What to Do When Your Child Hates to Read

My daughter doesn’t like to read.

There. I said it. 

It feels shameful, like we did something wrong when we tried so hard to do it all right.

Her dad and I read to my pregnant belly each night. We read to her as an infant before every nap time, every bedtime, and just for fun in between. Since she was a toddler, we regularly visited the library for storytime and let her choose her own books. Our home is FULL of books. In bedrooms, a mini-library in the playroom, and even a basket of books in the living room that I change out of the holidays and seasons. Her grandparents shower her with books and have always happily sat down to read her stories.

After ALL THAT, she announced that she doesn’t like to read. She hates to read.

What to Do When Your Child Hates to ReadIf you have a child like this, you are probably desperate to find out where you went wrong or what else you can do.

Look into WHY your child hates reading.

My daughter was set up to love books and all the magic reading can bring to her life. However, her brain wasn’t set up to be able to learn to read easily. We believe she has dyslexia, which is a learning disability characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. Simply put, she doesn’t like reading because it’s really, really hard for her. Maybe your child is the same way. Or maybe there is something else going on. Check out this list of 6 reasons kids refuse to read.

No blame, no shame.

If your child is struggling with reading, they need to know that it’s not their fault. Their brain was made in an amazing way which comes with many strengths. My daughter is an amazing artist for her age and is constantly figuring out how things work. Point out these gifts in your child because they brush them off as “easy” despite the fact that building an elaborate Barbie house out of cardboard or mastering the pogo stick would highly frustrate most people.

Gently explain that everyone has their hard thing; like the sibling who is petrified of taking swimming lessons or the friend who can rarely eat the goodies at birthday parties because of food allergies. Your child deserves empathy, but also needs to know that everyone has their struggles, whether we can see it or not.

Remember that decoding isn’t real reading.

Any child who hates reading probably actually only hates decoding; which is figuring out how to say the words. The most important part of reading is understanding, called comprehension. Chances are, your reluctant reader is pretty good at comprehension because they have learned to rely on what they hear to understand. If your child enjoys audiobooks, they don’t actually hate reading. 

Find help!

Talk to your child’s teacher and Grant Wood AEA if you think your child hates reading because it’s harder than it should be. The evaluation process isn’t quick, but it can determine if your child would benefit from help. In addition, the school can provide accommodations through an IEP or 504 Plan like having any text read to them when not testing reading skills. If one of these plans will help, that’s ok! It doesn’t mean your child is not smart, it means you are doing everything you can to help your child succeed. My very bright daughter qualified for an IEP and really enjoyed attending her reading group before COVID shut everything down. Meeting in her group eased her frustration and helped her feel less alone. 

As a homeschooler, I also recommend an Orton-Gillingham-based reading program like All About Reading or Logic of English. These are one-on-one lessons that are written to be mostly open and go without much prep on your part. You or a tutor could work with your child to build the skills they need. These programs can work for any child – public, private or homeschool. A tutor could simply be an older teen or adult you trust to go through the curriculum with your child. I have experience with all four levels of All About Reading and it is set up so anyone can follow it. No expertise needed! It can be done in as little as 20 minutes per day. Little by little, they will get there.

Check back for a follow-up post on MORE ideas and resources to encourage your struggling reading into a growing reader.

Hang in there, mama. You are not alone.

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Amy is a North Dakota girl who fell in love with Iowa when she moved to Cedar Rapids as a newlywed in 2006. She's an elementary teacher turned homeschooling mom of twin girls (2011) and a little sister (2014). Her ongoing struggle, is keeping faith at the heart of family life, while still encouraging each of her girls to follow their passions and find their unique gifts. Amy is a lover of words, winter sports, theater, and chocolate. She hopes you find love and encouragement through the posts on CRMoms because mom-ing is always better together.