How to Engage Reluctant Readers- Part 2: Strategies to Hook Pre-readers

How To Engage Reluctant Readers: Part 2- Hooking pre-readers

This post is the second part of our series, How to Engage Reluctant Readers. The strategies in this post are designed for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers who haven’t yet learned to read.

If you’re new to this series you might want to take a look at the first post which features general strategies to help establish a positive attitude towards books.

This is a common time when parents worry that their children aren’t showing an interest in books. Parents often complain that their toddler dislikes books. However, this is rarely true. It is actually uncommon for children of this age to dislike books. Their problem (if you can call it that) is that they’ve just learned to walk, they have discovered a new level of independence, and now there is so much more for them to do and explore. Books are just one small component in their world. and that’s okay :) So, the focus at this age is to get kids hooked on books to ensure they enjoy them in later years when reading can get a little more difficult.

The idea of the list below is to find a handful of strategies that appeal to your child. Each child is different and they will respond differently to each of these ideas, which is why I’ve listed so many.  It may take some trial and error to work out which of these strategies your child responds to.

Introduce your baby to books_strategies from My Little Bookcase

  • Add books to your baby’s toy basket
  • Give your baby a taste for books. Let her lick and chew books.  Don’t discourage this. (But, you might want to place those special books out of reach).
  • Sing the story instead of reading it. Add actions if you can.
  • Display your books so that your children have easy access to them. This will allow your child to explore books at their own leisure.
  • Children crave quality time with their parents. So, make story-time a time for your child to treasure. Sit close and cuddle while you read together. When my daughter was little, I liked to sit cross-legged on the floor with my daughter sitting in the space that my legs created. My arms would wrap tightly around her, and we’d hold the book together.

Let your children play with books

  • Visit story-times at your local library or bookshop, where your child can play games, sing songs and listen to a story in a group setting. It can also be a great way for your child to watch how other children respond to stories.
  • Children of this age can often be distracted by toys and objects. Invite those objects to be part of story-time or use them as props during the story telling.
  • Read books that invite your child to interact with the story. Look for books that have textures to touch, flaps to lift etc.
  • If you feel like your child is still distracted you could take them to a space in your home that is quiet and free from distractions.
  • Find the best time to read with your child. You know your child best and when they are likely to be calm and focussed. Reading before bedtime is common, but you might find that your child responds more positively to books at other times of the day (e.g. after breakfast).
  • Mix it up. Keep story-time with your child interesting. Read different books, read in different places, use dress ups and props etc.
  • Make reading an enjoyable time, not a chore, for your child.  Take your child’s lead and let them go if they are not engaged in the story. Come back to the book at a later stage.
  • Be flexible when reading. Be prepared to look at illustrations only or change words in the story (e.g. I’ve been known to replace character names at times)
  • Ask your child to be involved in the story. Ask them questions about the story and characters, talk about the illustrations, ask them to make sounds, or ask them to find objects on the page.
  • Demonstrate to your child that reading is fun and goes beyond reading the words of a book. Introduce or follow story-time with a related activity, game or outing. This will also allow your child to make connections with the story. We’ve got plenty of ideas. Browse them here.
  • Read the same book over and over and over again if that is what your child requests.

Read to younger siblings

  • Encourage your child to be a reading role model. Invite them to read to their younger siblings or toys. They may not be able to officially read, but they will mimic what they have learned from you and gain the confidence the’ll need when they do start learning to read.
  • At this age, please don’t formally teach your child to read before they are ready. There may be  people who disagree with me on this point, but I believe it’s a sure way to create a fear of books and reading.

What other ideas have you successfully tried with your young children?

How to Choose the best books for toddlers_My Little Bookcase

About Jackie Small of My Little Bookcase

This post is the second part of our series, How to Engage Reluctant Readers. The strategies in this post are designed for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers who haven’t yet learned how to read.

If you’re new to this series you might want to take a look at the first post which features general strategies to help establish a positive attitude towards books.

This is a common time when parents worry that their children aren’t showing an interest in books. Toddlers have just learned to walk, and have discovered a new world of independence. You will usually find at this stage that children don’t actually have a dislike of books but, rather, they are also learning to develop an interest in lots of other activities and objects.

The list of strategies below is not listed in any particular order. Each child is different and they will respond differently to each of these ideas. It may take some trial and error to work out which of these strategies your child will respond to.

Add books to your baby’s toy basket

Give your baby a taste for books. Let her lick and chew books. Don’t discourage this. (But, you might want to place those special books out of reach).

Let your baby be with the family during story-times.

Display your books so that your children have easy access to them. This will allow your child to explore books at their own leisure.

Get a library card, and encourage your child to choose their own books to borrow.

Visit story-times at your local library or bookshop, where your child can play games, sing songs and listen to a story in a group setting. It can also be a great way for your child to watch how other children respond to stories.

Children of this age can often be distracted by toys and objects. Invite those objects to be part of story-time or use them as props during the story telling.

Read books that invite your child to interact with the story. Look for books that have textures to touch, flaps to lift etc.

Choose books with a shorter text. Engaging texts for young children usually feature rhyme, repetition and a sing-song rhythm. This post will help you to find suitable books for toddlers and pre-schoolers. This will give them more opportunity to be able to ‘read’ along with you.

Read the same book over and over and over again if that is what your child requests.

Sing the story instead of reading it. Add actions if you can.

If you feel like your child is still distracted you could take them to a space in your home that is quiet and free from distractions.

Find the best time to read with your child. You know your child best and when they are likely to be calm and focussed. Reading before bedtime is common, but you might find that your child responds more positively to books at other times of the day (e.g. after breakfast).

Children crave quality time with their parents. So, make story-time a time for your child to treasure. Sit close and cuddle while you read together. When my daughter was little, I liked to sit cross-legged on the floor with my daughter sitting in the space that my legs created. My arms would wrap tight around her, and we’d hold the book together.

Mix it up. Keep story-time with your child interesting. Read different books, read in different places, use dress ups and props etc.

Make reading an enjoyable time, not a chore for your child. Take your child’s lead and let them go if they are not engaged in the story. Come back to the book at a later stage.

Be flexible when reading. Be prepared to look at illustrations only or change words in the story (e.g. I’ve been known to replace character names at times)

Ask your child to be involved in the story. Ask them questions about the story and characters, talk about the illustrations, ask them to make sounds, or ask them to find objects on the page.

Demonstrate to your child that reading is fun and goes beyond reading the words of a book. Introduce or follow story-time with a related activity, game or outing. This will also allow your child to make connections with the story.

Encourage your child to play with books. We’ve previously featured libraries, bookshops, and book launches as play ideas.

Pre-schooler

Help your child to create a book of their own. Their personal connection to the book might make it more appealing to read.

Encourage your child to be a reading role model. Invite them to read to their younger siblings or toys. They may not be able to officially read, but they will mimic what they have learned from you and gain the confidence they need when they do start learning to read.

Please don’t formally teach your child to read before they are ready

How to Engage Reluctant Readers- Part 2: Strategies to Hook Pre-readers

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  1. Great article. Another idea is to ‘read to a captured audience’- offer books in the bath, in the highchair, pram or car seat.

  2. My kids love books and I have had no idea why, but have wondered what we were doing that has influenced their passion. Reading through your list I identified with the majority of these ideas as things we are doing. I would really like to do the create a book together idea, though :)

  3. There are some great ideas here that I’m really keen to try with my toddler. From what I’ve read here and your last post, I’m sure that even though he is a reluctant reader he is showing some good and normal signs. We just signed up to the library today which is great!

  4. Some great tips Jackie, thanks for sharing. I also found letting the toddler choose the book helpful too.

  5. Great tips jackie.
    Dimples is a pre-reader and he loves voices, singing, rhyming, and so forth but he benefits when I point at words too.
    I love that you say to let babes munch and mouth on books, I always let dimples & he loves to read now, but I have seen some parents stress over that and the other thing would be to just let babes turn pages of board books, even if its backwards, some people stress over the right way to read a book and it takes the enjoyment out of it while their just learning :-)
    Loving this series

  6. Thank you for the ‘taste for books’ point … my partner is always telling me to ‘get the book out of her mouth’ and I’m always arguing that it’s alright … now at least I have some back-up!

  7. Loving this series, I’m often asked about this as a teacher too.

  8. These are such great tips and such a useful series Jackie. I’m pinning this to my literacy board.

  9. Love this series off to share

  10. Thanks for the tips. We’re at this stage at the moment! I’m going to buy Rudie Nudie now too :)

  11. Debs said: On July 29, 2013

    Lots of great and practical suggestions for parents. Thanks for sharing :)

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