Aunt Juniper: MY 13yo IS A READING-REFUSER

Dear Aunt Juniper,

My 13 year old has completely given up reading. All through primary school he practically inhaled books, but in the last year or so he has started avoiding reading and now point blank refuses to read anything other than the absolute essentials.

I am desperate for him to get his nose back into books, but the more I push, the more he pushes back.

I’ve tried giving him free reign in a book shop, I’ve bought him age appropriate magazines and have even given him my laptop in the vague hope he might use it to read something.

What tips do you have for getting a reluctant reader back on the book loving horse?’

From, Dad of an ex-book-worm.

Dear Dad of an ex-book-worm,

What you are experiencing is completely normal, especially where boys are concerned. I genuinely identify with you, having taught in a boys’ school for ten years I found it incredibly frustrating to be faced on a daily basis with teenagers who told me that English was pointless and books were boring!

If I’m completely honest you’ve done well to keep your son reading until now. In my experience a love of reading starts to wane once children begin secondary school and teachers start to push the importance of grades, grades, grades.

It sounds like you’ve got the right approach with the alternatives that you are suggesting to him. My advice, however, would be to not push too hard – in my experience this only serves to completely switch off a reluctant reader. It is especially important to avoid pushing children into reading books that they perceive as being too ‘hard’ for them. As a generalisation, boys are less likely to tackle books that they feel are too difficult or challenging.

Enjoying books as a whole family is very important. Watching parents, especially Dad where reluctant boy readers are concerned, read and enjoy books is very important to an uninspired reader. After all our children take their cues from us, even if they’d hate to admit it. Try to avoid quizzing your son about the books he is reading at school, it should never be about testing what has been read, it’s all about loving stories and discussing them together.

Don’t forget storytelling is not just about books. Have you tried talking about the plot of a favourite film? What is enjoyable about it? Which characters are favourites? What makes them come alive on the screen? You could then try to introduce the book version of a film you have all enjoyed together – try also reading it yourself so you can discuss it with your son. I have also found using graphic novels works well to coax reluctant readers back into the world of reading. Because there are no, or fewer words there has to be a discussion about what is happening in the story. You could also try audiobooks, this way they don’t have to actually read the book and someone else will do all the work to bring the characters to life. I have used all of these methods in lessons with reluctant readers to good effect.

As a last ditch effort, have you tried simply leaving books lying around the house for your son to pick up? You never know, one may pique his interest enough to actually read it.

You could try some of the following authors and titles; they are often well received by pre-teen readers:

Cressida Cowell – The How To Train Your Dragon series Phillip Pullman – His Dark Materials Anthony Horowitz – The Alex Rider series Malorie Blackman – Noughts and Crosses Chris Priestley – Tales of Terror Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games Jon Mayhew – The Demon Collector Helen Grant – The Glass Demon Darren Shan – The Zom-B series

I feel very strongly that children don’t hate books – they just haven’t found the right one for them yet!

Good luck!

Lots of Love,

Aunt Juniper* xx


*On this occasion, Aunt Juniper was Lynsey Garwood, English Teacher.

Lynsey has been teaching in London secondary schools for twelve years, ten of those were spent in an Independent Boys’ School in North West London. She now teaches children aged 7 – 16 in a Tennis Academy in South West London.




‘What about Kindle or iTunes books?’‬

‪’Do not press the issue, suggestion: buy comics, suggest volunteering to read to children / elderly in hospitals etc.’‬

‪’Reading sports section of news paper? Or whatever section that interests him!‬’

‪’Find books that use to interest him and read them out loud. My co-workers at school still used to read out loud to their secondary school children. It might hook him back in. Worth a try. X’‬

‪’As a secondary teacher I would say don’t push it too much. You don’t want reading to be a chore or something he feels forced into. Letting him loose in a bookshop might be too much choice. I’d consider going into somewhere like Waterstones and getting some advice on the best new books; I know authors like Darren Shan and Derek Landy are very popular, if they suit your son’s interest. Otherwise try the autobiographies of musicians or sports stars, for example. I’d get a couple and just leave them in his room. Don’t force it.’

‘Make sure the house is a reading friendly house: make sure he sees you reading and that there are times when the TV is off, for example. And wait for him to come back to books. There are a lot of demands on his time at the moment and he’s bound to want to be exploring new interests, but hopefully if reading is in the background he’ll find it again.’

‘Leave a copy of Adrian Mole lying around… It’s a bit rude but not too much…”


Note: These are suggestions from members of Mummy’s Gin Fund based on experience and should not be treated as official advice. Any action taken is at your own risk. Always seek professional advice if you have any questions or concerns about any aspect of your life.

Always consult NHS 111, your GP, health visitor or A&E for professional medical advice.


Founder of MGF, Helen is a mum of four who spends way too much time on the interweb and not enough time in bed. She loves wearing her dressing gown, car boot sales and watching TV programmes featuring food. Her specialist subjects include 'how to overfill your car boot' and 'how to avoid dusting'. Follow her at Twitter: @Ginfund, Facebook: @MGFund, Instagram: @mummysginfund and online:

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