Escaping a reading slump: 10 tips

Even children who love books hit reading slumps. Reading suddenly becomes an effort and ceases to bring joy. Other things like Netflix or gaming or Pinterest seem so much less effort and offer a welcome distraction. With every book started and tossed aside, the frustration grows.  As parents we may be watching this anxiously and wonder if they will ever read voluntarily again!

And this is the situation for children who like reading, let alone the ones who need a certain amount of encouragement at the best of times. As parents we want our children to be readers, after all, it’s good for them. How we respond to their reading slumps is therefore crucial. 

Rather than mirroring their frustrations by forcing them to finish a book as if it were an unsavoury vegetable on their plate, the situation calls for a gentler approach.  Forcing children to read is more likely to have the opposite result to the one we want. It’s also good to remember that reading slumps are part of a reader’s life, in fact, are part of being a reader. Our reading paths have their hills and rocky slopes that will make us wonder why we don’t rather just reach for the remote. Any reader knows this from personal experience.

I like to return to Daniel Pennac’s passionate defence of reading for pleasure, “The Rights of the Reader” as a trusted guide for how to deal with a reading slump. Rights 1 (the right not to read) and 3 (the right not to finish a book) apply directly and definitely should be respected. He reminds us that there is nothing wrong with not reading, “Most readers exercise the right not to read on a daily basis. Given the choice between a good book and a bad TV show, the latter wins out more often than we care to admit. Nor do we read all the time. Bouts of reading are often punctuated by long periods of abstinence.”

The point is, it’s okay. Our children follow their own reading paths that will meander through these rocky patches of not reading. What is perhaps more important is how can we as adult caregivers entice them gently to keep trying to find that one book that will guide them out?

So, to answer that question, here are ten suggestions for how to get out of a reading slump:

  1. Revisit an old favourite: Sometimes we find comfort in the familiar. Reread a tried and tested book that you know makes you feel good (even if you don’t finish it).
  2. Join or start a book club: Talking to others about books can be the inspiration you need to get started again.
  3. Find somewhere exciting to read: A change of scenery can change our perspective and mood; build a fort, have a picnic in the garden or park, hide away somewhere, read by torchlight under the covers. 
  4. Try an audiobook: The same amount of story for less effort. This might just be the steppingstone you need to get you out of the slump.
  5. Reorganise your bookshelf: By colour, by author, by genre – whatever takes your fancy. Just being around your collection can be a boost, plus you never know what unread treasures you might find.
  6. See it, then read it: Sometimes watching the movie can inspire you to read the book.
  7. Read a poem: Why not start small and short to reconnect with words on the page?
  8. Try a graphic novel: This can be a great way to switch it up in terms of what a story looks like. Stories come in all shapes and sizes after all. 
  9. Log off and schedule reading time: We all know the internet is the black hole of time, so why not plan short, manageable chunks of time to spend where you pretend the internet doesn’t exist. 
  10. Write instead: If you can’t find the story you want to read, write one instead! Have fun with characters, settings and plots and see where it takes you.


Good luck!

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