I’ve been asked on multiple occasions what to do in a situation where a child doesn’t seem to like books,
so I thought I’d put together a post with some suggestions to try. I asked this question on my Facebook page as well, and got lots of great ideas submitted by readers! These are our combined ideas:
Help! My child doesn’t like books! What should I do?
- Start reading to your child as soon as they’re born — before even! — and hopefully you won’t run into this scenario at all. By the time my oldest was 9 months old, he could turn the pages for me as I read to him.
- If your child likes music and songs, choose books that you can sing like The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, The Wheels on the Bus, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and Little Bunny Foo Foo. It may help to start with books in which they are already familiar with the song.
- Make books readily available for your child. Create a special book basket, book shelf, or book area complete with comfy pillows or bean bags. We have multiple kids’ books areas throughout our house to show the kids that books are important. If your child is rough on books, just make sure only board books or other indestructible books are left out. Keep books with paper pages put up for read-alouds when you’re both together. (Obviously you should also work with your child on treating books with respect if this is the case, but my youngest ripped and chewed books until she was 18 months old despite my best efforts to teach her differently, so I understand where you’re coming from if you have a book destroyer, too! My little one loves books now, so the effort — though tiring — was worth it!)
- I think one of the very BEST things you can do is repeated readings. I really like the Five in a Row program which recommends you read a text 5 days in a row. I used their book list and choose several to try this with and my kids LOVE it! Two of our favorites are We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Caps for Sale. My suggestion would be to get a copy of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and read it every day for 3-5 days. Even if your child won’t sit and listen to it the first few days, read it out loud where they can hear you. I highly suggest watching the author’s YouTube video to see how he reads it…once you get that sing-song rhythm to it, it really flows nicely. We’ve been reading this book several times a week for over 6 months now the kids love it so much! You can see my blog post here for a link to the author’s video and some other ideas you can do with the book. I’d bet by the 3rd or 4th day (if not before!), your child will want to come see the book while you read. My kids love to help make the sounds in the book, and they love it when I pause during, “It’s a…..BEAR!” We all shout “BEAR!” together. If you try Caps for Sale, have your child act out the things the monkeys do. My kids love to shake their fists and stomp their feet during this book!
- Keep trying! Read even if your child will not sit and listen. Even if they go play somewhere else in the room, read. They are probably listening and will get a feel for the story line and the rhythm of the words if nothing else.
- Try to choose books that meld with your child’s interests. If they like cars, check out some nonfiction books that teach about car parts. If they sleep with a teddy bear, try Corduroy or some other bear books. If they have a trip to the dentist coming up, try The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist. If they like dinosaurs, try some fiction and nonfiction books on the topic: How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, Danny and the Dinosaur, Dinosaur A-Z, DK Touch and Feel Dinosaur.
- Have a puppet “read” the book to the child. Use a different voice for the puppet.
- Use puppets or some other form of play to tell a story without using a book at all. Once the story has become familiar to the child, introduce the book and read it.
- Scholastic has several read-along storybook DVDs. Try watching one and then looking at the real book afterwards or even along with the DVD.
- Try audio books. The child can hold a copy of the book while they listen at home or in the car. My kids have a CD player and a stack of audio books on their table in the playroom and they know how to use it independently. We also do audio books in the car when we go on trips.
- Try the LeapFrog Tag reader. My kids were never wild about the Tag Jr. but both of them LOVE the regular Tag. They love it so much, we actually have 3 pens now and tons of books! I like that while the pen is electronic, it’s a real, actual book with which the kids are reading and interacting.
- Pay attention to HOW you read the story — make it fun! Use silly voices! Whisper, shout, whine, and cry in the appropriate places.
- Preview a book with your child before reading. Go through and look at all the pictures. Talk about what’s happening in them before going back and starting to read.
- Try storybook felt sets. Read or tell a story while moving the pieces on the felt board. Let your child help. L&L *love* doing this!
- Read books online or try storybook apps. WeGiveBooks is a great site for online picture books and there are lots of good storybook apps for both Apple and Android. If possible, try to find “real” books that match the ones your child likes electronically — I think getting your children to use “real” books as much as possible is important!
- Try pop-up books, books with moving parts, or books that make sounds when you press the buttons.
- If your child doesn’t show interest in reading, do it yourself. Often a preschooler will be interested in something just because they see YOU doing it.
- Repetition is great. If your child has a book that they want to hear 500 times, just do it. As painful as it may be for you, remember, it’s great for them! My kids went through a no-new-books-allowed phase. When we sat down to read, I’d make the deal with them that they could each choose one of their favorites for me to read, but Mommy also got to pick a favorite that I wanted to read. It usually worked. 🙂
- Take your child to the library or to a book store. Let them choose their own books. L&L’s aunt and uncle gave them personalized canvas tote bags for Christmas one year. We take the bags when we go to the library and L&L each get to pick a certain number of books to put into their own bags. They love it!
- Take your child to story time at a library or book store.
- Let your child see YOU read actual books (not just the internet, Kindle, iPad, etc.).
- Be enthusiastic about reading. YOUR attitude toward books and reading will likely be your child’s attitude as well.
- Make time for reading every day. We read throughout the day. We have little “book marathons” where we grab a stack of books and read, read, read until we read them all or are ready to move on to something else. We read before bedtime. We read in the car — I’ll read chapter books to the kids, or they’ll listen to an audio book. The kids are allowed to turn on their reading light and read by themselves before going to sleep. Some days — especially rainy, cold days — we designate as pajama days and spend most of our day curled up on the couch, in pj’s, reading books!
- Do extension activities with the books or stories you read. If you read about a guinea pig, go visit one at a pet shop. If you read about some sort of food, make it together. If you read about a place like a fire station, take a little field trip. Or do it in reverse…as you do an activity, find a book that relates. Find a book about your child’s favorite food, pancakes, and read it after you’ve made some one Saturday morning. Read Mouse Paint after seeing mice at the pet store. If your child loves the movie CARS, read him some books with characters from the movie, or some books about real race cars.
- Try “reading” some wordless picture books; Chalk and Tuesday are favorites here. Look at the pictures and make up your own story to go along.
While I intended this list to be inspiration for people who are trying to get their children interested in books, I realize now that it’s finished that it’s also truly a list of what I do with my own 2 kids who LOVE books.
Luke has always loved books — I swear the child has not held a book upside down since he was about 9 months old. Lilah–like I mentioned earlier in the post–was quite different; she ripped, chewed, and generally destroyed books until she was about 18 months old. Then, one day, it was like everything we’d been doing clicked and suddenly, she’d sit and read books (with care!) almost as long as her big brother.
So, if your child isn’t “there” yet…I understand! I’ve been there, too! But whatever you do, don’t give up! Keep trying! Be excited! Make reading a priority! Print this list and read through it now and then. Every kid is different, but I believe every kid *can* like books…it’s just a matter of finding what appeals to them. Good luck!!!
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