5 Essential Tips for Reluctant Readers (or ‘how do I get my child to love reading and books?!’)

While some children devour every novel they can get their hands on, you’ve somehow found yourself with a child who pushes books away as though reading were a chore – or worse, a bore. Unless it’s on the screen in their Minecraft game or in an action-packed comic book, they don’t want to know. Sound familiar? Don’t fret – help is at hand; we’ve talked with HarperCollins, and they’ve given us some essential Tips for Reluctant Readers.

Bored reader image By Pressmaster | Shutterstock

Bestselling authors like David Walliams and David Baddiel are a huge hit with reluctant readers for good reason, and are a fantastic place to start.  First things first – take your child book shopping; library or bookshop, it doesn’t matter. It’s like a sweetshop for the brain out there!
And no matter what your child’s reading ability, try answering these 5 simple questions while you choose…

1 – What makes your child’s eyes light up?

Take the time to think about the things in life that make your child’s eyes light up. Is it dogs? Football? Magic? If they really love the topic or can see themselves in the shoes of the main character, they’ll dive in and keep turning the pages even if it’s a little slow going or they find themselves struggling with a few words here and there.

2 – Can you summarise the plot in less than 10 words?

If you can summarise the What If… in less than 10 words, chances are your child will find the story easier to follow and will feel free to enjoy the details. These strong but simple storylines are something children (and their grown-ups) really love about David Baddiel’s books (you can read our own review of The Person Controller here )

  • Head Kid: What if… the naughtiest kid in school swapped bodies with strictest Headteacher?
  • The Person Controller: What if… your video game controller could control people?
  • The Parent Agency: What if… children could choose their parents?
  • Birthday Boy: What if… your birthday was every day?
  • AniMalcolm: What if… one morning you woke up as an animal?

Try it with some of your child’s favourites! It works, doesn’t it?

3 – How long are the chapters?

However beautiful the prose, some books can downright daunting if they aren’t right for your mood or reading ability. It can be like trying to read Middlemarch when you’re in more of a Bridget Jones’ Diary frame of mind.

With a reluctant reader or for your child’s first ‘chapter book’, try something with short chapters and fewer words per page so that it’s not so intimidating. Completing a chapter (even when it’s a 3-page chapter!) gives your child a sense of achievement and that positive reinforcement gets them reading more and more.

4 – Is it available as an audiobook?

This one is a tactic we’ve used with our own boys; and even as teenagers they still love a great audiobook. Did you know that listening to audiobooks can actually help improve your child’s reading abilities? Besides your child getting to enjoy stories that might otherwise be too advanced, he or she will also pick up new vocabulary, storytelling and language patterns, and link pronunciation and comprehension with the text. It’s especially powerful if they read along in their books or have a little fun trying out their own narration.

This article is a must-read for every parent and teacher, especially anyone whose child has reading difficulties: How Audiobooks Can Help Improve Children’s Literacy

5 – How did you discover your favourite book?

boy reading under a tree – image By Soloviova Liudmyla | Shutterstock

Think about your favourite book for a moment. Maybe it caught your eye in the bookshop, or was recommended by your best friend. You savoured it at your leisure, re-reading your favourite parts, marking the pages where you’d spotted a brilliant quote or turn of phrase. It’s dog-eared, scuffed and stained from being carted around in your bag. When you discovered your favourite book, and as you were reading, there was no pressure to enjoy it or to report back on it, or to read a set number of pages per day, or to keep it in pristine condition. Why not try facilitating the same sort of experience for your child? We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  

Tips for Reluctant Readers; now for the fun bit… here are three easy reads your reluctant readers will love:

Head Kid childrens book by David baddiel

HEAD KID by David Baddiel

Grown-ups know him best as a comedian and TV presenter, but did you know that David Baddiel has also had blockbuster after blockbuster in the children’s book world?

In his latest novel HEAD KID, the naughtiest kid in school swaps bodies with the strictest headteacher. From our checklist of questions above, it’s got:

  • Immediate appeal (who doesn’t love body swaps?!)
  • A strong, simple storyline: What if… the naughtiest kid in school swapped bodies with the strictest headteacher?
  • Super short chapters but is a solid, ‘proper’ novel so won’t make them feel young.
  • A hilarious audiobook, read by David Baddiel himself along with a full cast of characters.
  • Enough playground cred to make your child want to want to read it the moment it comes out so they can be first to share the funny alternate school rules.

PRE-ORDER Head Kid NOW (pre-order price guarantee)

RORY BRANAGAN (DETECTIVE), BOOK 2: THE DOG SQUAD by Andrew Clover and Ralph Lazar

Known to leave children and their grown-ups literally breathless with laughter, this hilarious new series is a must. Andrew is best known for his Sunday Times column Dad Rules, and you’ll immediately recognise Ralph’s drawings from Happiness Is. This is Book 2 in the series. From our checklist of questions above, it’s got:

  • Dogs, dogs and more dogs, including Wilkins Welkin, who is pretty much the best sausage dog ever.
  • A strong, simple storyline: What if… someone in the neighbourhood was stealing all the dogs?
  • Short chapters and highly illustrated
  • An audiobook so funny you will want to listen to it again and again, read by Andrew Clover.
  • Immediate readability – even if they sneak a peek at a single page in the bookshop they’ll want to read the whole book.



It will come as no surprise that David Walliams is on our Reluctant Readers list! Once a reluctant reader himself, David crafts his stories in such a way that children of any reading ability find themselves immersed from the very first page. You don’t need the checklist for this one!


Which other books would you recommend?

Happy reading!
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Author: Laura

A 70's child, I’ve been married for a Very Long Time, and appear to have made four children, and collected one large and useless dog along the way. I work, I have four children, I have a dog… ergo, I do not do dusting or ironing. I began LittleStuff back in (gulp) 2004. I like huge mugs of tea. And Coffee. And Cake. And a steaming cone of crispy fresh fluffy chips, smothered in salt and vinegar. #healthyeater When I grow up I am going to be quietly graceful, organised and wear lipstick every day. In the meantime I *may* have a slight butterfly-brain issue.

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1 Comment

  1. I can’t wait to share these stories with my grandson

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