13 Tips to Help Kids Struggling to Learn to Read

Updated: May 4, 2022
Our reading activities will help kids learn to read and love reading even if they struggle with reading at school. Use these tips to encourage your reluctant reader!
African-american mother mom reading fairy tales book novel with daughter girl, learning together, helping assisting with homework for school. Female tutor teaches schoolgirl at home. Homeschooling
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According to the U.S Department of Education, a child's interest in reading for fun diminishes after the age of 3. Lack of interest, reading difficulties, and a fear of being made fun of for what they read are all reasons why your child might be hesitant to pick up a book.

A great way to help kids learn to read is to pick a variety of books that are engaging and interesting to the child. This will help them learn to communicate and build knowledge in a way that will make interacting with others easier. Reading aloud with your child can also get them excited about learning to read and improve your child’s reading. I found that using voices and gestures really kept my girls engaged in the process.

Struggling with reading doesn’t have to squash your child’s love of learning. Use these tips and ideas to help spark your child's interest in reading, and find out how to choose the right books in order to get the pages turning. Don’t be afraid to ask your child’s teacher for guidance. Regardless, of whether they’re in pre-school, first grade, or second grade and whether they are learning letter sounds, literacy skills or you’re teaching phonics, young children can get past their reading problems with the proper, In no time, they will be reading at grade level.

Related: 15-Minute Reading Activities 

1 Pick Exciting Books Kids Can Relate To 

It sounds obvious, but children are more likely to read when they find stories about things they find fascinating, like Harry Potter, or relatable, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Once Upon Another Time where storybook characters collide in this twisted fairy tale about all the complicated feelings of being a preteen today. 

Books that transport readers to another time and place they could only visit in their imaginations are also great options that go beyond traditional reading instruction: The 1000-Year-Old Boy is about an immortal boy who embarks on a mission to find friendship, acceptance after the world he knows is destroyed or Trouble Maker which follows the events of the LA Riots while highlighting the Korean experience through the eyes of 12-year-old Jordan as he navigates school and family.

For more ideas, ReadingRockets.org is an excellent resource to find books on subjects that have captured the interest of boys and girls struggling with reading due to learning or attention issues, including recommendations for all ages and genres. One of the most important things to remember when teaching reading is to consider what the child needs, especially in early reading.

2 Explore Different Formats and Genres 

With today's technology, there is a plethora of reading material available, both online, audiobooks, and in book form, so think outside the box when considering what your child might enjoy. Joke books, seek-and-find books, mystery, science fiction, comics, graphic novels, and nonfiction about typical kid-favorite topics (think: dinosaurs) are all great places to start. Make sure they are age-appropriate and at the right reading level so your child doesn't become frustrated or bored and can improve their comprehension skills.

 One way we’ve been able to do this, beginning even before our girls were in elementary school, has been through an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription we installed on our daughters’ Kindle Fire and iPad. It’s a less expensive way for them to explore the reading world.

3 Encourage a Love of Reading by Example 

Parents and children lying on rug and reading book in living room at home

Parents lead by example. No one wants to see their kids struggle with their reading ability. If your child never sees you reading, he's not likely to pick up a book on his own either. Make time in your day to read and talk to your child about something you're reading that you enjoy. Introduce new words to expand their vocabulary. 

Even if you don't have a lot of time to spare, these 15-minute reading activities are quick and fun ways to incorporate reading into your daily schedule. It's never too late to start doing this, whether it’s chapter books, audiobooks, or any other reading materials you just might inspire them to be more excited about reading time. This is an easy way to help your struggling reader gain some self-esteem.

4 Join Summer Reading Programs at the Library 

Introduce your children to the wonders and possibilities of the library at a young age. We started with attending a Story Time event at the library when the girls were toddlers. Many public libraries host storytimes where librarians and volunteers read aloud to children. Often afterward there’s a discussion about each child’s favorite part of the story (and sometimes they have snacks!)

I would let the girls choose a library book to check out and bring home for their quiet time and bedtime. They loved it and looked forward to it. By the time summer rolled around, they were eager to earn some stickers or an ice cream cone by us reading as many books as possible together. A library is also a great option for a fun family outing because it’s free!

5 Designate a "Reading Nook" 

reading and family games in children's tent. mother and child daughter with book and flashlight before going to bed

Set up a special place in a quiet area for your child as "her" reading space. Make it cozy reading nook with pillows and blankets, and stock it with books on subjects and activities that interest her. Having her own space to go and read will make it seem special and will likely encourage her to do more of it.

6 Pair Reading with Play 

Fun activities that require reading, such as making a new recipe, creating a scavenger hunt, putting on a play, or making your own holiday cards to send to family and friends, help show your child that reading isn't just about sitting down with a book. Engaging him in non-book activities will help him realize that it relates to a lot of things that he finds enjoyable, and isn't just a chore.

7 There's a Reading App for That! 

Most children these days are more technologically savvy than their parents. They’ve only existed in a digital world so it makes sense to help them learn to read using a tool they are familiar with like mobile apps.

There are several apps available to make readers who are struggling struggle less. Some great apps available are Epic, ABCMouse, Homer, Hoopla, and Dr. Seuss Treasury. No matter what your struggling reader’s needs are, there’s an app for that.

8 Read Books that Have Been Made into Movies 

Seeing a book come to life on screen is a fun way to motivate your child to read. Start off by reading one of these kids' books that have been turned into movies together, and watch the screen adaptation when you're finished. Talk about the plots, characters, and storylines, and ask your child to describe the differences between the book and the movie. Talking about the characters, and how they measured up on-screen versus how she imagined them in print, will get her excited to read more. 

My daughter had so much reading for homework that she struggled reading for pleasure but all it took were a couple of good book-to-movie YA series releases to get her excited about reading time. Older children struggle to embrace reading, as well, so seeing how their imagination measures up to the movie adaptation is a fun way for kids to combine entertainment and learning. 

9 Make Reading a Game 

If you are struggling with reading, there is no doubt that sitting down to read may not be one of your favorite things to do. A child can feel overwhelmed and anxious if they are struggling so why not make reading fun and take some of the pressure off of your child. There are many games that help children not only learn phonics and sight words but even sentence structure and building stories. There are board games and even mobile games children can use on the go. Here are a few fun ones to try with your child, All Things Equal’s “Miss Bernard Is a Wildcard” game introduces kids to the concept of rhyming while the whole family has fun, Reading Comprehension Cubes which are foam cubes that make reading comprehension fun for struggling readers by guiding players through the reading process by asking simple, engaging questions. 

10 Read in Public 

Listening to a book is just as good as reading! Show your child that a lot of people, kids, and adults alike, enjoy books by going to your library's story-hour or a book reading. Community plays are another good activity — attending one can help your child realize that literature doesn't just come in book form, but can be acted out as well. Additionally, if a kid-favorite author is coming to town for a book signing, take her to meet the author and treat her to a newly signed copy.

11 Be Tech-Friendly

Mother was teaching the daughter through the tablet joyfully while sitting on the sofa

Nothing beats reading a real book, but you can also use technology to your advantage. Use the internet to explore kid-friendly eBooks on topics that interest your child. Amazon.com offers a list of current bestselling children's books, and Author Marketing Club monitors Amazon and keeps a daily list of free eBooks currently being offered, broken up by genre. Archive.org also contains a large collection of children's books available for online viewing or download. You can find more great eBooks for kids of all ages on Scholastic.com.

You can also download a few cool reading apps for kids. Whether he wants to write and illustrate his own story, create an interactive experience with sounds and animation, or find recommendations from kids his own age, there's an app that can help.

12 Plan a Kid Book Swap Party 

Host a book swap at your house and ask all of your child's friends to bring a book to share. It's a great way to expose kids to new material and will get everyone talking about what they like to read, and why. Your child's friends likely have a lot of the same interests as she does, so they'll probably have books she'll want to read, too.

13 Get a Book Subscription for Your Kid 

Subscribe to a magazine on a topic that your child is interested in and have it addressed to him. He'll love getting something special in the mail, and knowing it's just for him will likely drive him to read the most current issue.

Looking for more ways to make reading fun? Check out our printables center for tons of reading skill-builders and book activities, and find book recommendations for all ages.

For even more fun ways to get your child to love reading, check out our collection of Reading Activities & Printables for kids of all ages! 

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About the author
Deborah Cruz

Deborah is an award-winning parenting and lifestyle writer who has been creating content on the internet since 2009. She’s a Latina from Chicago who married her college boyfriend, the Big Guy.