What if children just don't enjoy reading?

The benefits of enjoying reading and stories last for life, so don’t stop trying to encourage your child to curl up with a good book.

If you think your child is having problems with their reading, the first step is always to speak to their teacher and share your concerns. Children learn at different rates, so try not to worry or let your child get anxious – that could just make it harder for them to get better.

What can I do if my child doesn't want to read?

  • Make sure your child isn’t tired, hungry or desperate to watch their favourite TV show when you read to them. Sit with them for a short time every day and read a book about something they’re interested in, whether that’s cars, animals or sports. Don’t expect them to read it themselves, but try to show them how interesting reading can be so that they start wanting to.
  • Lots of children, especially boys as they get older, would rather read non-fiction books than fiction, so it could be as simple as changing the type of books that you read together. Talk to their teacher or a librarian to see what books might match your child’s interests.
  • Give them lots of praise. Let your child know how pleased you are when they look at a book and show that you’re interested in what it’s about. It’s important to remember that children all develop at their own pace when it comes to reading.

My son just isn't interested in reading – what can I do?

Research shows that boys are less likely to enjoy reading than girls. More boys than girls struggle with reading and writing at school, and boys are more likely to say they don’t spend any time reading outside the classroom. But there are ways you can help:

  • Make sure that you’re reading something with your son which interests him. Many boys like non-fiction books, so try asking at your local library for recommendations – he might enjoy reading Horrible Histories or the Guinness Book of Records more than fiction.
  • Role models are important too. It helps if boys see their dads, uncles or granddads reading, even if it’s a newspaper, so that it seems familiar and they can copy their reading behaviour.
  • Always praise your son when he reads something well. Equally, if he reads something incorrectly, don’t make him feel bad – mistakes are all part of the learning process.

What should I do if my child isn't at the reading level they're expected to be?

  • Don't panic or make your child stressed about reading. Maybe they’re young for their year group, or not developmentally ready for reading. Most children don't progress in a straight line as they learn to read – they might develop quickly at first then slow down for a while. Children who start off behind tend to take a little while to catch up too.
  • If you think your child is falling behind, the best thing to do is make an appointment with their class teacher. They can put your mind at rest or work out a plan to help. 

"Reading should be about having fun and adventure and magic, not just 'making progress'."

- Michaela Morgan

I think my child's problems are more serious – what should I do?

Always speak to your child’s teacher about your concerns – even if you have already. Explain exactly what it is that is worrying you. Your child might have hearing problems, for example, that are getting in the way of learning to read and the school can arrange for tests to be done.

Here are some organisations that can help if your child has specific problems that affect their reading:

Download our guide

Enjoy Reading guide for parents