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Curricula and Learning Links - Language Arts

Why A Child Won't Read

by Caron

Caron, mother to a high-functioning autism son, had the occasion to consider the question of why a child avoids reading. Here are her thoughts on the matter.

I can think of at least three reasons why a child won't read:

  1. He finds no reason to, most likely because everything he's been asked to read so far has been b-o-r-i-n-g.
  2. There is a discipline/character issue.
  3. There is an obstacle to being able to read, e.g., dyslexia or other learning disability.

The above three issues are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, I'll bet you won't find #2 (at least as a reason for a child not reading) unless #1 is present also. But if #3 is present, then the presence of #1 or #2 is almost moot until #3 is successfully addressed. Therefore, I applaud a parent's endeavors to find out if there is anything going on in this regard. If this isn't on the front burner already, then I would encourage you to put it there. Obviously, a child is not going to enjoy reading if it is a frustrating, painful experience.

When my son didn't like to read, I was able to ascertain that there probably wasn't a significant amount of dyslexia present. He was able to spell at an age-appropriate level, and for the most part read aloud fine (albeit at a lower grade level). It was his reading comprehension that was getting in the way. I was addressing that in part by using one of SRA's remedial reading programs in addition to BJUP, but he also needed practice, practice, and more practice in reading.

At that time, his love was Star Wars. So, I scoured sources of used books, buying all of the Star Wars early readers that I could find. (My son was in about 3rd grade at the time.) I bought books that were slightly below his reading level, so that he wouldn't have to struggle to understand them and could, therefore, simply enjoy the content. I didn't ask him any questions about them. I also provided him early readers in other frivolous areas that I thought he'd enjoy, e.g., movie monsters, spies, Marvel and DC comic book characters, etc. Around this time he fell in love with the PC game Age of Empires II, and started reading there in order to find out more about the civilizations. A little later, he also discovered that if he read, he could read the "cheat" manuals on how to beat his video games. It also helped that his older siblings and both parents were voracious readers, and that not only did he see all of us reading (too much, probably), but that our conversation often centered around what we'd been reading--which included frivolous books. (His older sister is now providing him with adult-level Star Wars books that she's read. She would also spend time reading fun books to him when she was homeschooled.)

After being someone who avoided reading when we brought him home from public school originally, this kid now reads the encyclopedia for fun. (I bought a slightly older hard copy set of the World Book for this very reason. Britannica would have been too difficult for him.)

The above approach won't work, however, if there is an obstacle to either of your sons being able to read, be it dyslexia or other learning disability. (See Vision Issues for more info on that!)

See more ideas in's Language Arts section.