Do you have a child who is constantly on the go? Here are ten suggestions to making sure they learn to read well.

When I was a school counsellor, part of my job was to support teachers who had students that had a hard time sitting still. I encouraged those teachers not to attempt to make that child sit still, but rather to provide a way for some movement in a way that didn’t disrupt the other students.

As a parenting educator now, parents often call me with pleas to help with a common situation: their young children just won’t stay still long enough to get through a book. It can be terribly frustrating when a child wiggles and fidgets through book reading time—it’s easy to want to stop reading!

It is so very important to not give up reading with our little ones who are constantly on the go. I happen to have a child who can only sit for about fifteen minutes and there still has to be a part of him that is still moving. He even has to wiggle around during tooth-brushing time. I didn’t know that brushing the teeth of a jogging child was a skill I needed to develop as a parent!

There are two key factors to helping a child develop a natural love of reading, even though they’ll dance their way around their chair. The first is to persist in giving our children opportunities to read in a unique way that suits their personalities. The second is to not force our child to sit while reading. It is unfortunately very easy to create a negative reading experience if frustration, sour language, punishment, or harsh tones are used to make children read. Once a child loses his love of reading, it is quite challenging to get that back. It is so important that a child’s confidence needs to stay high when it comes to reading.

Let’s focus on the first point of how to give your children unique opportunities to read that suits who they are. Our goal is to make a complete foundation for reading, which does take time, persistence, and making a different plan for each child. Here are ten suggestions for doing that:

1.Make sure all the “ya-yas” are out of your child before sitting down with a book. Give your little one an opportunity to breathe fresh air and run before reading time. If your child is really wiggly, make sure to get outside a few times a day.

2. Read with your child when he is not compromised (hungry, tired, overwhelmed, overstimulated, emotional). Find a good time to read after moving around and well before eating time.

3. Ask your child to read road signs for you while you are driving. Based on his reading ability, you can ask him to look for a few words, a single word, or just the first letter of the word you need. For example, “I need to find the exit that says, ‘Burlington. Please look for a B’.”

4. Read with your child as long as he will sit. If he can only sit for fifteen minutes, that’s okay! Use many shorter reading periods rather than one longer one. If your child likes to move, you can carry on reading while your child slides on and off the sofa.

5. Children usually LOVE to help with baking or cooking. Ask your child to read out the ingredients, then send them off to look for them. If they are young, you can write out the keywords to look for like, “flour” or “milk.”

6. Have books around the house and read in front of your child. I can’t stress how important this point is!

7. Buy books or colouring books as souvenirs when you travel to a new city. Many cities sell these in their tourist offices or at major attractions. You can talk about your memories of the trip while you read through the book together. For example, we love reading our book about St. Louis where we went up inside the Gateway Arch.

8. Make frequent trips to your local library. Pick the number of books your child can handle looking for—maybe just a few for someone who is racing up and down the rows of books and more for one who can help pick ones he likes.

9. If you are comfortable with this, perhaps allow your child to read out your texts if you receive one while driving. To keep us all safe on the road, I leave my iPhone in the backseat (I don’t have any games on it) so that my children can read and respond to texts. They LOVE doing this, as it is usually their Dad or Auntie sending the messages. They spell out words they don’t know and I help them put phrases together to send back to our family members—with about twenty emoticons at the end.

10. In addition to books, consider using a mobile App reading program. I say this while keeping in mind the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for the appropriate amount of screen time for children. 

I use a game based reading program called Ooka Island that runs on a computer or mobile device (we have our copy of the program on an iPad). I like this program in particular because it is based on research, which is very important to me, and it walks children through the learning-to-read process. My son thinks he’s playing a game, but I know that he is actually learning how to read.

It’s actually quite funny watching him use this program! He sets the iPad on the sofa where you’d expect to sit then he jumps around the device while going through it. The image at the beginning of the post is a series of pictures of him as he uses it.


Do you have a reader who won’t sit still? I’d love to hear which one of these suggestions work for you or other ones you have thought of. Let’s help our wiggly ones becoming confident readers!

As an ambassador of Ooka island I was compensated for this post, but my views are 100% my own.