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Reluctant Readers


We cannot overstate how important reading is in the lead up to your child’s 11 plus. However, Not every child enjoys reading for pleasure. For some, it’s very much a means to an end – something they need to do to progress with their schooling, and nothing else. Others may find it difficult, and feel it’s more like work than play.

The good news is that there are lots of things to try to inspire a tolerance of reading. Even if reading never grows into a full-blown passion, there are still options that will create a sense of book-related enjoyment, and hopefully inspire your child to try the activity once more – and keep trying!

There are a few things you can do to ‘prime’ your child to pick up – and commit to – appropriate reading material, such as:

  • Make it interactive. Talk about your favourite characters and swap opinions and ideas; ask them to draw theirs (what do they look like; what objects might they carry; what clothes do they wear?); or suggest that they act out their favourite scene.
  • Make it funny! Finding books that provoke belly laughs will delight even the most reluctant reader. Keep reading for some of our suggestions about funny stories to delve into!
  • Try an audiobook. Listening to stories can be a great way to improve vocabulary and critical thinking; it’s a way to evoke a love of literature without the stress of focusing on the written word, so it can be really helpful for unconfident readers.
  • Think about their interests. If a book focuses on something your child has a passion for, they’re more likely to fall in love with it. Maybe they adore a particular film that’s based on a book, which you could try reading together; or maybe they dream of being a footballer, so you could find a story that centres around that (we’ve got some suggestions for sports fans below which will help you get started).
picture books for reluctant readers on a shelf

Once you’ve introduced the notion of reading in an exciting and accessible way, the next thing you’ll need is some appealing literature! Here’s our selection for ‘reluctant readers’ – a diverse collection that’s got an option for every child, whatever their interests or hobbies may be.

Silver Fin by Charlie Higson

This is Bond, James Bond… but as you’ve never seen him! In this fantastic series, author Charlie Higson introduces us to James as a young boy – an orphan who is just about to start at the prestigious Eton School. This story really has everything: a fascinating backstory for one of literature’s most famous characters, complete with a childhood bully (the horrid George Hellebore); exciting locations (rural Scotland and foreboding castles); plus adventure and mystery (a young man who has gone missing). A twisty-turny tale with plenty of action!

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aitken

A true classic and a must-have for any bookshelf, keen reader or no! The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is set in an alternate reality – an England of the past, but not as we know it – and focuses on cousins Bonnie and Sylvia, who are left with the horrible Miss Slighcarp when Bonnie’s parents go away. Little do Bonnie’s parents know that Miss Slighcarp is only after one thing: to plunder the wealth of their estate, Willoughby Chase. Along with their friend, Simon the goose-boy, Bonnie and Sylvia must try to save their home: but can they outwit Miss Slighcarp in time?

The Iron Man by Ted Hughes

If you know a reluctant reader who is a Marvel fan, the title of this book might put a twinkle in their eye – but unfortunately this is not about the popular character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe! Instead, it’s a stunning fable from poet Ted Hughes that focuses on a metal giant who, when he suddenly appears, terrifies and disturbs the local community. However, his budding friendship with a young child paints the Iron Man in a different light; and, when an alien monster threatens to devastate the planet, the Iron Man turns out to be mankind’s only hope. A gripping and moving tale, and a classic of contemporary children’s literature.

The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon

One of the funniest children’s books we’ve ever come across, The Brilliant World of Tom Gates will have both adults and young readers clutching their sides and hooting with laughter!

Somewhere between a prose story and a graphic novel, Tom Gates’ tale is explored through his homework diary, which includes everything from rants about his nosy teacher, Mr Fullerman; to jottings about parents’ evening; to hilarious retellings of adolescent trials and tribulations (like a camping trip that went awry). All is captured through a series of scribblings and fantastic cartoons, which makes the reading experience extremely engaging, as the reader cannot help but delight in Tom’s lively personality and captivating exploits.

Over the Line by Tom Palmer

One of the things we love most about this book is how its part-football-themed adventure, part-history lesson. Whether your child is football mad, interested in the period, or if you’re simply hoping to tempt them with a good yarn, Over the Line is sure to pique their interest. At its centre is an enthralling true story: the real-life journeys of those known as the ‘Footballers’ Battalion’ – professional footballers who, after being accused of cowardice, signed up to fight during World War I.

This is not a book for the faint-hearted: whilst it does not delve too deeply into the ins and outs of WWI, it does not mask the horrors that the soldiers faced. There are some disturbing and moving moments, and the writer conjures up some fairly graphic images; but, ultimately, it’s an edge-of-your-seat, pacy story that is sure to keep young readers hooked until the very last word.

Rebound by Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander’s inimitable style is the perfect antidote to classic or wordy fiction, particularly for reluctant readers. Told in verse, Rebound charts the childhood of Charlie Bell, who is struggling to cope after his father’s sudden death. But when his mother sends him away to spend the summer with his grandparents, he is introduced to both basketball and jazz; and his whole world begins to change.

The prequel to Alexander’s award-winning The Crossover (the books can be read in any order), Rebound is a masterclass in how to tell compelling stories – a book that is almost impossible to put down. The verse is attention-grabbing; the emotions powerful; and the storytelling both raw and incredibly moving. Perfect for anyone who thinks they don’t like reading – give it a go, you won’t be disappointed!

For more top book recommendations, see all of our reading lists. Or, you can always ask your tutor for reluctant reader recommendations.


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