Reluctant Readers: Do I HAVE to read?

The last thing any lifetime reader wants to hear a kid say is, “Do I HAVE to read?” Because no, unless it’s for school, kids don’t technically HAVE to read. But we hope that they all WANT to read. Big difference.

As a reader and a mom, this frustrates me to no end! My kids love books, but even they have moments of reading reluctance. (There are weeks that my 8-year-old refuses to read anything except his Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Over and over. My 6-year-old is currently uninterested that anything that isn’t Star Wars-based.) So I went on a book-hunting expedition to try and find interesting, weird, funny, great books that my kids would love and maybe wouldn’t have chosen on their own. I also thought about why some kids love to read and why some just don’t seem interested.

Why are they reluctant? Is reading difficult or have they just not found books of interest? And why is reading for pleasure so important anyway? Why not just let kids do the bare minimum for school and accept that some of them just don’t like to read?

(Sidenote: I am that stubborn person who will never accept that people don’t like to read. They just haven’t found the right books yet!)

As adults, we get to choose what we want to read. Comedy, mystery, suspense, literature with a capital L. We might ask friends for suggestions or read book reviews to get ideas, but ultimately the decision is up to us. Why should it be different for kids? I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say that I am an offender of trying to push my own literary wants onto my kids. “What do you mean The Boxcar Children isn’t interesting?! Yes it is, try it again.” Now, if it’s an age thing, and happens to be a book that would be better when they’re older, maybe giving it another try would be ok. But the more we push what we think our kids SHOULD read onto them, the less they will WANT to read. Why not give them some options and then let them choose? Or, better yet, let them roam free in the children’s section of the library and pick anything? This one is hard for me, but at the library I usually just sit at a kid’s table with my own book and let them discover books on their own. (I sneak in a few here and there, though. Hey, no one’s perfect.)

We all have reasons for reading. Sometimes it’s for work, sometimes it’s to learn, and sometimes yes, it’s because the teacher says we have to. But reading for fun, in my opinion, is the best reason of all. I think it’s especially important for kids for a variety of reasons. They inevitably end up learning something, even if it’s just how to tell a funny joke. (Thanks, Captain Underpants.) Through books, kids can travel the world, become a guest in another time period, or visit imaginary lands, which will expand their own imaginations. Books also offer a type of friend that can’t always be found in real life, a friend on the pages who a child can relate to, or aspire to be like. And when you find the right book, reading is just fun! It is important to gently encourage kids to take a break from the busy-ness of life and snuggle up with a book.

Here are a few of the many books that might be perfect for your reluctant reader. Leave them lying around, or just start reading aloud from them when your kid is nearby. They might still be a tough sell, but I think at least one of these will capture your little reader’s attention.

Let me know in the comments what books your kids have fallen in love with! I would love to add more to my list!

**I have focused on elementary school-age books here, but I’m planning a future post about middle school and high school reluctant readers as well.

Mr. Ball Makes a To-Do List
The Adventures of Captain Underpants
Darth Vader and Son
Goodnight Darth Vader
Vader’s Little Princess
Darth Vader and Friends
Captain Raptor and the Space Pirates
Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery
Magic Tree House
Star Wars: Jedi Academy
Squish 1: Super Amoeba
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Ada Twist, Scientist
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Iggy Peck, Architect
The Great Pet Escape (Pets on the Loose!)
The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors
The Day the Crayons Quit
The Day the Crayons Came Home
Dragons Love Tacos

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