Do you have a reluctant reader? That child who can’t wait to get through reading time? The one who would rather do anything else? Don’t give up! My youngest son was the same way. But one day that changed. Here is our story, plus some tips about how you can get your reluctant reader to love reading, too.

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A Reluctant Reader and a Snow Day Miracle

It was snowing outside.

That may not seem like a big deal to many of you, but we live in Texas. Many years the snow barely dusts the grass.  And since Texans rarely see snow, we have no idea how to drive on it! We aren’t equipped—no chains for the tires, no experience stopping a skid—and there are way too many people driving trucks and SUVs like Apolo Ohno going for gold at the winter Olympics. So it doesn’t take much for schools to be canceled. And any child knows, an unexpected closing of school is the epic, unplanned day off.

If the weatherman forecasts snow students start praying, and to prove their faith is real they might even skip doing their homework. But my kids are homeschooled. Barring an unexpected blizzard of legos in the hallway, we walk safely from our bedroom to the living room, no chains required. So we don’t take the day off of school when it snows. Yes, I’m that mom. But to make up for it, we have some of the best snow days around all because of a snow day miracle.

These rare, fluffy white days often begin with my youngest making a tent from blankets and pillows. My oldest prefers to lounge across the couch. He is the tallest one in the family and covets having the whole thing to himself. We build a fire in the fireplace and make hot chocolate topped with enough marshmallows to induce sugar-coma naps. Then we read. We read-aloud. We read silently. We come up for some S’mores, and we read some more. Sometimes we throw in an educational video or play a game, but for the most part we read. Why do we have these fire starting, tent making, S’more laden, read-all-day holidays?

Because it was during a snowstorm that my youngest son discovered a love for reading.

I required both of my boys to read a book of their choice for thirty minutes each day. For several years I would hear my youngest say things like, “Hey mom, there’s only five minutes left on the timer. Can I be done now?” Or, “Mom there are ten minutes on the timer, but I’m at a good stopping place. Can I be done now?” Or, “I’m at the end of a chapter. Can I be done now?”

You get the idea—in my house reading was synonymous with the question, “Can I be done now?”

So I waited. I continued to lay out a buffet of appetizing books. Each morning we sat around the living and read silently together so I could model the importance of reading (ok, maybe so I could have an excuse to sit and read a book instead of doing housework). Thankfully, my youngest did love listening to me read, so we always started our day with a read-aloud and often read more than I had planned.

Then one day, it was snowing outside.

I built a fire and he decided to pull all the of cushions off the couch to make a sort of tent to read his book under. He began reading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. The timer went off and he hadn’t asked, “Can I be done now?” Instead I heard the tent-muffled words, “Can I keep reading?”

Being the stealthy homeschooling mom that I am, I kept the shock and excitement from my face. Casually I said, “Well, you really need to get your other school work done, but I guess you can read a little longer.”  He read for most of the day, surrounded by blankets and pillows on that snowy afternoon. The Percy Jackson Series was the first series he ever finished. The first of many.

He has continued to ask for more time to read, especially when a new series catches his imagination or he wants to stay up later than his bed time (I’m not proud. I’ll take it). But it was because of that first snow day when he finally wanted to read more that we began to celebrate, “Can I Read Some More Day?” That is what I call it anyway—the day most children call a Snow Day.

How to Encourage Your Reluctant Reader

1. Read aloud to your kids.

It’s amazing all of the benefit you kids will get from this one simple practice. You can learn about some of them in The Amazing Benefits of Reading Aloud to Your Kids from the Simple Language Arts Series.

Keep introducing new books and series. You never know what book will spark an interest. My son discovered how much he loved series after reading Percy Jackson books. Here are some of my sons’ favorite series:

2. Do something different.

Just like our snow day, doing something different might just spark joy in your reluctant reader. Take your kids to a local coffee show and each read while enjoying a fun drink. Explore the library and sit down in a comfortable area to read the books you’ve chosen. Go on a picnic with your books. Or try not only some fun poetry tea times, but adapt it to a special time for reading aloud or silently.

Cultivate the calm, connected life you crave as a homeschooling mom!

3. Be a stealthy homeschooling mom.

Sometimes you have to be a bit sneaky with your reluctant learners. Leave interesting books around the house like the ones published through Usborne that may be as many pictures as words. Put some graphic novels out. Don’t require them to read them, but just have them casually laying around the home.

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Related: The Ninja Homeschooling Mom’s Guide to Teaching Reluctant Learners
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4. Make sure there isn’t a learning disability or processing issue.

If your child struggles with the actual process of reading, then of course they won’t enjoy it. If you suspect there may be a problem of some sort, don’t hesitate to seek help.  Check out these resources: HSLDA  and Rooted in Language

5. And above all: Don’t give up!

Your child will continue to grow, learn, and change.Not all kids will end up loving reading, but we can provide the best possible environment to encourage an appreciation of it.