#RaisingReaders Monday: Treat Picky Readers Like Picky Eaters

I know an awful lot of picky eaters. Kids who drive their parents to distraction by refusing to eat anything but the same 4 foods, prepared the same way, morning, noon and night. Oh, I know those kids.  I’m raising those kids.  God forbid I buy the wrong brand of chicken nugget or forget that crusts must be cut off of toast and sandwiches (but can be left on bread and butter!) My youngest daughter will only eat a bagel if I cut it into triangles. This week.

We all handle that picky-eater battleground in our own way, but what the experts tell us is that it takes time for kids to come around to new things. They tell us to make sure the kids are eating a fairly-well-balanced diet, introduce new things over and over next to familiar things, and be patient. They tell us to put out choices and let the kids choose what they like. They tell us to eat a variety of foods in front of our children and talk about how much we like them. And over time, the kids will get more adventurous, try new things, become teens and adults who love many kinds of food (and take pictures of it to post on instagram).

Picky readers are a lot like picky eaters.  We can use a lot of the same tactics to help them, too. But it took me time to realize that – just like it took me time to realize that a diet of nuggets, mandarin oranges and noodles wasn’t going to ruin my child forever.

I admit that there are times when I look at the books my kids are reading and say “can’t you choose something a little more worthwhile?” or more to the point, “I am not buying another Barbie book. Ever.” I worry that if they read poorly written, highly commercial books now, they’ll never learn to enjoy the gourmet tastes of fine literature. If they refuse to read anything but comics now, they will miss out on the mental nutrition that can only be found in non-fiction.

The experts say I should stop worrying – and you should, too. The advice for parents of picky readers is much the same as that for picky eaters:

1. Make sure they’re reading something – anything – everyday.  

2. Read a variety of books/materials in front of them – and talk about how much you enjoy them. 

3. Let them choose books that appeal to them – even if that means relying on familiar characters and shiny packaging to get them excited.

4. Allow them to read the same books over and over – but offer other options right alongside them.

5. Be patient. Sooner or later, they will branch out into new reading material. And you can post a picture of it on instagram!


Are their picky readers in your house? What tickles their literary taste-buds and gets them excited to read? Is it a familiar favorite? Movie tie-ins? Tips to win their favorite video game? Something all their friends are reading? I can’t wait to hear what works for you!

Happy reading!



18 thoughts on “#RaisingReaders Monday: Treat Picky Readers Like Picky Eaters

  1. When I taught reading at Kumon during high school I would usually ask a kid “what do you want to read about?” and offer some options: princesses, animals, adventure, something funny, superheroes (I almost always offered both princesses and superheroes to both the boys and the girls). By giving them a few options of subject matter and then giving a few options that matched those subjects I could usually get reluctant readers to choose books that they would enjoy and that I found to have more merit than shiny/commercialized books. For the really stubborn kids we started with those commercialized books though and gradually added more advanced content–we wouldn’t have broken the seal without Barbie and Pokemon though.


  2. What an apt comparison! I know… I have both 🙂 One thing that worked well for us was having story time together every evening. My kids are spaced at about 2 year intervals, so I would read a little bit of a chapter book for the oldest, nonfiction for the middle, and picture books for the youngest – they all listened (knowing they got their own turn) and they all got to hear a bunch of different things. I admit it, though, I agreed to Captain Underpants to encourage the middle child’s love of reading 🙂 I’m glad I did. He’s 19 now and still a great reader 🙂


    • That’s a great way to make sure they all experience different kinds of books – thank you for sharing it! I didn’t think about it – but we often do the same. Mine are also about 2 years apart ( though my oldest is now just 9), and we spend a lot of evenings curled up in my bed, rotating through each kid’s “pick.”


  3. I have a couple of those too! The ones pictured are some of Joshua’s favorites. MO Willems and Doris Cronin are huge hits with my just-turned-seven-year-old. I have not seen Animal Jam! That looks like one my boys would like too!


    • Thanks so much for sharing! I should have known you’d know what boys like! My kids love Mo Willems, too. I cannot for the life of me figure out how he can use so few words and get such huge laughs – but when I do figure it out, watch out world!


  4. My picky reader actually loves to read, but only when he’s in the mood. Just this week, he’s discovered the Origami Yoda series and he’s devouring them. He even got up at 5:15 the other morning and read for an hour until I got up.


    • Those books are fabulous – I have trouble putting them down.
      I think it’s wonderful that you give your son the flexibility and control to read when he wants to, not when he “has” to. Just another way to make sure he grows up loving reading, instead of thinking of it as a chore or obligation. Thanks for sharing your good parenting skills with us all!


    • Every child is so different in what they are drawn to – whether it be food or books. But I think you are right- being exposed to many options from a young age makes “pickiness” so much easier to overcome!


  5. This is a fantastic insight! My ex-husband has been trying for 2 years now to get our daughters to read his favourite series from his childhood – The Belgariad by David Eddings. It’s gotten to the point that they don’t want to talk to him about what they are reading. Mine are FAR from picky readers, but I can totally see how trying to force a pickier child in one reading direction could be detrimental.

    Thanks, again, for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ohhh, I love those books! But I understand how kids sometimes resist the books parents push. I told my daughter again and again that she would love Island of the Blue Dolphins, but she would not pick it up until a friend recommended it. Now she’s read it four times.

      Same way she started eating hummus, actually.


    • I not-so-fondly remember those days! It’s just wonderful to let kids choose books that keep their interest. Thanks for dropping by from Twinkly Tuesday! Hope to see more of you around the blogosphere.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Twinkly Tuesday - May 19, 2015 | How Do You Do It?

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