Help! My child won’t read

Many parents worry because their children don’t want to read. The first step to addressing this, is to try to find out the cause of their reluctance. Once you know the why, it is much easier to come up with a mutually acceptable solution.

I have noted a number of reasons why children are reluctant to read:

There are too many other things competing for their attention. Our children have more activities, television programmes and electronic games and gadgets than we could have even imagined when we were growing up. Reading is one more activity (along with eating and bathing) that just gets in the way of their doing something else. If you are struggling to get your child to read instead of spending time in front of a screen, consider limiting screen time to specific periods, perhaps weekends or even school holidays.


No one else in the family really reads. This goes hand in hand with point number one. If mom and dad spend most of their time in front of the TV or computer (I’m guilty as charged on the latter), children may look upon reading as an activity that is forced upon them because they are the “last man on the totem pole”. If other family members curl up with a book on a regular basis, it may seem less like a punishment and more like a fun family activity.


They don’t like the way they sound when they read out loud. At a certain age, children are encouraged to read out loud in the classroom. Often children don’t like the sound of their own voice or they think that they sound awkward and they are reluctant to read. This can grow into a dislike of reading that stays with them even when they no longer have to read aloud. We can address this by giving children lot of opportunities to practice reading alone when it is just you and them. This way they develop their confidence and are ready for classroom reading time.


They are having difficulty with their eyes. Often children have difficulty seeing the words on the books or reading hurts their eyes or gives them a headache. If the symptoms are mild, they may not complain about the specific problem, but they may just be reluctant to read because it is uncomfortable. Observe your child when he or she reads. How does he hold the book? Does he bring it too close to his face? Is she squinting to see the words? If you notice anything like this, consider having his or her eyes checked.


They have not found books that peak their interest. I have a friend whose son went through a one year stage when he would only read books about lions and tigers. My friend was very frustrated because she felt that he should read a greater variety of books. However, eventually he moved on to other things and he took with him the love of reading that he generated during the “big cat” year. So allow your child to explore their own reading quests – within reason, of course.


Reading is difficult. Children learn to read at different paces. Some may need extra encouragement or even a tutor to teach them reading techniques. Sometimes it is just a matter of timing. I hired a tutor for my son when he was struggling to learn to read. At first I thought that it was ineffective, hut when he decided that he was ready to read, he applied the tips and techniques he had been taught and caught right up with his peers. If you think that your child is reading and understanding at a significantly lower level than his or her peers, it may be time to seek professional help.

Remember that reading should be fun for children. If reading time is a time of tension and conflict you will find yourself caught in a downward spiral. Set aside a special cuddly time to read to your child even if they don’t want to read for themselves. Sometimes it is just a matter of time.

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