Bookbug Detective: Encouraging Reluctant Readers

Young boy on sofa with magazine
Category: Bookbug

The Bookbug Detective is here to help you with any questions you have about books, reading, songs and rhymes for your little one. Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions so far. The Detective has selected a question to answer below. If you'd like some book recommendations or advice, send the Bookbug Detective an email or post your question in the comments below.


Despite my best efforts, my 5-year-old son just isn’t interested in reading, and I’m worried it’ll affect him at school. My other son (age 4) loves books so I’m not sure what I’ve done wrong. Do you have any suggestions of how to get him interested?

Please don’t blame yourself for your son’s lack of enthusiasm about reading. As you know, all children are different and that difference should be celebrated. It’s completely normal.

However, as you mention, enjoyment of reading brings about many other benefits, so here are a few tips that might help:

  • It’s important not to pressure him into reading. You can encourage him, but in the end he has to choose to do it. And try not to compare him to his brother – this could fuel resentment, and reading should be fun.
  • Try non-fiction – lots of children (boys especially) who don’t like reading stories respond well to books about facts and real life and there are so many out there. DK and Usborne in particular publish some great non-fiction books.
  • Reading matter doesn’t matter – it doesn’t have to be books! Print is around us everywhere (eg. Football scores, road signs, cereal packets) and it all counts as reading.
  • Make a special trip to the library or a bookshop and let him choose a book for himself. Giving him ownership of what he reads and making it exciting can make a world of difference. And use the expertise of the librarians and booksellers – they have an excellent knowledge of their stock and can make some good suggestions.
  • Embrace the tie-ins. What kind of thing is your son into? Whether it’s Lego, football or Minions I'll bet there’s a book out there that ties into it. This could be your way in.
  • Comics and magazines – some children find these much easier to engage with and it introduces them to a new type of reading, which could lead to a lifelong love of graphic novels when they’re older.
  • Leave books lying around the house and take them with you in the car or when you're out and about (e.g. to the doctor’s). He might just pick one up.

We have a wide range of book lists on our website that cover all topics from Books about Bottoms and Pants to adventure books about Intrepid Explorers. Why not look through these together and see if you can find something that interests your son?

Good luck and happy reading!