Reluctant Reader Makes Progress

Crossing the midline for readingThe Reluctant Reader, Pt. 3

By now Caleb is doing fairly well with his reading. I'm in the room with him reading my newspaper and the timer is on for 15 minutes. (Be sure to read The Reluctant Reader posts pt. 1 and pt. 2) But remember, this is a boy who doesn't want to read, thinks it's a waste of time, and is convinced it's not cool. His friends don't want to read either.

But within a month, we're back to the whining, the excuses, the stalling around. "Grandma, I can't read now. I gotta take out the trash. Then I hafta do my laundry." What some kids will do to get out of reading! Now what am I going to do?

Crossing the Midline and Cross Crawling to the Rescue

I'm sure if you know me the answer will come as no surprise. Of course . . . we'll do some Brain Games. He learned a few Brain Game activities when he was just a tyke. But now, you guessed it: "Grandma, I can't do Brain Games. It's for little kids. I'm grown up!" I don't argue that 14-years-old isn't my definition of grown up. I suggest that it will help and I promise not to tell his friends he's doing Brain Games. But he doesn't care whether it will help or not since he doesn't want to read. How to get him to do Brain Games?

I say I'll do Brain Games with him. Still not enough. Finally I suggest that he, I and Grandpa will do Brain Games together. This works. After all, Grandpa is considerably cooler and less weird than I am!

So the three of us do just a couple of Brain Game activities for no more than 3-4 minutes. Eureka! It works. He sits down calmly, picks up his book and . . . continues reading AFTER the timer has gone off. Eventually he actually reads for a full 18 minutes to finish a chapter!

Are Movement-based Activities Really a Magic Bullet?

I don't want to exaggerate. Brain Games (aka movement-based learning) wasn't a magic bullet for Caleb. Certainly didn't turn him into an enthusiastic reader. Didn't turn him overnight into reading at grade level.

But it changed his attitude on the spot and helped him focus! No more fussing about reading. No more interrupting his reading to ask if I had the timer on or how much time was left. And he was able to tell me more specific details about what he read than before and with more interest in engaging in the conversation.

You'll find lots more ideas for getting your kids into the reading habit when you sign up for this month's FREE Smart Kids Smart Parents TeleClass Tuesday evening, Feb. 23, 8 pm eastern. Can't make it. No worries. Just listen to the recording later.

End of the Story

My husband, a daughter, a granddaughter, and I clapped and cheered wildly as Caleb walked across the stage to accept his Certificate of Completion from Kepner Middle School. He returned to Ohio in June to be with his Mom and sister and to start high school in the fall. Eric and I went back to being empty nesters once more and still happily reading.

Leave a comment. How have you helped reluctant readers at your house? Or in your classroom?  Do you have other movement-based activities that you find helpful?

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About Dr. MaryJo Wagner

MaryJo Wagner, PhD, helps you help your kids transform ADHD behavior for success. Sign up at Coaching & Accountability to get your questions answered with a complimentary Transformation Session.


  1. Tehnaz Ragi says:

    I am a Teacher of Individual Needs and Learning Support at my school in Hong Kong. I loved your story especially because it is so true! I can get my reluctant readers to read with me but they detest reading at home, you may understand why.

    My Individual Needs students are in their first year of Secondary school. They all have some sort of learning difficulty or unexpected low performance, diagnosed and undiagnosed. Their reading has to come upto speed if they are to efficiently access the curriculum and perform at their true potential.

    I would love for my students' parents to hear the teleclass but unfortunately, the time difference between HK and the US makes that very difficult.

    I wonder if the transcript or recording of the teleclass will be made available and accessible later?

    Looking forward to hearing from you

    warm regards


    • Thanks, Tehnaz. Yes, the TeleClass will be recorded. All my TeleClasses are recorded. So please sign up. The recording is posted on my website the morning after the class. And the handouts are available too. MaryJo

  2. Yes, reading a loud is very effective. Study after study shows that if you read daily to toddlers–even babies–before they go to school, these kids will have fewer difficulties learning to read and many will become avid readers. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  3. Julie Haverluk says:

    great story. what exact brain gym moves did you do with Caleb? I have a niece who is in 8th grade and a brilliant kid but refuses to do or sometimes just hand in homework. She's nearly failed a couple of grades because she can get every answer right on all tests but won't bother with homework or sometimes even if it is done she won't bother to hand it in. Apparently she has a lot of trouble falling asleep at night before midnight because she is all wired but then can't get up in the morning because she is tired. Terrible cycle. Do you have suggested moves for calming down to sleep? Thanks, Julie

    • Great questions. Caleb, my husband and I did cross crawl, calf pump and hook-ups. I would have included lazy 8s but for some unknown reason he refused. So I dropped it. For easier sleep: NO TV before bed. Period! (TV, even calm gentle shows, is stimulating to the brain.) Do Hook-ups lying in bed. Hope this helps.

  4. gunasekaran R says:

    This is a beautiful tip to create interest in reading that ofcourse led to learning

  5. Janis Miller says:

    Enjoyed reading this article. At this point in time my grandchildren love books. I don't know if it is because they have the kind of friends that like books, too, but I do know that their parents have set a wonderful example for them. They see their parents reading, they read with their parents, they visit the library and check out books, they get books as gifts, there are lots of books in their home; and when grandma comes to visit they love to read to me and I love it! 🙂 Right now the oldest is still in elementary so I hope this love of books continues.

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