tween or middle school child reading a book (how to get middle schooler to read)Life with a middle schooler is busy! Between school, sports, friends, activities, and the pull of screens, it can feel impossible to get your middle schooler to read. As a reading intervention teacher and a mom of tweens, I know the importance of fitting reading in every day.

The more kids read, the better they get at it, and the easier school will be. Reading helps them become better writers, expands their vocabulary, and widens their imaginations. Reading also allows them to see other perspectives, learn about different cultures, and become more compassionate. If you’re the parent of a middle schooler who is a reluctant reader, here are 10 tips to get them reading!

Let them choose

Give your kids the option to read whatever they enjoy. They may not have a choice of what to read at school, so home is a time to read what they like and find enjoyment in reading. Whether it’s non-fiction, fantasy, graphic novels, comic books — or a favorite book read repeatedly — these are all great choices as long as the child is reading. Take a trip to your local bookstore or library and allow them to choose whatever they want!

Make sure they have a good reading space

A cozy, inviting space will make reading a more desirable choice. It could be a comfy chair in their room, a soft blanket on the couch, or snuggled with a pet. Anywhere in the house works as long as there’s comfy seating and decent lighting to relax with a book

If they don’t like a book, let them stop reading it 

As long as they give it a real shot and not read just a page or two, there’s no reason for them to have to finish a book they aren’t enjoying. Reading is supposed to be fun! The more kids enjoy the book, the more likely they are to keep reading.

Subscribe to a magazine

There are lots of magazine subscriptions to choose from for tweens. Let them choose a magazine based on their interests, such as sports, cooking, fashion, crafting, or animals. Getting magazines in the mail is fun, plus they are great to leave in the car for quick reading opportunities.

Talk to them about the book

Discussing what they are reading will help them make connections and improve their comprehension skills, which they are asked to show in school. Don’t bombard them with questions and make them feel like they are being tested. Casually ask them what’s happening in the story, and ask follow-up questions. I find car rides the best time for these types of conversations.  

Model reading

Let them see you reading, even if it’s just for short spurts throughout the day. Talk about the book and share what you love or find interesting about the story. My son is used to seeing me read, but he shows extra curiosity when he sees my husband reading because they share more common interests.

Encourage them to read to a younger sibling 

Occasionally allow your older child to take over the nightly read-aloud to a younger sibling. Enthusiasm from a younger child can help reignite joy in reading. Plus, picture books are meant to be read aloud by adults, so they are often full of rich vocabulary.

Hook them with a series

A series tracks the same characters or themes through multiple books, which can make them easier to follow and understand. Finding the right series takes time, but it can help reluctant readers be willing to pick up the next book.

Try hi-lo books

Hi-lo (high interest/low level) books have engaging, age-appropriate subject matter but at a lower reading level for struggling readers. They are easier to read so a struggling reader won’t get frustrated, but the content won’t be too “babyish.” These types of books can help build fluency, vocabulary, and confidence.

Don’t stress about it! 

If you’ve tried these tips to get your middle schooler reading and they’re still reluctant, don’t beat yourself up. Helping kids read is my job, and I often can’t get my own kids to pick up a book! There are so many distractions, and middle school can be intense. So give yourself some grace. The more you force it, the more kids will see reading as a chore. Your kids will see your passion for reading and hopefully find it themselves one day. I didn’t find a love for reading until I was an adult, and I had the freedom to read just for fun with no pressure. Be kind to yourself and your reluctant reader, and don’t give up hope!

Ranessa Doucet
Ranessa is a Boston native who grew up in Charlestown and never gets tired of exploring the city. She now lives north of Boston with her husband, two kids, and two mischievous pugs. Ranessa earned her master’s degree in elementary education and licensure in early childhood education. She currently works as an Academic Interventionist and Freelance Writer. Ranessa loves writing about parenting tweens, exploring New England, health, and self-care. When not writing or reading, you can find her watching reality TV, eating chocolate, attending her kids’ sporting events, and dreaming about the beach.


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