How to teach a child to read at home

  A trial and error story

It’s been a long and hard road trying to find ways for our son to like (love will come later) reading, there were many times he wanted to give up, and we couldn’t blame him because it was the same for us.

We could see he was struggling during his first years at school with pronunciations, understanding and other reading basics. However, we thought most kids had some issues, be it big or small. Of course, helping him not only learn how to read but really enjoy reading was one of the most important things we could do as parents. We understood that, and that’s why no one was allowed to give up.

Over the years the investment on our time and energy was agonizingly painful. And I am not talking about just helping him read, but his lack of retaining any sort of corrections. He seemed uninterested in stories read to him and even more uninterested when it was his turn to read.


Our son is also bilingual and we live in France, and that probably had a lot to do with it as well, according to some expert. But we were not so much focused on English reading, we wanted him to master reading in the language he was better at (in this case French), and then we would gradually move on to English.

It was a complete mystery; after all our son was such a loving and sensitive boy – the perfect “gentleboy”, with perfect manners. He had excellent common sense, he was a protective big brother and looked out for all his classmates. He was very outgoing, and a complete little social butterfly. At home he did his chores and was always willing to get his hands dirty, going the extra mile than what was expected from him. Everyone loved him. I was so proud of him.

Still though, we were fighting tooth and nail to get him to read, and we forged ahead (what else could we do?). I knew he was going to read like a champion one day it’s just that, that day had to come. We knew we played a critical role, and we could make or break his desire and interest in reading. We were afraid of putting a cloud over his little curious mind, and so we kept the encouragement even at the most difficult of times.

Fast-forward to five years later, we are not sure when it happened but very happy that it did.

We wish we knew the exact moment our son started loving reading, but we don’t. What we can say is that as soon as there was a change we picked up on it.

And now (drum roll) we would like to share with you what we’ve learned in trying different ways to get our boy to read. We are almost sure it was a combination of it all.

Subscribe to children’s magazines

There were some trials and errors here. We subscribed to 3 different magazines that came in on a monthly and bi-weekly basis. Out of the 3 subscriptions our son only like one, and that one was full of comics, which explained why he loved reading it. Not exactly what I wanted, but he was reading so who was to complain. Eventually, he started reading the entire magazine (non-comic sections as well). In our house you’ll find magazines in the toilet, magazines on the dining table, magazines under pillows… you get the idea. That was a score!

Read out loud

I was speaking to a coworker who had a son about the same age (10 years old) who casually mentioned that she was reading out loud with her son and they were both really enjoying it. So we decided to gave it a try.  I read you read, it connected us, it was our time together. He mimicked my pronunciations, tone, and pauses. This has been one of my favorites as we both enjoyed it.

Buy Books

We were super excited about the reading out loud exercise and wanted to stock up on books, lots and lots of books. So I went out (without our son) and bought many second-hand books. I stacked them nicely on the bookshelf, and like my parents did when they bought me my first encyclopedia collection years ago, I waited for the magic to happen. Though he did choose some book to read, I could see he was not too impressed with them. Exactly how I felt about the encyclopedias, I get shivers just thinking about them. But at least he read. Lesson learned unless the child chooses the book, it’s pretty much a hit and miss situation you’re getting into. At least his bookshelf is full.


My son has done many sports from judo to tennis, to rowing to rugby, but all of these sports are what we thought he would like and wanted him to do. He did tennis because his father was a fanatic. He rowed because I was so into rowing. While he liked these sports, he wasn’t really into them.

However, the year he turned 11, he wanted to swim, and we had no influence over that decision. So we signed him up for swimming. I cannot say how much we’ve seen a change in him. He absolutely loves it. His mind is clearer, he focuses better, he’s more Zen (and hungry) after his sessions. He’s won 2 mini competition which boosted his confidence more. I have never seen him enjoy a sport the way he enjoys swimming. Score!

Visit the library

We loved visiting different libraries, but THE ONE that did it for him was not far from his school and had many children’s book in English (as well as French). Spending a couple of hours at the library a few times per week was the ultimate in his case. He independently found books that he loved in both English and French and he read on his own at his own pace.

He borrowed different books that he really liked each week. And then he found it – The Wimpy book series. I can’t say enough how much he loved reading these books. It made him laugh, but most importantly he read and read and read. He couldn’t put these books down. I was so happy. I was so proud.

Lesson learnt

We’ve learned the love of reading is a continued process, and cliché as it may sound, practice makes perfect. The more you read, the better you become. This is by no means the end (au contraire!) but he’s on his way, and he’s happy where he’s at the moment. From our experience, it’s not just about one thing, but a combination of different ideas and finding topics and stories that are interesting to the child.

The above worked for our son, coupled with lots of love and encouragement (and wine for me). What’s more important is that you never give up and go with your instinct, and don’t forget to always encourage and show love.

How about you? How did you teach your child to read? Would love to hear from you, share your comments below!

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