Encouraging Reluctant Readers During the Coronavirus Quarantine – and Beyond!

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Reluctant readers: How to encourage your child to read

It can be challenging to encourage your child to read during a typical school term when they have homework to do, levels to complete and friends to text.

However, when your children are at home for the whole day during quarantine, it’s a good idea to make the most of this time. Get creative in encouraging them to read, as a way of supplementing their home education – and to keep their brains ticking over!

We have compiled some easy ideas to try out at home, which will help even the most reluctant of readers to get engaged, and also enjoy the experience of reading.

You can get as creative as you like with these ideas, depending on the time and resources that you have available. You can also encourage your children to try out these activities independently, or with other family members, or even virtually over FaceTime or Skype with a school friend, cousin or neighbour.

Note: Find our top suggestions for easy and addictive reads, favourite series and other styles of reading (graphic novels, audiobooks) at the end of the article.

Give your Child a Choice

Let children pick their own reading books and choose one book that you can read together to help expand vocabulary and comprehension skills. Allowing them to pick a book of their choice will give them a sense of control, independence and importance. Quite often, children will choose a book that doesn’t require a dictionary to check every other word – and that’s fine. However, if the books don’t have any words that are challenging, this could mean that the book is below your child’s reading age and won’t help in building their vocabulary.

So, having a more challenging book that you read together is an excellent way to keep reading fun while ensuring that your child is still expanding their vocabulary.

Don’t worry if they pick out the same worn-out copy of Dork Diaries, David Walliams or Jacqueline Wilson. If you can get your child to read something when there are so many ‘more fun’ distractions at home, that’s an achievement in itself!

There are also lots of brilliant graphic novels which more visual learners would love, which combine beautiful illustrations with exciting plots.

Try Out Audiobooks

Often, children who find it challenging to sit and concentrate on reading a book will much prefer listening to an audiobook. There are so many brilliant audiobooks to choose from, from Stephen Fry reading the Harry Potter series, to Richard Ayoade, Kate Winslet and Derek Jacobi reading Roald Dahl, David Walliams reading his books for children, Martin Jarvis reading Richmal Crompton’s Just William stories, Imelda Staunton reading Julia Donaldson, and so on.

Put an Audiobook on in the Car

Of course, this will be when it’s safe to do so if you’re reading this during the Coronavirus lockdown! You can also play an audiobook in the background, while you’re playing a game, or listen to a few chapters every evening, snuggled up on the sofa with a hot chocolate. This would also be a good option for parents who struggle reading books aloud.

There are also many full-cast dramatisations of classic novels, including C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, the beloved stories of Beatrix Potter, the many charming series written by Enid Blyton, Eoin Colfer’s The Legend of Spud Murphy, to name a few. These don’t even feel like books when you listen, but more like audio-movies! Excellent for audible learners, and always very entertaining.
Note: Many titles are currently FREE to download on Audible.com during the Coronavirus quarantine.

Take a look here for the Radio Times’ top list of audiobooks for children and young readers:

Create a Reading Nook

Having a specific place to read can be great to help children to focus. Some people enjoy to read outside in the garden when the weather is agreeable; if you have a garden, why not set up a picnic blanket in the sunshine with some cushions and lemonade?

‘Reading boxes’ have proved to be a fun and effective way to make reading more exciting for younger children. If you have any large cardboard boxes lying about, your children can paint and decorate the outside in any way they like, then fill the box with cushions and blankets and you’ve got a cosy reading spot! Education Advisor Carol Allen pioneers this idea – try it and see how you get on.

Allow your child the freedom to find a place in the house that they can claim as their reading nook. They could set up a den or a make-shift tent, with sheets and fairy lights, and fill it with their favourite things so its a space that they love. Reading in the den won’t feel like a chore or like homework – but more like an adventure.

Make Time for Reading

Reluctant readers: How to encourage your child to read

Popular advice for the Coronavirus quarantine is to try and resemble the school routine at home as much as possible. Try and incorporate a short time for reading into this routine. This might be the first thing after breakfast for fifteen minutes, or for ten minutes after lunch, or at a specific time during the day. If you can read with your child, this may help to solidify this routine.

Some schools use the DEAR scheme (Drop Everything And Read), which might be a fun activity to try at home. You could use a bell or a loudspeaker, announce to the whole house that everyone is to ‘Drop Everything And Read!’ This should include all members of the family so that the children don’t feel singled out. Have a specific book ready for your child (you can choose one together, or have your child pick it) so that they can grab the book and start reading as soon as the announcement comes. It’s up to you how long your family read for, but try 10 minutes per day to start with and extend the time as you all get used to it.

Incorporate Reward Schemes and Charts

For those who really struggle encouraging children to sit and read for ten minutes or so, it may help to have a reward lined up each time. Ten minutes of quiet reading could be followed by some time in the garden playing football, or some painting, or baking a cake together, or playing a video game.

If your child is reading chapter books, you could have a sticker chart, which they get to fill up with stickers each time they finish a chapter.

You could have a reward chart containing boxes for each chapter they finish, or one with boxes for each book they complete. Either way, have small prizes ready for them when they reach the end. They don’t have to be anything special – just use a reward you know your child will enjoy, according to depending on the age of your child. Stickers, small toys, hair accessories, postcards, stationary – whatever it is you choose, they will feel that they’ve earned the prize and the sense of achievement will be invaluable for building their confidence in reading.

Encourage Children to Engage with their Reading

Once you’ve succeeded in getting your child to read a chapter or even a whole book, it’s important for them to show that they’ve absorbed the story and understood what’s going on. There are different ways you could get them to do this:

The simplest way would be to talk to them about the book; what happened in that chapter? What characters do they like? What characters do they not like? Are they enjoying the book? What do they think is going to happen next?

If they enjoy drawing, see if they will draw a scene from the book, or one of the characters. See how they have interpreted the look of the characters in their imagination. They can paint, draw, or use apps to create the likeness of the character.

If your child enjoys acting or performing, encourage them to find a scene from the book and turn it into a play or a show. They could sing songs, dress up as characters, create a backdrop.. the possibilities are endless!

For older children, they may enjoy putting together their own ‘library’. They could write a short review of the books they’ve enjoyed reading and display them somewhere in the home for other family members to read and talk about.

Get Into a Series

There is something satisfying and addictive about getting into a series. It may take some experimentation to find a series that your child enjoys, but when you do, the desire to read the next one and finish the whole series is very compelling. Stay tuned to the end of the article to find our top suggestions for series to get stuck into.

Extreme Reading Challenge

This is a suggestion that has been circulating schools all across the UK, where children have to take photos of themselves reading in an ‘extreme’ or unusual places – children have taken photos up the Shard, in the sea, up a tree, hanging from monkey bars, and so on.

Of course, during quarantine, it won’t be possible to take photos outside of the home, but it would still be a great activity for children to try and find the most creative and interesting places inside the house or in the garden to take photos. They could be tucked inside a wardrobe, sitting on the fridge, inside the washing machine (only if they’re small enough to fit!), sitting in a wheelbarrow – see what they come up with!

You can then send the photos to family and friends to make them smile – and see who else you can get involved!


Reluctant readers: How to encourage your child to read

Starbooks is another idea that has been used by many school libraries, but it might be fun to try at home.

The key components are:

  • Menus
  • Comment cards
  • Drinks of your choice

Children can come to the ‘Starbooks’ café and order off of the menu. The menu might have three different drinks: Latte, Cappuccino and Hot Chocolate (of course, you can choose whatever drinks that your children like, but perhaps label a Nesquik as a Cappuccino or an orange juice as a Latte, in keeping with the coffee shop theme).

Then, when their drinks are delivered, their order comes with a book. You could keep this a surprise, or put the book titles on the menu with the drinks. They can sit with their drink and read a few pages from the book – then they write a comment on the card to say if they liked the book, would they read any more of it, and so on.

You can wear a barista-style apron or a little hat to make it more realistic, write their names on the cups – get as creative as you like!

Virtual Book Clubs

Encourage your children to choose the same books to read as their friends, and see if they can read them in sync with each other. Schedule weekly Skype chats or Zoom sessions so they can talk about what they read together. This might work best in smaller groups of two or three maximum so that everyone can be heard easily.

You could also start a virtual book club with family members. How about encouraging older family members, grandparents or aunties and uncles to read the book that your child is reading, so that when you have your virtual catch up, they can ask them questions and talk about the book together? Hearing from other family members will make the reading task feel less like school and more like a fun family activity.

You can get as creative as you want with these activities, or keep them simple and easy. Either way, we hope there is something here that you’ll be able to implement at home and encourage your children to get reading regularly!

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Favourite Books

  • Wonder by R. J Palacio (age 8-9)
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl (age 8+)
  • Holes by Louis Sachar (age 10+)
  • The Diamond Girls by Jacqueline Wilson (age 10+)
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (age 12+)
  • Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian (age 12+)
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (age 13+)
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (age 13+)
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon (age 13+)
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (age 16+)

Favourite Series

  • Judy Moody by Megan McDonald (age 6+)
  • Mrs Pepperpot by Alf Proysen (age 6+)
  • The Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne (age 6+)
  • Moomin by Tove Jansson (6+)
  • Indie Kidd by Karen McCombie (age 7-10)
  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (age 8+)
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (age 10+)
  • Redwall by Brian Jacques (age 10-15)
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer (age 10+)
  • Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries by Robin Stevens (age 9-11+)
  • Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman (age 12+)
  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (14+)
  • Mortal Engines by Philip Reeves (14+)

Favourite Graphic Novels and Comics

  • Asterix and Obelix by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo (age 7+)
  • Dog Man and Cat Kid by Dav Pilkey (age 7+)
  • Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (age 8+)
  • Olga: We’re Out of Here! by Elise Gravel (age 8-12)
  • The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell (age 8-12)
  • The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé (age 9+)
  • Sita’s Ramayana by Samhita Arni and Moyna Chitraker (age 9-12)
  • Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki (age 10+)
  • The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis (age 10-14)

Favourite Audiobooks

  • Paddington Bear by Michael Bond, read by Stephen Fry (age 4+)
  • Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon, read by Miranda Richardson (age 5+)
  • The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams, read by David Walliams and Matt Lucas (age 6+)
  • The Legend of Spud Murphy by Eoin Colfer, read by Edward Peel (age 7+)
  • Just William by Richmal Crompton, read by Martin Jarvis (age 8+)
  • Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, read by Stephen Fry (age 8+)
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol, read by Sheridan Smith (age 9+)
  • How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, read by David Tennant (age 8-15)
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