The Reluctant Reader

The Reluctant Reader

by Dan Rice

image of a boy learning to read

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My first grader is a reluctant reader. At times, he is even violently opposed to reading. He enjoys being read to, but ask him to read and watch out––cue long and dramatic temper tantrum.

Part of his reluctance stems from the fear of making mistakes. One of his earliest and favorite phrases is I don’t know. He often pulls out variations on this when asked to read or sound out a difficult word. We tell him that it’s okay to make mistakes, but he remains not entirely convinced.

Although he knows all his phonics, he struggles to put sounds together. This, coupled with his desire to avoid making mistakes, quickly leads to frustration and giving up altogether. Insisting he persevere often leads to a meltdown.

The Bob Books

At the recommendation of his teacher, we purchased him the Bob Books: 104-Book Deluxe Reader Collection by Lynn Maslen Kertell. At the time of purchase, it struck me as a little bit pricey, but knowing what I know now, I’d pay far more for these books.

At the beginning of first grade, my son seemed practically preliterate. I don’t know if it was indeed the lack of ability to read or just his violent opposition to it that made him so. Nevertheless, he reluctantly began to read by starting with the easiest of the Bob Books, which are straightforward stories with three-word sentences.

It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. He still whined and cried about reading, but he could get through an entire book with some help. He still reads the Bob Books. Some are advanced enough to inspire temper tantrums, but now at the midway point of first grade, he’s on the verge of meeting grade-level requirements in reading. He still has other struggles, mostly with writing, but the recommendation by his teacher to try out the Bob Books was fortuitous.

Sparking Interest

My son has always enjoyed reading time, but holding his interest is a struggle. I think he enjoys the closeness of reading together as much and often more than he does the stories. The first time I recall him being enthralled by a story was when we read the Glitter Dragons Series by Maddy Mara. He saw the novel in a book fair catalog and insisted he wanted to read it. It looked far too advanced for him, but we purchased it.

The book was too advanced for him to read on his own, but it turns out it was perfect for being read to him. He loved the story of the girls traveling to the magic forest and discovering they could turn into dragons. Magic, friendship, and adventure––what’s not to love? I ended up reading the entire series to him, and he enjoyed each book. After completing the trilogy, I struggled to find more books to engage him. The same author has more dragon books, but those didn’t interest him.

Purely by chance, we stumbled upon The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey, a comedic series of graphic novels featuring predatory animals trying to be good. We’ve already devoured two of the books in the series, and he is still ravenous for more. Fortunately, there are 15 books in this series. I’m eager to discover how many we’ll finish before he tires of the tales.

You Never Know What Might Inspire a Lifelong Love of Reading

Aside from his fear of making mistakes, the reasons for my first grader’s reluctance to read remain largely a mystery. My wife and I have always been diligent about reading to him. He’s aware that his older brother reads by himself every day and that I do too. He even expresses the desire to read at a fifth-grade level so he can play Pokémon with his friends.

Screens have something to do with it, certainly, as they’re untaxing portals into fantastical worlds. Spending most of kindergarten doing remote school didn’t help, but I suspect he’d still have some problems, maybe not quite as pronounced, even if he did in-person school that first year.

Despite the challenges, and following his own timeline, my son is beginning to discover the magic of reading. As with many things in life, persistence, patience, and kindness are vital in encouraging reading. That and always being on the hunt for stories that will ignite the imagination, and hopefully, inspire a lifelong love for reading.

About Dan Rice

Headshot of Dan Rice, author of the young adult urban fantasy series The Allison Lee Chronicles

Dan Rice pens the young adult urban fantasy series The Allison Lee Chronicles in the wee hours of the morning. The series kicks off with his award-winning debut, Dragons Walk Among Us, which Kirkus Review calls, “An inspirational and socially relevant fantasy.”

While not pulling down the 9 to 5 or chauffeuring his soccer fanatic sons to practices and games, Dan enjoys photography and hiking through the wilderness.

To discover more about Dan’s writing and keep tabs on his upcoming releases, visit his website: and join his newsletter.


Autumn Picture Books for Preschoolers

Hello colorful leaves, pumpkin-spiced everything, and cooler weather! Autumn has arrived, and I can’t stop thinking about making up a batch of hot apple cider and cozying up under a blanket to read a good book. These days, to make that happen, I have to invite my preschooler in under the blanket and read his books, not mine. It’s a different experience. No getting lost in another world for an hour or two by myself. Instead, it’s rapid fire reading of children’s books that we’ve read a hundred times. Of course, that’s okay. The contentment of being together is enough to make these moments special all on their own. I am content to be by his side as he explores new worlds through books. But, if you’re like me, you’re probably ready to read something new for a change. Here are a few fall-themed book suggestions to help you and your little one transition into the autumn season.

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn

Apples and Pumpkins

Biscuit Visits the Pumpkin Patch

Autumn in the Forest (Lift-a-Flap Surprise)

We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt

Hello, World! How Do Apples Grow?

The Busy Little Squirrel (Classic Board Books)

Awesome Autumn: All Kinds of Fall Facts and Fun (Season Facts and Fun)

You’re My Little Pumpkin Pie

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Reading Resource: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Reading to a child regularly is known to improve his or her kindergarten readiness by increasing vocabulary, comprehension and a host of other skills. On top of that, reading to little ones supports their social and emotional development.

An at-home library, however small or large, is one way to encourage a love of reading at an early age. But, developing an at-home library can be difficult, especially for parents simply trying to put food on the table and provide basic care. 

I encourage parents to check out Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The program delivers a free book once a month directly to your child. Children love getting mail that’s just for them, and this mail is a gift that can last a lifetime.

FTC Required Disclosure: This blog features Amazon Associate links, including linked images. Purchases made through these affiliate links will result in a my receiving a small commission. This applies to all products purchased at Amazon through the link, regardless of whether or not I’ve mentioned the product on this blog.

Celebrating the 20th Annual National Poetry Month (Giveaway!)

April is National Poetry Month, a celebration of the writing craft that often speaks most directly to the heart and soul of life.

Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful. – Rita Dove

There are plenty of ways for children and parents (and aunts and uncles!) to take part in the celebration – from reading and writing poetry together to attending local readings and events. And don’t forget, April 21st is Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Here are just a few books of poetry that you might like to try reading with your kids.

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems
Selected by Paul B. Janeczko
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Published by Candlewick (March 11, 2014)
Ages 6-9

Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons
by Jon J. Muth
Published by Scholastic Press (February 25, 2014)
Ages 4-8

A Child’s Garden of Verses
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Originally published in 1885
Reissue Edition published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (February 1, 1999)
Illustrated by Tasha Tudor

The Random House Book of Poetry for Children
Selected by Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Published by Random House (September 12, 1983)
Ages 7 and up

Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost
Edited by Gary D. Schmidt
Illustrated by Henri Sorensen
Published by Sterling Children’s Books, New edition (March 4, 2014)
Ages 8 and up

Poems to Learn by Heart
by Caroline Kennedy
Paintings by Jon J. Muth
Published by Disney-Hyperion (March 26, 2013)

Giveaway! [Update: this giveaway has ended. Stay tuned for more giveaways in future posts]
Some books are too good not to be shared, so I’m giving away 2 copies of Poems to Learn by Heart through an Amazon giveaway. Click here for your chance to win. Good luck everyone!

FTC Required Disclosure: This blog features Amazon Associate links, including linked images. Purchases made through these affiliate links will result in a my receiving a small commission. This applies to all products purchased at Amazon through the link, regardless of whether or not I’ve mentioned the product on this blog.

Take Your Child to the Library Day


Saturday, February 6th is Take Your Child to the Library Day, which encourages families to take their children to the library with a day of celebration and fun activities. Check with your local library to see if they are participating.

What if my library isn’t participating?
You can still make a fun day out of going to the library. Many libraries have regular storytelling times for kids. And once you’re home with your pickings for the day, you can encourage your kids to write or draw their own stories or act out the scenes in their favorite book.

What is the point when all my kid wants to do is play online?
Finding alternatives to screen time is more important than ever these days. Why not share some of your favorite stories and let a librarian help your kids find books that will be of interest to them? Make it a special trip by topping it off with a stop at the ice cream shop or another point of interest that’s near and dear to your little one.

I’m interested, but I just don’t have time to get to the library this month.
Take a look at this Take Your Child to the Library Day program guide for librarians. See if you can modify some of these activities for fun at home. Even setting things up for your kids for play where they act out going to the pretend library reinforces the value of reading and familiarity with this special resource.

Do you have a regular habit of taking your kids to the library? If so, what drives you to make it a part of your lives? If not, what’s holding you back? Let me know in the comments section.

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Research Roundup: Storytelling, Vocabulary and the Developing Brain

Research Roundup is a new series where I’ll be highlighting and offering links to recently published research and articles on the hot topics of reading, literacy, education and child development.

Link: “Two-Year-Olds with Larger Oral Vocabularies Enter Kindergarten Better Prepared
This article, posted on, provides an overview of an analysis published in the journal Child Development, which looked at the link between vocabulary at age 2 and academic and behavioral functioning at the start of kindergarten.

Link: Home Reading Environment and Brain Activation in Preschool Children Listening to Stories
Published in the journal Pediatrics, the research looks at the effect of exposure to reading at home on activation of the brain area associated with narrative comprehension and mental imagery.

Link: Storytelling Skills Support Early Literacy for African American Children
Research from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that the oral storytelling skills of African-American preschoolers were a predictor of emergent literacy in kindergarten.

Pre-reading skills, such as oral vocabulary and visualization, play a crucial role in subsequent cognitive development, academic success and life outcomes. The more we understand about specific learning mechanisms, the better we will be at helping little ones reach their full potential.

Do you have something to say about the studies above or about other research on child development? Leave a comment in the section below.