Smart Kids Who Hate Reading: How to Help Your Child Enjoy Books

Overview: Does your smart child hate reading? Discover easy and effective strategies to help your child develop a love for books. Learn how to change your approach and make reading enjoyable for your child.

Some of our kids hate to read. This is even true for parents who LOVE books and who appreciate the value of books and reading. How is this possible?!?

One of the most heartbreaking things about the information age is that an increasing number of children are growing up thinking they hate reading.

Smart kids who hate reading. How to help your child enjoy books.

Our society is currently experiencing a literacy crisis! Check out these shocking facts:

  • Only 50% of parents read to their children who are ages 5 and under!
  • 2/3rds of students who cannot read at grade level by 4th-grade end up on welfare or incarcerated!
  • 33% of high school graduates will never read a book after high school!
  • 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read!
  • 32 Million Adults in the U.S. are illiterate!

Which one is MOST startling to you? The fact is that American children are reading LESS and suffering for it. Is your child headed in this direction?

If you’re struggling to figure out how to help your child with reading, then you’re in the right place. Your child can not only learn how to be a proficient reader, but he can also come to enjoy it.

What Causes Kids to Hate Reading?

My Child Refuses to Read

Even parents who are well aware of how important books are to their child’s long-term wellbeing also know the pain of having at least one child who doesn’t enjoy reading. These understand the mechanics of HOW to read. And many of them will even read the books we hand to them… at least they will if we push them hard enough.

But they aren’t reading for pleasure. They aren’t CHOOSING to read.

And some of them are giving us a lot of grief when we encourage them to read. Why is this happening? How can parents who value books have children who RESIST reading?

There are several issues which can cause kids to baulk at picking up a book. We’ll explore these issues one at a time.

Is Your Child Struggling with a Reading Issue that Needs Correction?

Sometimes kids think they hate reading because they are suffering from a physical issue such as having poor vision. The first thing to try is to have your child’s vision tested by a pediatric ophthalmologist who is used to working with younger children and who will help rule out any issues in this area.

The next thing to diagnose would be whether your child has dyslexia. There are lots of resources available for people with this learning difference, so make sure you reach out to get your child the help he needs. Take heart! Having dyslexia does not mean your child will never read.

Are Screens the Issue?

Sometimes kids think they hate reading because they are spending so much time on screens that books have a hard time holding their attention. Programmers design video games to give our kids dopamine hits, which causes them to want to continue playing. And these games are highly visual and engaging. So it can be hard for books to compete. 

It’s important for us to give our children plenty of non-screen time so that their brains don’t shut down when we take the games away. I do feel that a good balance is important in this area because we’re living in a technologically rich world and our kids need to know how to function in this world.

But it’s incredibly easy to become unbalanced in this area and for screens to play too large of a role in our children’s lives. And in ours, if we’re honest.

The Importance of Continuing to Read Aloud

When our kiddos are little, we spend lots of time reading to them and looking at books with them. Talking about what we’ve read. Really experiencing books with our children. But unfortunately, lots of parents stop reading to their kids as soon as they’re able to read on their own. 

Please don’t make this mistake!

Our children benefit from us continuing to read aloud to them even after they are reading proficiently on their own. They can develop a genuine love of books and reading while experiencing books with us they might not choose to read on their own.

5 EASY Ways to Get Your Kids Reading MORE Without Whining or Crying

So, how do we help our children create better habits with reading? Is there a way to take kids who don’t read as much as we would like and transform them into readers? Fortunately, the answer is yes! We need to set up systems to help our children change their behavior. And yes, these same principles will work for more than just reading.

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that whenever you want to change someone’s behavior, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, here are four questions to ask:

  1. How can I make it obvious?
  2. How can I make it attractive?
  3. How can I make it easy?
  4. How can I make it satisfying?

Here are some PRACTICAL WAYS we can use these principles to help our kids develop better habits with reading.

Tip 1: How can I make it obvious?

If we want our kids to read more often, we need to be intentional about creating a reading-friendly environment. Humans have five senses – but did you know that VISION is often the most powerful? Our brain dedicates about half of its resources to vision, so it shouldn’t surprise us that visual cues are the greatest catalyst of our behavior.

So, if we want to set our kiddos up for success with reading, and other good habits, we need to set up our homes with visual cues that will make them WANT TO READ rather than ones that will make them want to do something else. Make BOOKS an obvious option. Place them in easy to reach locations.

Watch this video clip for more of my advice!

Do your kids have special reading nooks or comfortable places dedicated to reading? What’s one step you can take to make your child’s environment more reading-friendly?

Tip 2: How can I make it attractive?

It’s important for us to give our children positive role models to emulate. We don’t choose our earliest habits. We imitate them. We pick up the habits of those around us. Our friends and family provide a sort of invisible peer pressure that pulls us in their direction. We soak up the qualities and practices of those around us.

That means kids need to see us reading. They need to see their role models reading. They need to see their peers reading.

Here are some ways we can make reading MORE ATTRACTIVE in our homes.

  • Help them form book groups with their friends. They can discuss the books and then have a movie night and enjoy special snacks together.
  • Create a cozy reading atmosphere by letting them sip hot chocolate, having background music playing, turning on the fireplace, or whatever else you can do to add to the ambiance.
  • Encourage your kids to read autobiographies of their favorite sports stars or people who are experts in whatever fields interest them.
  • READING FOR PLEASURE is important! If we always expect our kids to read books that are difficult for them, we can easily turn them off to reading altogether.

Every child has the potential to become a more avid reader. What other ideas can you think of for making reading more attractive to OUR children?

Tip 3: How can I make it easy?

The less energy a new habit requires, the more likely it is to occur. Habits are easier to build when they fit into the flow of your life.

Have you heard of HABIT STACKING? New habits are much more likely to be established if we attach them to things we already do. Like reading at mealtime or before bed.

We also need to make the new habit as EASY as possible. This is where the Two Minute Rule comes in handy. Rather than reading an entire book before bedtime, we attempt to read a chapter… or even a page.

Watch this video clip for more of my advice!

It’s time to come up with a plan. What’s ONE thing you will put into place to make reading EASIER for your child?

Tip 4: How can I make it satisfying?

Our kiddos are more likely to find a behavior attractive if they get to do one of their favorite things at the same time or shortly after. This is called Temptation Bundling, and it’s a great way to help them establish new habits.

Good Habits Can Be Enjoyable, too!

Doing the thing you NEED to do means you get to do the thing you WANT to do. This makes the new habit more attractive than it would be otherwise.

Also, be sure you TELL your child about the reward they’re earning rather than surprising them with it. It is the ANTICIPATION of a reward – not the fulfillment of it – that gets us to take action. The greater the anticipation, the greater the dopamine spike.

Sort of like how planning a vacation can sometimes be more EXCITING than the vacation itself!

Watch this video clip for more of my advice!

What is ONE thing you will do to make reading more satisfying for your children?

Tip 5: How can I choose the right books for my child?

If your kiddos have been balking at reading, you may want to rethink the books you’re asking them to read. We’re all unique individuals and we learn to love reading at different ages and with different types of books.

Stop looking for books you think your child SHOULD be able to read and look for ones they CAN read. And can enjoy reading. Just because your son or daughter is in 4th grade doesn’t mean he or she is able to comfortably read at that level. 

Your child will also be more eager about reading if you give him books about things he’s passionate about. If your child loves dinosaurs, give him books about dinosaurs. If he loves fantasy novels, let him read fantasy novels.

Think about it. What types of books do YOU choose to read for pleasure? Are they books about things you enjoy or want to learn about? Or do you choose to read about subjects that bore you to tears?

If we choose to read books about things we enjoy, why do we insist our children spend so much time reading about things in which they have no interest?

Another thing to consider is how your child learns best. Is your child:

A. Hands-on
B. They read it and remember it
C. Listening helps them absorb the info
D. A mix of the above

Hands-on learners learn best when they’re DOING something. Look for books with projects, activity books, flap books, and other books that will provide an interactive experience for your child.

Kids who read things and remember them are usually the ones who identify as readers and aren’t reluctant readers. The biggest issue you probably have is keeping enough books in your home to keep this child’s book supply stocked sufficiently.

If your child learns best through listening to info, consider stocking up on audiobooks, pointing him/her to podcasts and YouTube videos rather than traditional books.

If your child is artistic or loves video games, try having them read graphic novels to see if they gravitate more to books that are highly visual with the text broken up.

What is ONE thing you will try to do differently when choosing books for your children?

Finding Engaging Reading Resources

I hope that you’re feeling ENCOURAGED that your reluctant readers CAN learn to love reading. It’s true. The process takes longer for some people than for others, but EVERYONE CAN BECOME READERS! There’s hope!!!

I hope you’ve learned some new tips that will help create a reading culture in our homes and will turn our kids into Eager Readers. A wise person recently told me that whenever we learn something new, if we want it to make a difference in our lives, we need to do the following:

  • Be intentional about IMPLEMENTING one thing we’ve learned.
  • Evaluate how well that worked.
  • Implement another aspect of what we’ve learned.
  • Evaluate again.

To help you put some of what you’ve learned into practice, I’ve created this which has a checklist to help you remember the concepts to help us get our kids reading more without whining or complaining as well as To Do lists, journal pages, and habit trackers.

If you’d like your FREE copy of your Eager Reader Challenge pack, you can get your copy by joining my email community.

If we’re intentional about helping them make books a priority and get books into their hands that they will enjoy, it’s not only possible to help our kids have better reading habits but we can also help them become people who CHOOSE to read over other activities.

Question: Does your child hate reading? Would you like my help to find the perfect books to help engage your child? Please leave a comment below.

Smart kids who hate reading. How to help your child enjoy books.

2 thoughts on “Smart Kids Who Hate Reading: How to Help Your Child Enjoy Books”

  1. Unfortunately pediatric ophthalmologists are typically the worst referral for reading issues. Pediatric optometrists, are far more trained in the detection of visual issues that cause reading difficulty including processing, clarity, and structure/function issues, as well as excellent quality research backed treatment. Leave the surgeons to do surgery. is a great place to find quality doctors in your area.

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