9 Ways to Teach Children to Hate Reading

With the help of the genius writer and teacher Gianni Rodari, we'll have a look at some of the most common mistakes that people make when trying to get their children to read more. Maybe you've fallen into one of these traps yourself?
9 Ways to Teach Children to Hate Reading

Last update: 02 November, 2018

Adults often make mistakes when trying to introduce children to the fascinating world of books. According to the Italian writer and teacher Gianni Rodari, there are many ways to lead children to hate reading. Sadly, we fall into these traps more than you might think.

The benefits of reading are undeniable, both for children and parents. It enables us to communicate better, increases our vocabulary and range of expressions, stimulates the imagination, improves concentration, and enhances learning, among many other things.

As well as for personal enjoyment, all of this is why many parents are prepared to try out various strategies to get their children into reading. The bad news for them is that it doesn’t always work out. In fact, many fail.

According to Gianni Rodari, who died in 2017, it’s possible to teach your children to hate reading, as paradoxical as it may sound. How does this happen? You just need to make some simple mistakes and you’ll create aversion instead of interest.

9 Ways to Teach Children to Hate Reading

Rodari made a huge contribution to teaching, particularly with regards to reading. He was also a brilliant creator of children’s books.

Many of his articles were published in the Italian press in the 1960s and 70s. In them, such as the famous essay Grammar and Fantasy, Rodari gave advice to parents, teachers, and students about writing stories.

However, he also offered a number of thoughts about the mistakes that people make in the education process. One of these was entitled 9 Ways to Teach Children to Hate Reading in which he listed the following:

1. “Presenting a Book as an Alternative to Television”

For Rodari, denying one form of entertainment to replace it with another is completely counterproductive. The only thing you achieve, he says, is to create the false belief that it’s one or the other.

9 Ways to Teach Children to Hate Reading

2. “Presenting a Book as an Alternative to Comics”

Rodari claimed that the fact that children like to read comics doesn’t mean that they like other types of reading.

If they enjoy reading comics but not other books, this simply means that what they enjoy about reading is different from what makes people enjoy other types of books.

3. “Telling Children Today That Children Used to Read More”

You shouldn’t compare today’s children, the famous millennials, with previous generations. They grow up in completely different contexts and with different tools available, and therefore their lifestyles are completely different.

4. “Believing That Children Have Too Many Distractions”

Just because children have more free time doesn’t mean they’re going to start reading. Rodari says that it has more to do with the position that books occupy in culture and in the family home.

5. “Criticizing Children If They Don’t Like Reading”

Why is it their fault if they don’t like reading? There are many families where the parents don’t even read the newspaper. However, they may still be very demanding about their children and their literary ambitions.

Rodari blames the state, public schooling, and “high culture.” He says that this is “always too aristocratic for pedagogical duties.”

6. “Transforming a Book into an Instrument of Torture”

The author believed that people had a concept of a book being part of a “more serious” activity rather than something enjoyable in itself. For him, this would make the book an instrument of torture to prepare the child for a life of suffering.

7. “Refusing to Read to Your Children”

Reading a short story or a poem to your children, even when they’re very little, is an excellent way for them to develop a love of books. It also stimulates their ability to communicate and is a great way for them to get into reading.

9 Ways to Teach Children to Hate Reading

8. “Not Giving Them Enough Choice”

One mistake that many parents make is giving their children a specific book and, if they don’t read it, conclude that they don’t like reading.

Do you ever read the very first book that you come across? Why shouldn’t we give children the chance to choose something that interests them?

9. “Making Them Read”

This is the most effective way to teach children to hate reading. People hate fewer things more than what they’re forced to do. It even happens with things they’re passionate about.

When someone does something for pure entertainment, they’ll never stop enjoying it. However, once it becomes a job or a duty, their freedom is limited and they’ll stop enjoying it.

“For many centuries, teachers have never stopped saying that just like you can’t force a tree to bloom out of season, in the wrong conditions, you can’t get anything out of children by mere obligation.”
–Gianni Rodari–

If you’re a mother and you’d like your children to develop a taste for reading, consider all these points. These tricks to teach children to hate reading come from an expert source and certainly hold some truth.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Rodari, G. (2002). La gramática de la fantasía. Booket.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.