Julia Donaldson’s Top Tips For Engaging Reluctant Readers

29th January 2024

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In honour of National Storytelling Week 2024, we wanted to know how parents/carers can best encourage those who are reluctant readers to pick up a book and get lost in a story. To answer this question, we turned to the world-renowned children’s author and playwright Julia Donaldson CBE. Here are her tips for encouraging reluctant readers:

1. Take Children To The Library

With a huge range of books to choose from, libraries are a great place to start if your child is hesitant to read. As Julia states:

“You can borrow lots of books, and it doesn’t really matter if a lot of them don’t appeal, there might be one book that appeals, then you can go back and choose more on that subject or by that writer”

Plus, with staff on hand to help make suggestions, parents can feel confident when taking their children to choose books at the library.


2. Get Started With A Book

Even if your child is capable of reading a book by themselves, Julia recommends that parents/guardians start them off by reading the first chapter. By doing so, this increases the chances for the child to want to carry on by themselves and make progress in their reading ability. Sometimes all we need is a little nudge to get started!


3. Read Together Regardless Of Age

Next, reading aloud with a child is something that can be enjoyable, regardless of children’s ages or reading levels. By reading together, you can encourage your child to think about the story and characters. This in turn helps to instil a love of reading as children begin to develop emotional connections and become immersed in the narrative. Julia says:

“Just remember that reading aloud is something that doesn’t have to stop once [children] can read for themselves”


4. Don’t Be Too Demanding With Reading Materials

If your child is a reluctant reader, a great way to get them into the habit of reading is to allow them to choose books for themselves. Julia Donaldson explains that there are a variety of reading materials that kids might enjoy. Whether it’s a book of jokes, comics, or even graphic novels, children can still learn to love reading through these mediums and it may “lead them on to read more demanding things eventually”. Provided children are reading in some way, they can reap the developmental benefits of reading including imagination and creativity, cognitive development, recognising social cues and more.


5. Encourage Performance

Finally, children tend to enjoy books that include a significant amount of speech rather than description. Due to this, they might enjoy reading and performing plays rather than sticking to traditional novels.

“I think [performance] makes children really get inside the characters, especially when they have to speak in a different voice from their own voice”

By dressing up, grabbing some props, and getting into character, children are able to understand the story in a deeper way while also having fun. Mixing reading with another activity enables parents to introduce books to those who may otherwise avoid them.


A big thanks to Julia and her team for their tips and insights.