set fun challenges

The Book Dragon Club

Whilst reading records can have a negative impact on slow/ reluctant readers, setting challenges can be great fun e.g. read a book written by an author with the same name as you. Our school does an “extreme (but safe) reading challenge” every year where the pupils have to submit photos of them reading in unusual places – the photos range from up trees, hanging upside down from climbing frames, on ski lifts etc. Not only is it great fun to do, but it also makes a great classroom/ library/ fridge display and talking point afterwards. My book, The Book Dragon Club, has loads of fun challenges for young readers to tackle.

5. Offer a varied selection of books

Choosing books for your young reader can be time consuming and difficult for many parents, and it is easy to get stuck with one author or genre as a safe bet. I may be biased here, but this is where a book box subscription can help by ensuring a diverse selection of books are regularly delivered to your door. The books for our boxes are carefully selected to cover a wide range of genres, as well as introducing less well-known authors, and new releases that you might not find easily. 

6. Read on a gadget

This is one for the older reluctant reader. I’ve seen teenagers devour 700-page books on their phones who cannot be persuaded to read a print or e-book version. Although to me this seems strange, it’s a device they are clearly comfortable on. This is not medical advice, but I’ve been assured that the “you’ll damage your eyes” argument is an old wives’ tale. Anyway, a tech-competent teenager will know to adjust the screen settings and probably show you how they can change to cream or grey backgrounds, or black with white text.

I hope that helps, happy reading!

At Meta Prep, we encourage pupils to read to increase their vocabulary and comprehension. This can be accomplished through using different mediums (novel, comic, audio, etc.) and different genres (fantasy, adventure, mystery, etc.) expanding your child’s world view. Reading increases their imagination. They can make new connections and explore new solutions to problems through the experience they gain from reading. These skills help prepare pupils for 11+ exams, but also supports them in their day-to-day life beyond exams. Providing opportunities for any interaction with reading and books is a good thing and should be encouraged. Read our blog about why we insist children read.