2 Ways to Choose Books for Picky or Uninterested Readers (and get them loving the process)

It’s a harrowing task for parents, teachers, and librarians world over: trying to find the right book for a child that isn’t invested in reading. Some parts of the process are difficult because you’re on a mission for something that is going to finally spark interest in the reader. Other times it can be challenging for different reasons.

Boy laying on couch

It’s very understandable to feel like you have run out of energy or ideas to tackle the task, particularly when you see other kids just sitting themselves down and getting into a book. Here are two methods that have helped resistant readers to show an interest in not only the book of the day, but reading in general. I hope that one of them sparks an idea for something that you can try with your little reader.

Multiple bins of picture books


One great way to pique the interest of the picky reader is to make book selection a game. For readers who struggle to sit through a session without wriggling around, this is also a good opportunity to use up some of that excess energy.

Girl playing with blocks

For example, if your reader is into basketball and has a hoop outside, you can pick three books and allocate a certain number of shots to each one (and keep these secret). Then you can tell your reader that the book will be chosen based on how many shots they can get in three minutes.

A basketball going through a hoop

This will get them starting to link reading with something that they enjoy, and also tire them out so that they are ready for some quiet time. You can also make these games paper-based or on devices depending on what the reader enjoys.

A boy and a girl excitedly playing a computer


Another great way to find the perfect reading material is to take it away from books entirely. Start talking to the reader about other media that they enjoy. They will be used to people asking them about what hobbies they like and finding a book based on this, but it is less common for people to give them a chance to talk about their favourite films, comics, and videogames. And once they start, it can be hard for them to stop!

Two small Mario characters

This sort of discussion very easily leads into critical thinking about the sorts of characters, themes, and settings that they like. Linking a book choice with media that they already connect with it opens up a chance for them to give reading a fresh start. Before, reading was only ever something that you had to do for school. When it is something closer to what you do in your leisure time, there is much more room for enthusiasm.

Batman & Superman Lego Superheroes

Through making book selection play-based and personal, it is often possible to grab the attention of readers that struggle to choose and enjoy books. There are lots of different ways to try these methods, and I hope that they help.

Cartoon of a young girl reading a bookHappy reading!

Head shot of Bel Moore
Photo courtesy of the guest blogger

Our guest blogger today is Belinda Moore. Bel works for Bookbot, a digital library for struggling readers. She writes the books for this system based on a strict bank of gradually progressing phonemes, with her understanding of the needs of readers coming from ten years in the ESL industry. Bel has a PhD in Children’s and Young Adult Literature, and her background is in creative writing.  

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

This blog post relates to ALSC Core Competencies of Commitment to Client Group and Reference & User Services.

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