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When Readers Suddenly Become Reluctant

Reluctant Readers
What do you do when a voracious reader suddenly puts the books down?

Reluctant ReadersMaybe this scene sounds familiar: your child, always a willing reader, suddenly refuses to pick up a book. You know that there are no learning difficulties, so why is your child suddenly resistant to reading? Even the best readers go through occasional slumps, and often a little parent or teacher intervention can help your child rediscover the joy of reading.

Check their vision

Children who have previously been prolific readers may become reluctant if they begin experiencing vision problems. Watch the child carefully when reading: does the child hold the book too closely, at a distance, or squint to make out the words? Do his eyes cross when reading? If a child is not reading because of vision problems, a professional eye exam may be in order.

Look for signs of stress

If your child is feeling an undue amount of stress, they may “shut down” and appear to rebel against reading. Reading is a strenuous task, especially for young readers, so avoiding the act is one way to conserve energy. If the child feels overextended due to a hectic schedule, family conflicts, or even problems with friends, she may opt for more low-key and less active pursuits, like an increase in television viewing. In these cases, it may be necessary for parents to rearrange the schedule or make a concerted effort to help the child avoid stress while steering her back toward reading as a source of pleasure.

Peer pressure

Parents and teachers know that friends influence children’s behavior. If a friend is being less than supportive of your child’s reading, either through comments or actions, your child may feel pressured to give up reading to fit in. If that’s the case, gentle words of encouragement and support are necessary. Reassure your child that reading is a meaningful interest and that friends should not dictate what activities others enjoy.

Unrealistic expectations

What books is the child reading? Perhaps he has become reluctant because the reading material is either boring or difficult. Reading material that is too easy does not challenge a child’s abilities or mind enough to maintain interest. On the other hand, some children choose reading material that is beyond their capabilities in an effort to appear more grown up or to keep up with older students or siblings. Steer your child to a more appropriate reading choice that best reflects his reading interests and abilities.

An uninspired selection of choices

How limited are the children’s book choices? Do they reflect the child’s interests? If not, a change in the selection may be appropriate. Offering children a wide variety of options across a range of reading levels can help reluctant readers find a book in which they may be interested. It is especially beneficial to steer a reluctant reader towards a series of books. Once they find enjoyment in the first book, they will be motivated to reach for the second book in the series.

As parents and teachers, it can be alarming when a solid reader suddenly becomes reluctant. It is important to remember that it is not uncommon. Helping the reader overcome whatever obstacles he is facing will allow the child to rediscover the joy of reading.

About the author

Crystal Plante

Crystal Plante

Crystal is a teacher, reading specialist, freelance writer, author, and married mother of four. In her spare time—or whatever spare time a mother of four has—she enjoys reading, cooking, watching television, and volunteering in her community. Crystal is an unabashed chocoholic and a long-suffering (but recently redeemed) fan of the Kansas City Chiefs. You can visit her website at

  • Sandra Beeman

    I have recently encountered a reluctant reader. The little girl I know did in fact have a vision problem. Now she reads with glasses very happily.

  • June S.

    (When Readers Suddenly Become Reluctant) As a young child I had many troubles with staying focused while reading. It wasn’t until my Mother hired a private tutor for me that things started taking shape for me. I also became a better speller too.

  • notageek4u

    Great stuff! My nephew just recently went through this whole experience, and came to realize he had really bad vision!

  • Krystle Kouture

    Such a good idea to check their vision. Kids often don’t know how to communicate this.

  • Katie Hale

    Great tips! Kids definitely can go through phases or have other stresses that keep them from wanting to do the things they use to love.

  • Great ideas. Important to help them find what does work.

  • Taylor Speikers

    The vision check is brilliant, I never would’ve thought of that.

  • Nichole

    I was always lucky and loved reading as a child, but I know that for some it can be really difficult (like my hubs. .and no one ever took the time just to help him!) IT could just be something simple as finding their interests or getting glasses that help!

  • Tatanisha Worthey

    These are AWESOME tips! Sharing this on facebook! Teachers and Parents need to be aware of these signs- a lot of times these simple steps are overlooked!

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