10 Things We Did To Encourage a Struggling Reader

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little BlessingsStruggling reader, reluctant reader, whatever you call it — Noah (who has Asperger’s Syndrome) definitely had an extremely difficult time reading when he was younger.  When he left school after second grade, they told me that he was just barely at grade level.  Of course, what this meant is that he was just barely at a second grade level when he was at the end of second grade.

Even once he came home for school, he was still a struggling reader.  During one of his case conference meetings (as we have decided to keep his IEP up-to-date with the school system), we requested that he be tested for a reading disability.

The school ended up saying that he did not have a reading disability, but the reasoning was odd and difficult to go into here.  (We were secretly told by someone on the committee to have him tested again later, as she felt the results were not accurate.)

But, here we are today, and he may not be the most amazing reader in sixth grade, he loves to read and reads well, particularly given his difficulty with reading in the past.

From Struggling Reader to Voracious Reader

Here are ten things that we did to help encourage our son to go from struggling reader to voracious reader:

1. Encouragement to Read Whatever He Wanted.  Sure, we have from time to time now said he shouldn’t read something.  But, back in the day, if he wanted to read Pokemon books for school, we would let him.

2. Have a Variety of Types of Reading Materials Available.  We didn’t stick to only books, but also magazines, comics, and Internet reading.

3. Have High Interest Reading Materials Available.  Based on his preferences, we made sure to have a lot of things around the house that he would love to read.  This is one reason, for instance, that we have a ton of ZooBooks Magazines around now.

4. Nightly Read Alouds.  One way to encourage children in their reading is to do a lot of read alouds.  We haven’t always been good about doing it every night, but we definitely used to every night while he was still struggling so badly.  We picked wonderful, classic books as well as silly books that were a little more on the side of twaddle.  We just wanted to present reading to be the fun activity that it is.

5. Read School Materials Aloud.  In subjects where it didn’t matter if he was able to read on his own, I would usually read things aloud to him.  As he got better with reading, I would sometimes ask him to tackle one paragraph.  And, as he got even better, I might ask him to read a whole page.

6. Have Your Struggling Reader Be the Teacher.  In order to help him feel more successful, I would sometimes ask him to read simple books with Molly.  In this way, he was able to feel success as a reader, even if it was at a much lower grade level.  (This isn’t limited to homeschooling families, of course.)

7. Lots of Trips to the Library.  I will selfishly admit that one of the reasons that my kids pretty consistently manage to go to the library is because Eric takes them once a week and then tends to take them out for an ice cream afterward, while giving me some quiet time at home.  However, I definitely think that lots of trips to the library helps!

8. Audio Books.  I don’t know that this is really all that different from listening to Mom or Dad read aloud.  However, it is a nice option to have.

Also, in our case, it just so happened that one audio book that we listened to happened to be The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis.  That one audio book made our reluctant reader so interested that he then proceeded to read the entire Narnia series of books.  I really see that as a turning point in his life as a reader.  It was after that that we rarely saw him without a book near him.

9. Suggest Books that You Think Will Be of Interest to Your Reluctant Reader.  One series of books that our reluctant reader ended up loving was simply because I saw it in a book store, read the backs of several of them, and decided that he would probably like it.  He was not sure at first, but after reading part of the first one, he loved it.  This was one of the first things that finally made him willing to read.

10. Relax.  Unless you’re sure that there is definitely a medical reason that the reading is difficult, it might be that your child just needs more time to mature and develop.  Some kids just grow and develop at different times than the accepted norm.  Your late blooming reader may just have a book worm inside of them waiting to get out.

A Note: There sometimes really are medical reasons or learning disabilities that make reading difficult or impossible for some children.  In these cases, simple encouragement is just not enough, and other steps may need to be taken.)

If you’ve had a struggling reader or reluctant reader, what have you done to help them grow as readers?

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Angie Kauffman
Angie, a domestically challenged nerd and mom of three very fun kids, is the founder of Real Life at Home.  Angie also listens to music every chance she gets, writes eBookspodcastsloves Pinterestdocuments the little moments in life on Instagram, and occasionally sleeps.


  1. says

    My #2 is a rather reluctant reader so I try to get him interested by introducing more interactive books on the Ipad and making him read aloud nightly to me. We also leave lots of books all over the house and in the genre that he is interested in to stimulate his interest in books.

    • says

      Oh yeah — the iPad is a really fabulous tool. My daughter is doing well with reading, but she also loves the interactive book apps that I have on ours.

  2. says

    Nice to meet you! I’ve loved being with the lovely Amanda and I know I will love the new TTT home with you as she says such wonderful things about you:)

  3. says

    Great list! The boy I babysit is often given all sorts of books to read ranging from pokemon, to minecraft, and believe it or not, some halo chapter books. I don’t really care for the halo one’s, but he just flew through them, I was impressed that he was so into a chapter book!


  4. says

    Great post Angie! And this can of course apply to any reader-struggling or not. Our goal is to raise our children in a print-rich environment nd hopefully, in the process, help them to develop a love for reading. Reading aloud quality literature, bit above grade level, has probably been the single most effective and important thing we have done to get our kids interested in reading independently. There’s just something about getting cught up in a story that is magical. And Chronicles of Narnia is one of our all-time favorite read alouds!

    • says

      I totally agree – this whole list is great for even fabulous readers.

      I have to admit — I have never read the Narnia books. Well, I have read one of them, and then we listened to one on CD. But, my husband has read them so he and Noah got to talk about the books as Noah worked his way through them.

  5. says

    How great for your reader that you implemented all of these tips… we are family of readers here, and I am convinced that is was because of modeling reading all the time — and all those trips to the library. I appreciated all of your tips!

    • says

      I love that my kids get all excited to head to the library and find new things. It just works so well for our family that it’s an exciting outing for them and exciting for me to have the house all to myself. Plus, of course, nice for my husband that they have that special time that is just for them.

  6. Suzann Smith says

    Great post! As a mom of a struggling reader and a former remedial reading teacher I have to say all these ideas are great! Thanks for sharing.

  7. says

    Those are all excellent suggestions for reluctant readers. And not a one is about a reward. Getting them to enjoy reading and motivated intrinsically is the best. You should be proud.

    • says

      It’s so funny, I hadn’t even noticed that until you said it. Thanks for pointing that out — it made me smile. :)

  8. says

    I love these tips, Angie! I haven’t had any experience with a reluctant reader, but I’m filing this away in case I do.

  9. says

    I’m going to keep this list in mind for the future. I don’t *think* my daughter will have a problem reading but who says I can start implementing some of these things now?

    • says

      I think these things are all wonderful for any child, not just struggling readers. So, pick some of your favorites and try them out. :)

  10. says

    I was having difficultly in getting my son to read for a while, but I used (and continue to use) many of the tips you listed here. The turning point for Andrew as when we discovered the “Magic Tree House” series and the “Boxcar Children” series. He absolutely loves those books and motivated to practice his reading because wants to be able to read those books himself!

    • says

      I’ve thought about encouraging the kids to read both of those series. I’ll have to suggest them to them again. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. says

    After being spoiled by our older girls, it’ll be great to have these tips for our third who I foresee being a little more…challenging in the reading department. Thank you!

  12. Sharon {Grumpy, Sleepy, and Bashful} says

    These are great tips for any child learning how to read, or learning how to read better. What a great list!!

    My son is in kindergarten, and I’m always looking for new ideas to get him inspired and motivated!

  13. says

    Great list! We’ve used many of these. My oldest, being a true first-born, was a reluctant reader simply because he had in mind that once he finished the phonics book we use in homeschool (Alpha-Phonics) he would be able to read anything he wanted to. When he found that wasn’t quite the case–he still needed to practice reading–he was reluctant to read even simple books. My husband questioned my sanity on this, but I brought home from the library several beginning reader joke books and left them on the coffee table. No pressure–I knew he would find them, and I knew he would be interested enough to pick up at least one of the books and start reading. It worked! After that, he was more confident in trying other (thankfully, non-joke) books. :)

    Series were also a favorite with him–Magic Tree House, Encyclopedia Brown, the Narnia series, etc. He read the entire Hardy Boys series one summer–over 50 titles. (BTW, I would only recommend the older titles in that series.) I think the advantage to it being a series is that the major characters and setting are established and that makes it easier to follow the various story lines, which aids comprehension for new readers.

    • says

      My daughter (who is our youngest) is in 1st grade. I find that she is our one who will most often get frustrated when she isn’t able to read everything. I keep trying to remind her that she is already a reader, but that she just needs to keep learning. She’s pretty stubborn. 😉

  14. says

    My brothers were both reluctant readers, leaving my mom crying on a neighbour’s shoulder because we were homeschooled so she was trying to teach the reading. She got my brother tested for glasses, but he just need more time to learn than I did. When Mom stopped comparing him to me (as I read quickly), and let him read at his own pace, he did great. My parents both also read to us a lot, and we made regular trips to the library. I remember books with lots of pictures (Bill Peet, Berenstain Bears) as well as later comic books like TinTin and Asterix. My brothers both love reading now, and I’d say they did by at least Grade 6 if not sooner. :) Oh, and I’d say let them read wherever they find it comfortable… my brother would read laying down on our ottoman, with his book on the floor in front of him. :)

  15. says

    Excellent list! Did you listen to the Radio Theatre of Narnia or the actual audio book? I’ve never listened to the straight audio. I should tho’. I could read those over and over again!

    (I sincerely meant to come over here on Tuesday and tweet a little, etc. Alas, my internet has been down since SUNDAY! *choke* And in all honesty, I forgot it was Tuesday! *wink* Looks like it was fabulous, tho’!)

    • says

      We listened to the actual audio book of The Magician’s Nephew that was read by Kenneth Branagh. It was really good.

      I bet it was nice after all these years to be able to forget that it was Tuesday, huh? Although no Internet? Augh!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Amanda! :)