Is your child a reluctant reader? Speak to reading expert Anne Kitchin about how to enthuse new readers in our Webchat.

(40 Posts)
MNBirminghamLocalEd Wed 26-Feb-14 22:20:21

Next Thursday is World Book Day, when children of all ages will come together to “appreciate reading”.

But what happens when your child doesn’t appreciate it, finds it very difficult or actively avoids it?

Anne Kitchin is a primary school teacher with a particular interest in encouraging every child’s love of reading. She has developed a parents’ toolkit through which you can learn how best to help your child. The toolkit is currently available as a one-week course in the beautiful Peak District of Derbyshire as well as online via Skype. One example of a pupil who worked with both Anne and his parents was able to raise his reading age by 2.5 years in 5 months, and has hugely improved his writing and spelling as well.

Anne will be here online to answer your questions about reading at 1pm next Thursday March 6th or you can submit questions to her in advance, below.

You can find lots more information about books and reading on Anne’s website at

TiredAsANewt Thu 06-Mar-14 13:51:04

Thought so. Will try the Secret Seven (even though still Enid Blyton, will feel like treachery as was always a Famous 5 kid, myself).

Anne Kitchin Thu 06-Mar-14 13:53:39

If any of you are waiting for an answer to your question, I'll be with you as soon as I can; can't type fast enough!

Anne Kitchin Thu 06-Mar-14 13:54:33

My son is age 7. Having enjoyed choosing books whilst he was younger, I now feel a bit overwhelmed in the bookshops and library and tend to end up choosing authors that I remember from my childhood. He likes reading funny stories and is also sport mad. Are there any books or authors that you could recommend? Also, do you have any tips on how we can encourage him to use expression when reading aloud and how to use the punctuation to help the flow of the story. Thanks very much.

There is, as you say, an overwhelming array of books available nowadays. I find that the best way to find new books is to choose ones that have reviews of 4 or 5 stars, by lots of children, on sites like Amazon. If one child has enjoyed a story, it is likely that others will also think it is good. My website, only features books that children have said are really, really good. Have a look at Tom Palmer, the author, for sports books. He was a reluctant reader at school who now visits schools motivating young readers with his football and rugby books.
It is lovely to be able to share the books you loved as a child. Sometimes, however, the older books have a great deal of description in and in our rushed world, it seems children always seem to want something to happen quickly in their stories.
As far as expression is concerned, read a sentence (perhaps one with an exclamation mark) to your son in a voice that you think is appropriate and then get him to copy. Also, ask him to stop for a long time when he gets to a full stop. He’ll soon speed up again once he has got the idea.

Anne Kitchin Thu 06-Mar-14 14:02:50

my dd's ((almost 7) has come on in leaps and bounds over the past 6 months. She' was a fairly reluctant reader but is now happy to read her school book to me for 10 minutes every morning. Result! However, other than the odd sign/line here and there she prefers me to read to her. I don't mind this at all (love it infact!) but I would like tips on how to make the transition from her seeing it as a "school" thing to a "pleasure" thing. She also finds Chapter books daunting but is actually quite capable ...

Did your daughter find it very hard to read or was she just not interested? We do teach our children to read very early on in the UK, compared to the continent and sometimes it takes a while for them to become interested.
However, if she still finds it very difficult or has trouble "sounding out" or "spelling" she may have something that is stopping her learning to read effectively. Please feel free to contact me through my website if you'd like some one to one advice on this. Otherwise, follow the suggestions that I've made elsewhere in this thread to getting children reading for pleasure.

Anne Kitchin Thu 06-Mar-14 14:10:26

LEWorcestershire Hello Anne, my son was 2 yesterday. I do keep trying to read him stories and share books, but we're only successful about 1/2 the time. He often just walks off or turns the pages in a random order which I then find frustrating. Mumsnet is full of posters who claim their 18 month old plus babies will sit and listen to a Julia Donaldson all the way through but there's no hope with DS! Should I worry or is this normal and I'll just keep persevering?

I don't have that much experience of this age, but I find that by the time they get to 6 or 7 they usually love stories. Perhaps you could bounce this off your health visitor who works with children of this age all the time. It must be very frustrating to read all about other Mums whose children sit and read for long periods of time!

LEWorcestershire Thu 06-Mar-14 14:13:01

Thanks Hummingbird2 smile The 50% of the time when he does engage is lovely and I hadn't thought to check with the HV about it!

Anne Kitchin Thu 06-Mar-14 14:23:52

bouncy chair
^What's the best way to encourage boys to read?
I've a 3 year old who has always enjoyed books and we read to him every night. How can we encourage him (without being pushy parents!) to take the next steps? (and what are the next steps??)^

I personally don't think that you will need to make a distinction when teaching him to read because he is a boy(it is often only later that boys become a bit more reluctant). I would get him some flashcards from WHSmith or the Early Learning Centre with both pictures and words on them. Then make it a game. I used to dance round the settee with my son(at about that age) and every time I reached the corner, I held up a flashcard and he saw the picture that went with the word. He thought this was hilarious!
Soon he could do the words without the pictures.
After that you could get him some basic readers like the Floppy and Kipper books "Read at Home" from places like "The Works". If you want to follow the system they use at school, try the Jolly Phonics books.

Fluffymilly Thu 06-Mar-14 14:46:09

My friend's 7 year old is struggling with his reading. He finds sounding out the letters very difficult and also has great problems with spelling. any suggestions?

Anne Kitchin Thu 06-Mar-14 15:06:03


Does it matter if you don't read the school book every night? I would prefer them to grow up with a love of reading rather than for it to be a chore.
School do like you to try and read most nights as this is the quickest way to get children to read and they then have the continuity; remembering the words or sounds they have read the day before. However, I do agree that the most important thing is that your child grows up with a love of reading rather than it being a chore.
Is your child resisting? If so, it may be worth having a word with his/her class teacher just to let them know. They may have some suggestions to make. If you don't get anywhere with school on this one, please feel free to contact me again through my website, Hummingbird Books.

Anne Kitchin Thu 06-Mar-14 15:32:45


my son is in his reception year at school and groans whenever we get his school reading book out. he usually loves books when one of us reads aloud to him and we visit the library often. I find that he won't try and will guess what sentences might be based on the pictures and once he does know the words he just says them by rote so im not convinced he has learnt to read the basic words. Would you recommend trying to teach him words without pictures or is that going to totally kill his limited enthusiasm? are there other methods of teaching him that don't have to involve boring old biff, chip and kipper? can you recommend other ways to encourage him?

We do, as I was saying earlier, teach our children to read very early in the UK so I believe it is possible that some children are not really mature enough to cope with it. But I think it is also very important to consider whether the child is really having difficulty in learning to read.
Children at an early reading stage do rely very heavily on pictures to grasp the meaning of the story, so I don't think it would be a good idea to take away the pictures. But if a child is constantly guessing the words and is having problems "sounding out" the words, it may be worth considering if there is an underlying difficulty.
Three children in every class are dyslexic (to some degree) and in my opinion it is never too early to start thinking of this as a possibility. Schools often tell parents that in any child it is far too early to consider dyslexia before the age of 7, but I believe that if a parent at least keeps it at the back of their mind and perhaps uses some of the methods in which we teach dyslexic children to read, they are less likely to get behind at school. There is an excellent book called "Toe by Toe" which can be used to help any child who is experiencing reading difficulties. I write about it on my blog(see link below), although I probably wouldn't use it with a child before Y1.

Anyway, keep reading to your son. That is definitely the best way to keep him engaged with books. Also, have a look at some of the other posts on this thread about choosing books at an easier level than your son's current school reading level, in order to encourage him.

Anne Kitchin Thu 06-Mar-14 16:06:18


^Hi, I can't join the chat as I will be at work, but hoping you can help.

My DS2 is 7, after a very slow start in FS. where every word was a struggle he was v behind but i wasnt fussed as i knew it would eventually 'click'. He discovered Mr Men books in Yr 1 and the humour helped him enjoy and 'see the point' of reading.

He is now Yr 3and a total book worm, he regularly raids the shelves at home for his older brother's favourites. He has been told by the TA at school who listens to reading weekly that the likes of Harry Potter and Wimpy Kid are 'too old' for him and she will not let him progress to free reads until he reads some more books of her choosing and proves he can do it. She has a point but his comprehension is good and he loves the freedom of choosing at home.

He does not like poems and is not interested ATM in books on sea life or safaris or dinosaurs, how do I get school to understand he can do it... But more importantly how do I keep him reading as he is reverting to old ways of reading-refusing with cries of 'hate it, no point and books are boring'.

Thank you, I am really interested to hear your perspective

And yes reading every school book every night can be a struggle... After spellings, project work, maths homework suddenly reading can seem like a chore, especially if tired. Isn't it better to read a book from home for enjoyment than the school choice for the reading record?^

I do feel for you.
I think that the first thing is probably to establish exactly what your son's reading level is. Is he still on the reading scheme at school? Or is he a free reader now?

It is quite important that he is reading books that are at the right level for him, otherwise he will always say that books are boring. Children who say this don't actually always mean they're boring, they often mean that they are hard.
Does the TA mean that the "content" of Harry Potter and "Wimpy Kid" are "too old"? I think that this probably is the case for a seven year old, though he may be quite able to read the words. That said, I do know of some younger children who have enjoyed Harry Potter, but the content does get darker as you go on through the books. It might be worth having a word with the class teacher about this. Many, many TAs are wonderful, knowledgeable and will help to guide your child through the reading process. But because they are not trained teachers, just occasionally things go awry with advice given, so I always feel it is best to defer to the class teacher when a conflict arises, as seems to have happened in this case. I would be more than happy to chat further to you about your son so that we can help you to resolve this. Please contact me via my website.
In the meantime, let him keep reading his choice of books at home. Make sure he can understand what he has read. Just casually ask him "Oh, so what happened in that story then?" If he gives you chapter and verse (which will probably go on for ages if he has understood it) you will know he has understood what he has read. I am slightly concerned about the "very slow start" in FS. He could be a child with dyslexic tendencies who is very bright, especially if he is skipping over some words in the more complex books he reads. Please refer to my other posts on this thread regarding dyslexia.

Anne Kitchin Thu 06-Mar-14 16:44:18

My friend's 7 year old is struggling with his reading. He finds sounding out the letters very difficult and also has great problems with spelling. any suggestions?

I am sorry to hear that your friend's LO is struggling.

It is important for every child to read well,as they then find all their learning at school so much easier.
So when a child finds it difficult, it is important to try to help them in the best way we can so that they don't fall behind at school, suffering a lack of confidence along the way. Obviously we can't say what is causing your child to have difficulties(via the internet). Some children find reading difficult, because they can't see properly, can't hear properly or have dyslexia (probably other reasons as well).Unfortunately, dyslexia training is still not a major part of teacher training courses and many teachers do not have a great deal of knowledge about it, so many parents mentioning it at school find they are told that their child is "doing fine" and "not to worry".

As a result of the difficulties faced by children who are struggling, I have now produced a parents' toolkit to help parents with their child's reading (and spelling) which is in the form of Skype calls with the parent and parent/child, along with all the materials needed to improve these vital skills. I also run this as a residential course in the Peak District of Derbyshire. The course is designed for any child with reading/ and or spelling difficulties including dyslexic children (who make up 10% of the population). Please email me for more details

If you would like to improve your child's reading yourself you may like to try a workbook called Toe by Toe, mentioned earlier on in this thread, which is absolutely brilliant for increasing children's reading ages, sometimes by as much as 3 years in the few months that it takes to complete the course (Toe by Toe can be done with a parent or any other literate adult).

MNBirminghamLocalEd Thu 06-Mar-14 16:47:40

Aha! It looks like Anne's requested nickname change came in halfway through the web chat.

Just to clarify, Hummingbird2 and AnneKitchin are one and the same.

MNBirminghamLocalEd Thu 06-Mar-14 16:52:00

Thank you so much Anne, for a very interesting, helpful web chat. Anne's gone well, well beyond her allotted hour to answer everyone's questions - she's been amazing!

It's the first one we've had here on Mumsnet Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield and we're so chuffed with the brilliant response.

A big thanks to everyone for taking part,

Sala (Local Editor)

gettingbacktobeingme Fri 21-Mar-14 18:26:19

Many thanks for great advice

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