Summer and Beyond: How to Get Your Special Needs Child To Read

Many schools have started assigning Summer Reading to keep kids in good habits and also to avoid the dreaded summer brain drain, where they lose some of the skills learned during the academic year due to lack of practice. Sometimes the reading assignment can be fun, like a competition to see who reads the most pages or books or minutes. Sometimes it can be a straight assignment like a project or a report. But even if your school doesn’t specifically assign any reading, it’s a good idea to encourage your kids to keep reading all summer long.

I know many kids with special needs or learning challenges absolutely hate reading. It is truly unpleasant for them, so who can blame them? For now there are other ways to make books appealing. When my kids were little we used them to play games like The Floor is Lava and Dominoes. Then I read the books to them after play time. Reading to your child is important even if you think they are “too old” for it – they are not. Something as simple as “Hey, this is interesting, listen…” may get them motivated to explore (or listen) further.

Ideas to keep kids reading – or get them reading

  • Let them read whatever they want – manga, movie novelizations, comic books all count. I even let my daughter read a toy catalogue once because it was the only thing that motivated her.
  • Let your child be your tour guide. This works on vacation or locally. Let them do research on a location that interests them and pick out some place to visit. This also works with restaurants and reading menus.
  • Take them to the library. Check your local locations for puppet shows, clubs or events…and hey, look, there are lots of books, too! Maybe one will catch their eye. Again, let them choose. You may not want to read a novel with a gory zombie on the cover but if it gets them interested, so be it.
  • Bring books to places where you will be waiting, like doctors and dentists appointments. Put baskets of them in the bathroom.
  • Audio books can also help kids with visual processing and other challenges. Many are free online through your local library or other sites – just do a quick search.
  • Who are your child’s heroes? There are biographies on every historical figure, sports star and celebrity.
  • Yes, it’s okay to let them reread Harry Potter again – as long as you get them thinking about what they noticed this time that they never did before.

Another way to get kids with special needs or challenges interested in a book is if the story is about a kid with challenges. Students will recognize their own struggles and situations and pick up some new strategies. Feel free to read the books yourself – grownups may learn some of the clever ways these kids avoid work and play their teachers.

Here are some reading suggestions about children with special needs for teens. Ask a bookstore employee, teacher or librarian for other suggestions.

  • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper features a girl with cerebral palsy
  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt follows a girl and her older brother as they discover they have dyslexia
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell, a graphic novel about a girl with a clunky hearing aid

Have you or your child read a great book lately? Let us know about it!


About the Author

Rosie Reeves is a writer and mother of three; including one with special needs. She works side-by-side with her daughter’s therapists, teachers and doctors. Rosie has also served as the Los Angeles Special Needs Kids Examiner. She can be reached at Rosie is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


One Response to “Summer and Beyond: How to Get Your Special Needs Child To Read”

  1. “Yes, it’s okay to let them reread Harry Potter again – as long as you get them thinking about what they noticed this time that they never did before.” Love that.

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