“But Mom, I hate to read!” These words make any parent cringe, especially one who loves to curl up with a good book. But some children, even those with strong skills, would rather do anything than read. Others have learning difficulties and find reading a struggle.

What you can do to encourage your reluctant reader

Connect reading with your child’s passions with magazines.

Whether it’s soccer, skateboarding, or space travel, get a subscription to a magazine on that topic. Also consider general magazines for children, such as Highlights, National Geographic Kids, and more (here’s a great list). If it has your child’s name on the address label, a magazine becomes a personal invitation to read.

Tell your child a joke or a riddle — and pull out the book where you found it.

Joke books, riddle books, and books of sports trivia are irresistible to some of the most reluctant readers. Keep a book like this handy in the car, in the kitchen, at the doctor’s office, on vacation or at the ballpark.

Read books with your child that have silly drawings or humor only a kid would love.

You might not like the humor of the Captain Underpants series, but your 9- to 12-year-old may love it. See our list of humor books for kids.

Show your child that books are the keys to achieving a desirable skill.

Does your tween want to put sequins on their jeans? Does your child want to do magic tricks? Is your little one dreaming of getting a new a pet and need to know more about howo to take care of it? Show your child how books can give step-by-step instructions (yes, just like YouTube or TikTok!).

Introduce a book series.

Books don’t need to be great literature to be great. A cool series can entice a less confident or skilled reader because of their predictable themes and familiar characters. Reading books like the Encyclopedia Brown series can help your child prepare for more substantial reading. See our lists of best book series for kids.

Pitfalls to avoid as you encourage your reluctant reader

If you have a son who is a reluctant reader, ask your librarian which authors have an age-appropriate following among boys. For example, Walter Dean Myers is an award-winning author who writes about a wide range of topics from basketball to biography. Some of his books are more appropriate for teenagers, such as Slam!, which is about a Harlem high school boy who loves basketball and struggles with school. And Shooter focuses on the aftermath of a high school shooting. But Myers also writes books for younger readers. Among them: The Greatest: Muhammad Ali and Smiffy Blue, Ace Crime Detective: The Case of the Missing Ruby and Other Stories. Luckily, your local librarian can almost always steer you in the right direction.

California school librarian Ellen Phillips has worked for years with readers, both enthusiastic and reluctant, in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District in Mission Viejo, CA. “My feeling about ‘free reading time’ is that it has to be free,” she says. “To say you have to be reading a novel is unrealistic for some kids. Some kids just don’t enjoy fiction.”

Phillips and other reading experts underscore the importance of reading with your child. “One of the big mistakes parents make is to stop reading to their kids once they can read chapter books,” says Phillips. There are many hidden benefits to reading aloud to your child even though they can read independently. But if that doesn’t work for your family, she suggests reading the same book at the same time and then just chatting about it — or you can even start a parent-child book club.

Whether you’re reading aloud together, chatting, or discussing a book in book club, “It helps you know if they’re comprehending what they read, and it also gives you something to talk about as kids get older,” she says. “We sometimes drive some kids to hate reading by making them do something after they finish a book — make a diorama or write a book report.

Instead, she urges, think about what comes naturally or sounds more fun. “As an adult, think about what you do when you finish a book you like. You tell someone about it. Basically, you just have a conversation.” And that builds a love of reading, too.