When we’re constantly told how important it is for our children to read, how it helps them improve in other subjects (even math), what do we do if our child simply doesn’t enjoy reading?

I know how enjoyable reading is, what it feels like when you get to that point where you can’t possibly put the book down until you know what happens, even if it means staying awake until the early hours of the morning.

It’s hard for me, therefore, to understand why my middle daughter doesn’t feel that way about books. She’s nine and has always been a good reader, plowing her way through the school reading books with diligence and never giving us any indication of a future issue with her reading.

Children love sharing stories with you.

I’ve always read to the children and they love that. It’s not just about sharing a story, so much as spending time together, in close contact. Picture books were great fun, the stories short enough to share in one sitting, the results instant and gratifying. But there comes a time when you feel you have to move on from that.

Teachers certainly encourage moving on to chapter books when they feel a child is ready. With my daughter being able to read so well, it seemed like the natural next step. However, when presented with chapter books and given the opportunity to read alone, I didn’t get the response I imagined.

She wanted to please me, I could see that. She also wanted to enjoy the stories; that was obvious too, but something didn’t click and the initial enthusiasm for moving on waned. The picture books remained on her book shelf and she would dive in and out of them as she pleased. There was nothing wrong with that and I was only too happy to see her reading, thinking she would move on in her own time.

Finding the right story may take time.

We now have a pile of middle-grade books containing make-shift bookmarks, placed a few pages in. “You just haven’t found the right book yet,” we were told, and so on we went, trying different ones, taking other people’s recommendations. The results were always the same. The magical “one” still eludes us.

Credit to my daughter for trying, but she is one of those children who are eager to please, at school and at home. However, having yet to reach that middle section, the bit where everything changes and you are in it to the end with the protagonist; I know she won’t ever get that bookworm feeling. I think she knows that, too, and I’m only relieved that it doesn’t upset her.

What do you need from a story?

She tells me the stories are too long, still needing the instant gratification that a short story with a beginning, middle, and end, wrapped up in one sitting, gives you. It’s almost like she can’t be bothered with longer stories for that one reason alone.

It’s not that she doesn’t read well, either. In fact, her teachers tell me she has excellent comprehension skills. They’re not too worried, but they do keep encouraging her to read and that prompted us to come up with some ideas to vary her reading skills.

These include:

  • Non-fiction books
  • Newspapers (we buy First News, a children’s newspaper published in the UK)
  • Short story collections (you can dip in and out of these as you please)
  • Audio books (listening to a story improves your vocabulary as well as comprehension skills)
  • Short story magazines (it’s something to look forward to once a month)
  • I read to her (middle-grade novels) and we discuss the story together

As long as they’re reading something, that’s good!

By reading such a variety of materials, my daughter is still experiencing different stories and improving her vocabulary and comprehension skills. In the meantime, she continues to try different books, in the hope she will find that special story; the one that finally shows her what reading longer novels is all about.