Help! My child doesn't like reading

What can you do if your child simply doesn't like sitting down with a book? Award-winning parenting author Nicola Morgan explains how to coax the most reluctant reader into becoming a bookworm.

There may be all sorts of reasons why your child is not a reader, and all sorts of ways you might help to transform a reluctant reader into a bookworm. But not all children enjoy books - be a cause for anxiety for some parents. After all, the enjoyment of reading makes learning easier. So, if your child really does not like reading, try to work out why.

Why doesn't my child like reading?

Take a moment to think about what's stopping your child enjoying a good book.

  • Your child is actually afraid of reading because he or she thinks it’s difficult. 

  • Your child has not yet found the right book(s).

  • You don’t like reading. It’s not a crime, so don’t feel guilty. But children take cues from the adults around them. Have you unconsciously given the message that reading is difficult or boring? Does your child see you enjoying reading?

  • Perhaps he or she simply doesn’t like ‘made-up stories’? Some people, often boys and men, don’t ‘get’ fiction because it doesn’t feel real. Try non-fiction books, they could really inspire your child.

  • Your child may have a reading problem, in which case be very sympathetic because no one enjoys doing something difficult and frustrating.

Some solutions

Reading should be for pleasure Books are like strawberries – we eat them because they’re delicious, forgetting that they are also good for us! Let children read the books they enjoy, not the ones you think will improve them.

Help your child associate reading with feeling good For example, being cosy with a caring adult who has taken the time to read together is a great way to grow a love of books. If reading is always associated with discomfort, failure and stress, it will always be disliked. 

Think about topics your child might enjoy Just as valuable as storybooks are non-fiction books about favourite sports or hobbies, or about fascinating or disgusting subjects, and books with intricate diagrams or pop-ups. Magazines provide reading practise, too, and can lead on to books.

Explore the library It's a non-threatening environment for your child to explore books they might be interested in.

Create an environment where reading is valued, fun and a top choice rather than a last resort to satisfy a teacher. Read in the garden, in bed, on holiday, on trains. Turn the TV off during the day and well before bedtime and REFUSE to have a TV in your child’s bedroom. Make space and time for deeper pleasure.

Help your child make their own book with simple text and illustrations (comic format works well) and have them read it out to the family.


Stories were originally told aloud, not written, and hearing a story is still as valuable as reading it. If introduced to stories through audiobooks, children are likely to grow to love them and then want to experience the written text, too. For children who really find reading difficult, they are a brilliant way of not missing out on all the developmental opportunities that come from books. Audiobooks also allow children to hear stories that might be too long or advanced for them to read themselves (but make sure the content is suitable).

Finally, be patient! Reading is not something you can or should force. Loving books is a lifelong pleasure and your child may come to that pleasure much later.

Related links


Sharing books....Top children's author Nick Butterworth tells us why he thinks sharing a book with your child is so important.

Beat the Bedtime Story Blues: One in ten parents struggles when it comes to reading their children a bedtime story. But, because a book before bed is good for both parents and child, a new initiative is trying to encourage Mums and Dads to improve their reading skills.

How to help boys read and write...Supernanny expert Sandy Fazio explains that while boys may take longer to show an interest in formal learning, there are ways you can encourage them to do so!

Tips for Teaching Letters and Words: When it comes to teaching your child letters and reading, making learning fun and interesting is an invaluable way to boost his confidence and self-esteem.

Writing for children... Steve Smallman, children's author and illustrator explains how much he's always enjoyed talking - and listening - to his children, and how they've inspired his work......

Related Advice