43 answers

Reading Help

I need help.... My 9 year old son doesn't like or want to read. He just has a meltdown whenever we try to get him to read or tell us about what he has read. We have tried to get him to read about things he is interested in, but that doesn't work either.... He isn't doing well in school, and I just don't know how to help him without causing another meltdown! Does anyone have any ideas for us to try?

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We have an eye Dr. appt. on Monday, but he already wears glasses, so don't know if they will find anything else or not... Thanks for all the advice, and I will get back to you when we know something more! I am planning on trying a lot of the given here!

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Does he know how? Does he know his letters? I know he's a little old, but try the letter factory and word factory dvds by leap frog. My three year old loves telling me what sounds letters make because of these. good luck!

Get him tested. It is possible that he has a moderate case of dislexia. It sounds exactly like my cousins. It's more common in boys and it isn't fun to read when you can't make sense of what you just read. It may not be the case, but I'd rather rule it out than wait too long.

I know a couple of kids with the same issues. For both of them, it was a tracking issue with their eyes. So because it's so challenging for them, they just don't like reading. And it results in not being able to see/read well in class so all studies suffer. I would recommend getting a full optometrist evaluation, for both vision as well as other issues. One child has started vision therapy & is doing much better. Best of luck!

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Hi M.,
I don't have time to read all the other advice, and i know this is really late, but hearing difficulties can also play a very large part in reading problems. Also, try this: have him dictate a story to you about something fun or interesting he's done or you've done together, like going to the zoo. Write it just as he dictates it, without correcting him. Read it back to him from time to time, hang it on the fridge, make a big fuss over it, have him decorate it. After awhile he may want to read it to you or someone else who is important to him, no pressure for it to be correct. Kids love this exercise and it really helps them as beginning readers. You can do this once a week. Good Luck!!

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I would have him tested for minor learning disorders such as dyslexia.
I used to HATE to read and was just bad in school. Years later we found out that I wasn't dumb at all, just had issues putting letter and numbers together.
Had my parents known this earlier we could have avoided so much stress and heartache!
Now I am a successful woman who graduated college with no problems.
So don't look at getting your son tested as a negative thing or that there is something wrong with him; just that perhaps he needs help in how he sees letter, numbers and words in general.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi M.,
I found that the books on cd worked well with my son. He didn't like to read at all and wouldn't until I got him books on cd. He could listen to the words and sometimes he would follow along in the book, but most of the time he just listened and was able to retain the material much better than he did when we forced him to read it.
As for resources, we loved working with the Sylvan Learning Center. They did an incredible assesment with our daughter and were able to see what was at the root of her poor grades and lack of motivation.
Hopefully this helps...have a great day.

1 mom found this helpful

M. you have gotten a lot of advice on this subject, but I just wanted to add that any amount of reading is good. Have you tried Graphic Novels or Comic books? They might help him enjoy reading.

I know a couple of kids with the same issues. For both of them, it was a tracking issue with their eyes. So because it's so challenging for them, they just don't like reading. And it results in not being able to see/read well in class so all studies suffer. I would recommend getting a full optometrist evaluation, for both vision as well as other issues. One child has started vision therapy & is doing much better. Best of luck!

I also would recommend testing for a learning disability. But don't rely on the schools answer...their testing is more a screening test. Talk to his teacher and state your concerns and YOU can request that he be tested, it doesn't take a teachers request. The if you aren't satisfied with the results that they come up with, have your doctor refer you to Children's Hospital Learning Services (In Denver)for further testing. We went through the same thing with our daughter. I noticed in 2nd Grade that she was having difficulty and that it wasn't enjoyable for her. The teachers kept telling me that she was right where she needed to be. I volunteered in the classroom alot and knew that my daughter wasn't reading at her grade level. By the end of 3rd Grade, I found out that I could request that the school test her. They of course didn't find anything, I think that they didn't want to. I kept insisting that there was a problem and no one would believe me. In 4th Grade her teacher agreed with me that she wasn't up to level (her CSAP scores also indicated that) and we requested more testing by the school. Again they found nothing. In the meantime I had spoken with our doctor and she recommended testing at Children's. Found out that our daughter is dyslexic, has no phonemic awareness and has very slow processing speed. I went back to the school armed with all the reports and the counselor looked at me and said that there wasn't anything they could do for her because Dyslexia is a medical condition in Colorado. We were however able to get her on a 504 for classroom accommodations. We went through 24 weeks of intense cognitive therapy at Learning Rx in Parker and it helped trememdously. It is expensive but worth it. She is now in 6th Grade, and is reading at or above grade level and when she thinks no one is looking reads for pleasure. She is still inclined to pick out books with large print, pictures and below her level, but I figure if she is reading who cares. Dyslexic kids are generally really bright and compensate with their other skills. Our daughter is a very auditory learner and if she heard it, she remembered it. One more word of advice. MOTHER KNOWS BEST, so listen to your instinct. Even though teachers/professionals think they know more about LD, you know your child better than anyone. There is a great website with tons of information on Dyslexia and LD. It is greatschools.com. They have been my greatest source of information on 504's, IEP's, learning strategies etc. Best of luck to you and your son and God Bless. J.

A little about me:
I am a mother of 2 beautiful girls, 14 and 12. Have been married for 15 years and am a SAHM and volunteer in the schools and church.

Just read WITH HIM. Instead of forcing the issue, read with him; have him follow along by reading and then stopping once in awhile to have him read the next word. If he's watching the words as you read them he's still learning.

I'd have him evaluated for tracking and dyslexia.
Consider this: http://www.dyslexia.com/library/symptoms.htm
also this: http://www.dys-add.com/symptoms.html (be sure to click on the link of famous people--it will be helpful)

I hope this helps.

Hi M.,

I am a mother of 4 busy boys and have had trouble with this very issue, with 2 of them, the oldest was a breeze and the baby is still to young to read, but my 7 and 9 year olds I have had a horrible time with until.... I decided one day that I would read to them, and every night, I read to them and count that as their reading, they sit with me so that they can read along and it has built fluency and site reading. The other thing that I decided to do was let them play on the computer at specific sites that help with reading, in order to play the game they have to read and understand what they have read in order to succeed in the game. They love to play on the computer so its a win-win thing, they are reading and having fun at the same time. My second son also struggled with math and we have done the same thing, we have a very good downloadable game that they love to play and it has increased his math skills big-time!! If the problem is with the meltdowns, try to make it as fun as possible. The other thing you can do is play board games where they have to read the cards. I also make my kids say out loud, "I can read", it sounds really silly but sometimes they just tell themselves enough times that they cant that they stop trying. The positive affirmations have helped alot too. Keep trying, something is bound to work. If its not the meltdowns then maybe there is something cognitive that needs to be diagnosed, in which case talking to the school social worker will help get you on the right track.

Good luck!


Every single person I've ever met who sent their child to Sylvan Learning Centers (including me) has been thrilled with the results.

People like to whine "I can't afford it." What they really mean is "I don't want to give up my Starbucks and manicures and dinners out for my son's future." If you can afford an annual vacation and Christmas presents, you can afford Sylvan. Your son's ability to read well will determine his future -- it's far more important than a family vacation.

If he hates reading that much, he's probably way behind on reading skills and possibly needs medical testing for things like dyslexia. (There are other eye-brain coordination problems which affect reading, too. Ask your ped.)

For other parents reading this, try not to let the problem go on through age nine -- address it earlier. Your child's ability to read well will determine the course of his future, and this is an extremely teachable skill, even with visual perception problems.

I would definitely get him tested for a reading disability. My husband is a special ed teacher and so is my sister. More often than not a child will not want to read because he/she has a hard time understanding what he is reading. Once they get some help, usually through the resource teacher at the school, they feel much better and begun to like to read. A reading disability says nothing about their intelligence level. Also, I wasn't a big reader until I was much older and only with a certain kind of book. So keep in mind that not everyone will like reading. Hope this helps!


I used to work as a vision therapist. Have you taken him to the eye doctor recently? The reason I ask is because I would help a lot of children that were doing really poorly in school and HATED to read. Turns out the reason was their vision. Not just needing glasses but maybe other reasons such as seeing double images, not being able to put things into focus as close distances. Here is a web site you can look into if you are interested. You would be surprised at the changes that can be made if this is an issue. When you take your son into the eye doctor, ask specifically for these issues. Sometimes these are not routine tests being done. I am wondering if your son has something like this going on..... The website is...


Copy and paste this link and it will give you all info about what this may be. It is called convergence insufficient. Hope this helps and let me know if you need any more information!!



I didn't read the other responses as I'm hurrying out the door to pick up children from the bus.....but, my Aunt had the same problem with my cousin. They finally determined that he was dyslexic - and inverted as well. So when other children were reading and comprehending, he was struggling because what he saw was upside down and backwards. Once they determined out what the problem was, it was corrected and he's happy, healthy, and leads a very normal, well-educated life! Good luck!!

I sympathize with you completely. All 3 of my stepkids are not picking up reading for fun(unless you count comic books every now and then). Their dad and I LOVE reading and read all the time in front of them. Their grades are fine. It seems that they just don't want to do it. Maybe limiting video games/tv will work? Now, we have to enforce 30 minutes a day which is basically homework from the schools. Every once in a while the 2 older boys will find a book they love and read it non-stop until they finish, but it's REALLY hard finding those books. My husband and I would love to make it fun, but there's a lot of nagging around it - not fun for any of us!

Just wanted to throw in a word of understanding. I'm looking for advice, too.

Have you asked his teacher to test him for reading problems? My nephew was just diagnosed with dyslexia at 13.

Aside from getting testing/help from his school (which I highly recommend you do) -- is this a new thing for him? Does he see you and his dad reading for fun? Does he enjoy you reading to him? If he still enjoys you reading to him, then keep that up as a way to boost interest in reading. I hope you can find some answers to help him learn to like reading -- it's the best way to help them have life-long learning.

Just a thought... try videoing some his meltdowns! Then later take a look at them together. You might bring a timer to the viewing and see how much time he is taking tantruming versus what the required reading time is. When you have in mind what you want to teach your boy, sit down with him and the timer. View the video together. Get his reaction to the tantrums and see if he is embarrassed by it. View it again and let him use the timer to see just how much time in the movies he was calm and reading.

You could also just use the timer each day. When it is time to have reading minutes start (my kids are all supposed to read 20 minutes) set two timers. One for the reading time, and one for the total time it took to get the reading done. If he can get the total time closer to the reading time the next day he can earn a point toward a big reward, or just get his free time (computers, video, tv, friends, tramp time,... whatever it is that he isn't going to get until this is DONE).

Boys often like competition, and if he is competing with himself it might help.

good luck from a mom who hates homework almost more than her kids!!!

Hi M....
You have gotten a lot of advice. I am going to give you a teacher's perspective.
I really think you should set up a time to talk with his teacher. At least you will have the opportunity to state your concerns and you can hear those of the teacher's. Also the strategies that are done at school to help him would be beneficial for you to know so you can reinforce them at home.
I am sure that he is working really hard at school because of his struggles. There may be interventions already in place within the classroom that you are unaware of. He might be exhausted by the time he gets home. Take the fight away and read to him. It is extremely important, even if he is 9. Kids benefit greatly from being read to. Eventually as he feels comfortable he might begin to choose things to start reading to you.
Building his confidence is key. Even if he is a low reader, make him believe he is not. Sometimes confidence is what holds kids back from progressing.
Having his eyes checked is a good idea. However immediately having him tested for a learning diability might be jumping the gun. Talk to his teacher. Is this something new you have noticed or has he always struggled? If it is new, it might be his reaction to a new grade level and the new challenges that come with it. It is inevitably harder and maybe he is just reacting to that. Comic books, Captain Underpants, etc. although it is not high quality literature it is reading so if you can get a buy in there, go for it!
Good Luck and I truly think communication is the key. Trust me when I say that his teacher is an advocate for his success. Start there and together you can problem solve and hopefully build his confidence and see him grow. At least there can be conversation about the next steps.

I would have him evaluated to see if he has dyslexia, or other reading difficulty.

My mom has a program that does wonders for problems like this. She also does the testing. If you're interested I could send you contact info. I know she has helped others from Goodland, so she may be able to give you some references in your area, or may know someone there that does the same program. The changes I have seen in both our family and friends and their families is just unbelievable. I hope you find some good answers.

First of all, let up on the reading at home. It obviously causes stress. I would take him to the resource center at his school and have him tested for reading disabilities. Maybe get his eyes checked , too. Jut be thankful that they have so much insight into these problems these days. My kids grew up with ADDH and nobody had a clue what was wrong with them.

I also agree with the idea of getting him assessed for learning disabilities or eyesight problems.
It is very likely that reading is his big challenge - that can cause poor school performance in all areas. I would set up a time to talk to the teacher, find out what she's noticed about him - how does he behave, when does he get easily frutrated, when does he do ok, and so forth. She is with him 6 hours a day and sees a lot of this (or she should!). You also are a big part of this - you know him better than anyone and you are his advocate!

As far as reading, there are a lot of areas that affect reading ability and any one could be the cause of reading problems. It could be poor eyesight or dyslexia; it could be decoding the words (translating letters to sounds to meaning); it could be fluency, being able to read with the right speed and flow to make meaning; it could be comprehension, from understanding a sentance to summarizing the plot; it could even be that he has a problem holding his focus/attention on something. His best bet for now is to have you read to him. He can hear the story and how the flow of words should go. You can talk with him about the story as you go - make predictions, talk about what just happened, make inferences, etc. You are giving him the chance to enjoy the book without the struggle of reading the words (if that's his challenge) and modeling how good readers think about what they're reading (if that's his challenge). Let him help you pick out books about what he likes - go to the library often! Spend 20 minutes each day reading with him. The time together will also build his self-esteem and confidence, which are probably suffering from his struggles in school. He needs you, so don't give up!

I used to be a school teacher before I had my babies. Here are some ideas that I used in my classroom. First off, have you had his eyes checked? I would take him to an eye doctor and have his eyes checked first. Once he is cleared by the eye doctor another idea would be to take him to the library and have him pick out his favorite books. He might be more interested in them that way. If he is still struggling on not wanting to read, try using a ruler to outline the line he is reading. There are special, really cool, rulers that actually highlight the line that he is reading. If he is a little bit dyslexic that will help him out a lot. Ask him to either draw or tell you what his story was about. Maybe he is more creative and likes to draw or act out his stories.

You've had a LOT of great advice, great suggestions for various test's & checking for various things. (I might have missed it) but in your message, you don't mention "when" this started. Has he been having issues with reading just this year? You mention he isn't doing well in school.....is it just reading related? Do you know if there's any problems between him & his teacher or any students. Have you or your husband or a grandparent sat down with him to ask him what's going on in his life, why he has such a reaction when it comes to reading? Asking him in a casual, no-big deal, sort of way to find out what's going on "with" him, may help to find the source of the problem.
Also, you don't mention the age of your other son..but as several had suggested, reading as a family may help. My kids "expect" a nap & bed time story. We've read the Harry Potter Series (several times), a book called "My side of the Mountain" (which is a story about a young boy who runs off to live off his grandfather's land in a mountain), there's 2 other books to this series we're going to start on, we've read some JR Tolkein(sp) books, some as simple as A Mouse About The House (an Usborne Books At Home book) I'd help him the best you can with his homework, but for now let that be the only reading he is "required" to do.
Keep us updated, maybe when the testing of the eyes & other issues are done, more suggestions can be made

A. :)

I didn't like reading when I was that age too. My mother started to read entertaining stories to the whole family in the evenings. Most of the stories came from the author Patrick McManus (I especially enjoyed the book Rubber Legs and White Tail Hairs). Hearing the funny stories was such a treat and I would beg for more. My mother would hand me the book when I wanted more and tell me to read for myself. It took a few times, but eventually I did start reading on my own. I now love reading.

I also agree with the last post, have your son checked for reading problems, but I highly recommend reading funny stories to him as well.

Perhaps it is the reading program at school and or the teacher he also has a problem with. If there is a good teacher who is encouraging and helpful and patient and uses rewards it will work much better. Not to mention maybe he gets teased in class. I know too some kids if they feel they can't do something they dont' want to even try harder because they are not good enough and are better at other things.

You know my little sister was the same way, she wanted absolutely nothing to do with reading. My Mom was at her wits end. One day I sat her down with a story I was reading at the time. I told her that if she reads a little of her book every day then I would read her a little of mine. I used an adventure book with chapters, that would end right as something big would happen so that she was begging me to find out what was next. I always made her wait til the next day and read another chapter before I would continue. This worked so well that my sister 10 years later, it is almost impossible to stop her when she is in the middle is a good book.

I have two kids with reading diabilties and I would have him tested. It sound like he can't comprehend what he is reading.
C. B

My son went through that phase too. When we were working towards AR points for elem. school, we created time just for him and I and I would read two pages then he would read two pages. We took turns with reading and he became soooo interested. Also, we got books that were great... that were not always fiction (he was not a Harry Potter fan). In fact, his grandpa had some books that he had read when he was younger and still had them for us to use and my son thought that was pretty cool. "The Road to Tirabathia" was great and kept him on edge for what as next, we had fun with that book. He liked to read about old war heros and things like that. My son is now 16 (in three weeks) but he always enjoyed that time we shared with just the two of us.

I agree with the responses regarding getting him tested. Definitely sounds like a learning disability. What might be helpful to you is a book entitled, "A Mind at a Time" by Dr. Mel Levine. It's outstanding at helping parents and teachers understand kids and the way they are wired.

It is suggested that in order to build a child's confidence with reading, that they read items below their actual reading level. That way it is easier and they become more sure of their skills. So instead of reading three books at his level, he should read 2 below level and one at his level. I would certainly discuss this with his teacher to see if he/she has any suggestions as well.

I think you need to look very hard at you child. Here are a couple of things to think about. He may not like reading because the books that are on his age level are too hard for him. That doesnt mean there is anything wrong with him, he just may need to take a step back and try books just below his age level. The other thing is that he may be dyslexic and you simply dont know. I have always been dyslexic, I transpose numbers as well, but my parents didnt know. I would also ask his teacher what books he is checking out from the library. I have a ton of books in my house, but I have noticed that the books my daughter likes are different from the books I think she should like. I want to encourage her to read the American Girl books, but I have learned my lesson and am checking them out from the library before I invest the money in them. I can recommend two good series of books that your son may like. The first is A-Z Mysteries by Ron Roy, and the second is the Magic Treehouse Books by Mary Pope Osborne. Both series have main charactors that are male, which may resonate with your son.

Another thing you may want to have him tested for is Irlen Syndrome. My sister had trouble focusing on reading all her life and now has a daughter with the same problem. They both get headaches when they read and it makes it difficult for them to focus. They have both been diagnosed with Irlen Syndrome and have been able to make a few simple changes that have helped them immensely. This is rarely diagnosed and is often mistaken for ADD or ADHD. It may not be what is holding him back, but if this is a problem he suffers from, there are a lot of simple solutions to it. This website gives some great information and can help you see if it sounds like what he's struggling with: http://irlen.com/index.php.
Best of luck with whatever helps him!

There are so many programs out there geared to helping school aged children get excited about reading. Talk to your School, the teacher and get referrals. Finding a fun tutor isn't unrealistic either. Taking him to a cool bookstore and having him pick out books on things that interest him.
I would make sure there aren't other learning issues, even dyslexia can be hidden and cause a lot of issues with reading and not even be aware. I would find a tutoring program where he can be with some peers learning to read in a fun and exciting way.
Good luck, my second grader LOVES to read ONLY when it is on her time, not when it is homework and she has to read every night, so it is a battle because it is a HAVE to not because she wants to...!! HUGS

Does he know how? Does he know his letters? I know he's a little old, but try the letter factory and word factory dvds by leap frog. My three year old loves telling me what sounds letters make because of these. good luck!

You might appreciate the book "The Read Aloud Handbook" by Jim Trelease. It's out in several updated editions,and I think Trelease is pretty much a genius. He talks a lot about reluctant readers, and although there is no magic fix, he talks about how to make reading a family affair to boost enthusiasm. One of his suggestions is to give your child a reading lamp and say, "If you'd like to stay up and read, you can stay up for 15 more minutes. If you'd rather not read, you need to turn the light off at your regular bedtime."
Our family has also really enjoyed books on CD, especially the Harry Potter audio books. The guy who reads the stories, Jim Daly, is a highly-trained actor and does voices to really make things come alive. It could be fun to listen together and follow along in a book.
Good luck!

the testing advice is good, but in the interim, I would try this: instead of just using books, I would just try breaking down the art of storytelling. At bedtime or maybe dinner time try a 'game' like "finish my sentence". You start a sentence such as- there once was a boy who ..., then he takes over with something like- lived in a castle..., then you keep taking turns to see how the story turns out. the sentences can be as simple or complex as his frustration level will tolerate, that's up to you. take your cues from him- he will let you know how easy or hard the story should get. the point is to get him interested in stories again. you work back up to books.

another game is "fortunately, unfortunately". similar concept.
you- fortunately there was a boy who was eating lunch
him- unfortunately a dog came along and stole his sandwich
you- fortunately it was bologna and the boy didn't want it anyway
him- unfortunately the dog was allergic to bologna and threw up the sandwich all over the rest of his lunch
etc, etc.

things like this, again, get him away from feeling forced to read or trigger frustrations, but get him to enjoy stories. you're building back up to enjoying reading or stories. but definitely some testing is in order.

best of luck.

Do you have a reading specialist at your school? Your son's teacher could also test him to see what level reading he is. It could be that he is below reading level and not enjoying it because it is too hard. He should be at LEAST at his grade level in reading, but better yet...above it to really start enjoying books. He could read books just below his reading level for a few weeks, then up it to his reading level, then higher, etc. It is very important that he reads aloud to you every day. But so you know for sure, I would get someone to test him and then go from there. There are phonics programs like Reading Reflex and Spalding that help with phonics/spelling rules.

Hi M.--

I'd suggest either getting a tutor or working closely with the reading specialist at his school and tutoring him yourself (based on the specialist's suggestions). I don't want to be alarmist or anything, but as far as his education goes, this is a huge part of the big picture. Often, not liking or wanting to read is directly related to how well kids are able to read--you need to make sure that he is at or above grade level or you could continue to face problems with this. Given that he isn't doing well in school, it seems like he might not be at grade level right now. Not being able to read well will affect all of his school efforts, and could make him feel bad about himself and insecure about academics.

I suggest that you make an appointment with his teacher, and then follow up with the school's reading specialist (use the teacher as the resource if there isn't a specialist). They can help you make a plan that will get your son on track.

Good luck, and good for you for paying attention and taking care of this!

Get him tested. It is possible that he has a moderate case of dislexia. It sounds exactly like my cousins. It's more common in boys and it isn't fun to read when you can't make sense of what you just read. It may not be the case, but I'd rather rule it out than wait too long.


Ok, have you tried getting the audio books and him a cd player to listen to them.

You get a good book reader and it will spark his interest.
I think they have started to come out with some video books also.

Not all kids like to read, even when the subject is something they are interested in.
Is he having difficulty reading?
And whatever he is interested in, take him to that business and let him see what it takes and let him talk with someone IN that business so he understands that no matter what you do in life, you are going to have to be able to read or you will not do that job well.
Anyway, good luck.

I agree, I would start with the school. Talk to his teacher and see what she thinks. I am sure there are reading specialists at the school. They can evaluate him and better guide you and your son.

Has he been tested for dyslexia? That would help anyone melt down. Get some books that have a tape to go with it so he can hear the words as he reads them. Stop the tape, and have him read to you. No matter how upset he gets you will need to be patient and soothing. You will soon see if he has trouble with the words. If he does, then it's up to you to get him help, or patiently help him yourself. Don't let a meltdown keep you from helping him. Let him know no matter how he acts, he must read. Consistency will win out every time!

Get his eyes checked! I worked for an eye doctor, and saw this all the time! Blurred vision makes everything difficult, and if he throws a fit when having to read, good chances that is why. If he gets shy in the exam room, the doc will have ways of using his instruments to get an accurate reading as to if he needs Rx glasses. Good luck!

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