Best Tips for Kids (And Adults!) Who Hate to Read

Today’s post is from Rob Shindler. A few months ago, Rob reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in reading his book, Hot Dogs & Hamburgers: Unlocking Life’s Potential by Inspiring Literacy at Any Age. I liked the idea behind the book and so read it. Actually, I devoured it. It’s simply a wonderful book with lots of insight into the life of a family dealing with reading difficulties. It also peeks into the lives of adults who decided to learn to read well after they left childhood.

As you’ll see from reading Rob’s post below, he writes directly and with heart. Then, if you have anyone you care about who is struggling with reading, you will want to read his book, too.

Best Tips for Kids (And Adults!) Who Hate to Read

My name is Rob Shindler and I’m the author of Hot Dogs & Hamburgers: Unlocking Life’s Potential by Inspiring Literacy at Any Age. I’m delighted to have the chance to contribute to Gail’s wonderful blog!

In light of the fact that the title of her site is, “Best Blog for Kids Who Hate to Read,” I thought it would be fun to share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned for motivating both kids AND adults to read over the years, both through my work with my son Oliver (the inspiration for my book) and as a tutor at Literacy Chicago.

For the record, early on as a tutor, most of my motivational tools I pulled from the sky—and elsewhere! I used humor to calm people’s nerves and hold their attention, in addition to tailoring my teaching techniques to whatever individually engaged them.

And we would move through the material, slowly, together.

As an example, Oliver loved TV more than there are words in books, so I utilized that emotion by getting the transcripts from the “That’s So Raven” show. Together, we acted out the lines. We also used a book of poetry to break up sounds and words. The rhyming pattern seemed to help him a lot.

This leads me to my first tip:

Find what works to keep someone stimulated. If you build it, they will come (or something like that).

When it comes to adults, I’ve often asked each of my students to bring to class an item or material that they really want to be able to read—regardless of how childlike or easy it seems. This idea soon led to Horoscope Wednesdays and the reading of several fortune cookies, passages from the Bible and jokes from humor books. I learned some great ones (a priest, a rabbi and a plumber walk into a room…) during those first few years.

And so we arrive at tip number two:

Create a sense of importance. Foster an environment where people are able to share their reading-related hopes and dreams with others who are pulling for them, rather than judging them.

That’s where results are realized. Sharing personal stories about Oliver and my own struggles also connected me with my students. I became relatable.

Let’s face it: being an adult isn’t always fun! Work, bills and responsibilities…the inability to read only magnifies this. So what I do is create a simple setting. The only caveat is to maintain an atmosphere of respect. Never talk down or lie. That goes for kids, too. Kids are the greatest lie detectors of all. Sometimes, in fact, this theory actually works in the inverse. Treating kids with a learning disability in a more adult-like manner creates self-respect that they may often lack because of their differences.

I am honest with both adults and kids. Not being able to read stinks and I make no mistake about that. But instead of focusing on the negative, we concentrate on all of the things they do know, which are in the billions. And the things they don’t know, we are going to discover together over time.

Which brings me to tip number three:

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Hey, that’s pretty good, huh? I just came up with that one…

I use the following example in every single one of my classes:

There’s this gigantic diamond on the other side of that door. Some may run to get to it, some may walk, skip, crawl. It doesn’t matter how we get to that diamond—all that matters is that we get to it. 

Make it fun. Make them laugh. Make them feel important. Make them feel a sense of success even if it’s learning three new words that day. 


Oliver recently wrote that on my Father’s Day card. That I elevate him! A lot of tears followed.

Thanks again to Gail for letting me share these tips with you. I look forward to your feedback.

What tips do you have for encouraging kids or adults to read?

Thank you, Rob!

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