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Children’s Books

What to Do When Reading Is Too “Sitty”

Most kids love stories, but not all love to read. Discover 10 creative ways to encourage active kids who would rather run than read, to enjoy digging into books.

My daughter is a mover — she’s constantly in motion, even when she’s sleeping. She hates sitting still for anything, including reading. Some kids won’t like reading if it goes hand in hand with sitting still. Our active kids need us to think outside the chair.


Listening to audiobooks isn’t, technically, reading (as in reading print). You want your child to read, I understand. But it’s okay to count audiobooks as reading — especially with active kids. Here’s why:

  • Listening to an audiobook doesn’t require sitting! A child can pace, wiggle, dance, roll around, whatever she needs to do. It’s a great way to hook a mover and help her become a reader.
  • Your child needs to learn to love stories. Realizing that reading is the key to unlocking a fascinating story is hugely important in turning around reluctant readers.
  • Your child will build valuable knowledge about story elements — plot, conflict, beginning/middle/end, and so on. These can help your child understand what she reads and make more accurate predictions about stories.
  • You can ignite obsessions by listening to an audiobook series. Once your child gets interested, she might want to continue reading the series, or read more by that author, or about that subject.

Don’t forget, you can listen to audiobooks in the car, too!

Mealtime Stories

As a toddler and preschooler, my kinesthetic daughter wouldn’t sit still to listen to an entire picture book story, so I’d follow her around to read her the entire book. That’s when I started reading to her while she ate breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. She was so busy eating that she became a captive audience (and she was trapped in her high chair!). Try making mealtime a story-reading time at your house.

The Walk–Read

Help your child perfect her walk–read, i.e. being able to walk while reading without incurring injury. (But please, safety first. And certainly don’t allow this around stairs, uneven surfaces, or other dangerous terrain where eyes and mind need to be 100% on locomotion!) Also, there is the stationary bike-read (I’ve seen this at innovative schools, and it looks fun!), the rocker/glider/hammock read, the inside pod-swing-read, and the on-the-floor- read.

Electronic Books

Some critics argue that e-books are too game-like. Maybe they are, but they do get reluctant readers reading. Personally, I count e-books as reading even if they include games. More about e-book reading strategies on Imagination Soup (opens in a new window).

Book Swap Party

Organize a party for kids to trade books they’ve read — but with a condition: they have to read the book in order to attend the swap. At the party, have each child give a short book talk (thumbs up, thumbs down, and why) so the other kids can know what it’s about. Trade books using the White Elephant Gift Exchange Rules (opens in a new window).

Make a Book-Related Movie

Some kids are born performers. Use this passion to help them with their reading. Have them make a video themselves reading aloud or giving a review/sharing their opinion of a book. Websites like (opens in a new window) and (opens in a new window) provide opportunities for kids to share videos with friends.

Reading Tent

Set up a tent or blanket fort. Add pillows, a flashlight or battery-powered lantern. Let your wiggly reader use it as a reading nook.

Short Nonfiction

Nonfiction books are great because they don’t necessarily have to be read sequentially (that is, from beginning to end). Often your child can dip into them wherever she likes — reading just the chapter on mummies in a book about Ancient Egypt, if mummies are what she loves. Then, if she wants, she can read the chapters on pharaohs, on how the pyramids were built, and so on. Jumping around a book can be perfect for our most active readers! For a list of engaging nonfiction titles, go to Chapter Twelve.

Piles of Books

Strange as it sounds, I sneak around the house and leave piles of library books for my kids to discover. The adventure of discovering them makes the books so tempting, neither child can resist the urge to investigate. Often one or two books will “take,” and my kids will sit down with that book and read.

Picture Books

Picture books should part of your reading diet. Picture books are great for kids with shorter attention spans because there’s so much to engage them: They’re rich with vocabulary, the illustrations provide extra context to the story, and they offer amazing stories. As such, they develop knowledge through a multi-sensory experience. And contrary to what you might think, picture books are not easy reading: many are written at a 4th to 5th grade reading level. To get you started, check out School Library Journal’s Top 100 Picture Books (opens in a new window).

Product Recommendations (To Make Reading Not Sitty)


Excerpted from Book Love: Help Your Child Grow from Reluctant to Enthusiastic Reader (opens in a new window), by Melissa Taylor (2012). You can also join Melissa on her early learning blog, Imagination Soup (opens in a new window).

For any reprint requests, please contact the author or publisher listed.