How to trick kids into reading so they don't realise they're doing it

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

If you've got a kid who will read everything and anything. that's fantastic. You can probably stop right here and use the time to go to the library.

Then there are those who have reluctant readers, for whom the literacy journey will look and feel very different.

If you've got more than one child, chances are you might have some very different attitudes and abilities to reading all under the one roof and it can be hard to juggle the different needs for multiple children.

There are some tricks of the trade, however, to help your reluctant readers engage with print so they don't even realise they're doing it.

Here are 6 ways of making kids engage with reading so they barely know they're doing it.

Find the humour

Making something funny or into a game is a sure-fire way of engaging kids with anything. Point to a word you know your kid can read and say a different word, allowing them to catch you out in your silly mistake. Belly laughs are guaranteed and Kinder/Prep kids will find this an especially effective tactic as they learn to read for the first time.

Rather than reading their home readers in the standard, linear way, have them find the same word on each page as quickly as they can. Make it physical by having them run to the fridge and back to then find the word. Tickle them under the chin when they find the word. Make a funny face when they find the word. Anything to make it funny.

Making reading informal and hilarious will make most kids' reluctance and fear melt away and will encourage them to engage their existing reading skills and learn new ones.

Environmental print is king

Long before anyone can read an actual book, they are engaging in environmental reading. Your three-year-old knows what a stop sign is because you've been on so many car rides where you've pointed out that red hexagonal sign and explained what it says. What has long become second nature to us as adults, is the ultimate opportunity to engage kids.


Road signs, adverts, car number plates, shop signs, footpath printing, street art, bus timetables, maps, shopping centre indexes, labels on products in the supermarket - there is quite literally print everywhere.

You don't have to go gung-ho on it or they'll cotton on. Just point things out a few times a day, or ask them to perform a reading job for you to do you a favour, like looking up the time of the next bus, or having them find a product in the supermarket.

An example of environmental print. Photo: Shutterstock

Electronic reading is still reading

Don't underestimate the power of a digital text. Our small digital natives are learning to digest print in many more forms than we did. If paper books aren't cutting it, invest in some electronic books. Many educational games and apps also require some reading in order to operate them.

Comics, magazines and graphic novels

Stories presented as pictures with some accompanying words can assist readers to make connections between text and narrative. Just because they don't present the way that novels do, doesn't negate their value as a literacy tool. For some kids, comics are their only open door to reading. If they are compelled to read them, let them. And without judgement.

Experience books

While there are thousands of books for early childhood that utilise the physical element to engage, these all but disappear for older readers. You can seek out like pop up books and activity books that require them to read instructions in order to complete activities.

Personal interest

This one might sound like common sense but when you're trying to get your kids into novels, you may well be barking up the wrong tree. If they like Star Wars then why not engage them with a book about minifigs?

Soccer mad? There is a legion of texts on game tactics and the life stories of the most famous players.

Leave a newspaper article or National Geographic Kids magazine lying around. Look up age-appropriate websites on topics that interest your child and discuss the content shown. They won't even know you've sneakily engaged them with text.