The Stuff of Life

Reluctant Readers


I love the written word. My nose was in a book from the time I learned to read until the day Iowa State University’s English department sucked all joy of reading right out of my soul by forcing more books down my throat than I could handle (but that’s a story for another day.)

When I was young it was Sweet Valley Twins, Babysitter’s Club and Nancy Drew. As I got older I began reading things like Gone With the Wind and Frank Peretti books. Being taken to another world through the words on a sheet of paper was a favorite pastime. As I have returned to the wonderful world of books after long post-college reading hiatus, two of my children have entered.

Carter is an avid reader. If the book or magazine is good, he’ll lose track of time reading it. It makes me smile to watch him, and shocks me a little that he can read as fast as I can.

Owen did not inherit my love of books. As a struggling reader early on, books were synonymous with hard work not fun. In early second grade, when he was behind the reading benchmark, we implemented a reward system as an incentive for him to read. A silly band for every 10 minutes worked like magic. From there we moved on to football cards and by the end of second grade, he had a coffee canister full of silly bands, hundreds of football cards and a good handle on reading.

We have since changed our strategy a bit. The boys chart their reading and earn money for it, which they can save up for things like an airsoft gun (Owen) or a Kindle (Carter). They are also required to read 10 minutes in the Bible each day before using their electronic gadgets. (They may not think so now, but they will come to realize that reading the Bible is a better use of time than playing Tiny Tower.)

It is a blessing that Carter enjoys reading, but I am not disappointed that Owen doesn’t have the same love. Our point in encouraging him to read is not that he will become a bookworm, but that he will become a competent reader. And he is well on his way to that.

I’d love to hear the tactics you use on your reluctant readers. Who knows, we may need to change our approach again, and it would be great to have some ideas in advance.


Author: Kim Harms

I am a contributor at CT Women (previously known as Today's Christian Woman where I was a regular contributor as well). I blog monthly at and have freelanced for a variety of publications including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Thriving Family and Creation Illustrated. Cancer made an unwelcome visit in my breast in January 2016, and I am now working on a book about breast reconstruction after having gone through the insane process myself. My incredible husband of 18 years, Corey, is my biggest writing cheerleader and together we are having a ball raising our three growing boys; Carter 15, Owen 14 and Lewis 10.

3 thoughts on “Reluctant Readers

  1. Not sure how popular our approach will be, but it has sure worked for us! Clara is a good reader, but rarely wanted to sit & read without being told to. Hard for me to blame her since as you know I’m definitely not a reader, but for some reason I really want my kids to be! So we finally came up with this incentive that has actually worked — if she reads an entire (long) book, she gets an “all electronics” day — they get to play various electronics or watch tv/movies as much as they want the entire day. I’ve been reading the books with her (I read one page & she reads the next) & it has turned into something we both really enjoy & have really gotten into the books. It’s been surprising how quickly we’ve gotten thru the books because she wants to read almost every day. It’s helped her enjoy reading more & been some great quality time for us to spend together just us (which rarely happens too)! We’ve read the first 3 Harry Potter books and are now about halfway thru the 4th book. We’ve honestly had a lot of fun on our “electronics” days too — we play the wii, watch movies, play the computer, etc. The other kids love it too!! I’m already looking forward to doing this with Jairus soon too!

  2. That might be something to think about for this summer. We’ve been a little lax on the “electronics” rules this spring, but I know I want to add some more boundaries when school is out. That might work. We haven’t read the Harry Potter books. Are you liking them? I’ve thought about getting them for Carter’s kindle.

    • I honestly really like them! I wasn’t sure I was going to & only doing it because I thought Clara might like them, but I’ve gotten into them just as much if not more than her. There are definitely days that if we weren’t reading them together, I would keep reading surprisingly enough! And the whole wizard thing doesn’t bother us so it depends on how you stand on that too! I think they are very well written & fun.

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