A lot of other questions here have a similar theme, but I want to address a specific problem that I couldn't find answers for.

My sister has no interest in reading at all - she's 5 (going to reception in the UK), and pretends that she can't read if I ask her to. She always asks me to read and write for her. It takes a lot of effort to get her to read.

From reading with her, I think this is because English spelling is very erratic and the same letter groups don't always make the same sound, so she gets confused and discouraged when trying to infer pronunciation from one word to another. For example, "ough" can sound like "off" in cough but it's "ow" in bough, even though it's the same group of letters. She might read "cough" correctly and then read "bough" as boff. I'm going to go over phonics with her to help her with this. I gently correct her and tell her that it's pronounced differently, but she still feels discouraged afterwards and then starts to refuse to read the books at all.

As far as I can tell, this discouragement from not getting it right is why she is always asking me to read and write things for her. How can I help her to not feel discouraged by making mistakes when reading?

  • to be honest, i see nothing but age appropriate behavior in here. You read with her and she is (slowly) picking it up. She enjoys your attention (which she gets when you read to her). One tip i would have is maybe to pick some easier reading materials. books with phonetic trickery doesn't sound like the first book i would try. But i wouldn't say that her trying to make you read is really a problem if she is just starting out.
    – Batavia
    Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 20:13

2 Answers 2


How can I help her to not feel discouraged by making mistakes when reading?

It's no different from coping with anything that's difficult. Show her that what's important is the process and how she deals with it, not necessarily the outcome, because none of us will ever have everything we want or think we need.

When you struggle with something (anything at all, e.g. getting your chores done on time or solving math problems, etc.), discuss it with her, and how you're trying to do better. If she has an example in someone working to achieve their goals, that might encourage her.

When it was time to actually teach them to read, I used a phonics-based method starting with the short vowels and the most common consonants, so words like at, am, tap, cat, cap, it, pit, tip, sit, sip, etc. were easy and for them. I would write short stories (a few pages with one or two sentences on each page and some pictures) about their imaginary or real adventures using simple words, and they had a lot of success to encourage them.

One trick I used on my kids (who would rather I read to them) was to find a book on their level that I knew would interest them. I would sit down with them and read the first chapter. Then I would excuse myself, explaining that I had something else to do. It never failed that they would then pick up the book and start to work through it. I answered any questions they had about words, but they were on their own otherwise. Soon after, I had kids asking for more books.

Good luck! It's nice to hear from a someone who wants to help her sibling to succeed.

If there are things you don't like but should do and just don't do, I think it might be unwise to hold her to a different standard..


It isn't really appropriate to be "Working" on reading and writing with her. As you are already noting this "work" is turning her off. I live in the US and we have a real problem with elementary school's focusing on testing and falling behind on social skills.

Also, my wife taught 5 year olds (kindergarten here) and the main thing was for the kids to sound out words - spelling them correctly came slowly over the next 3+ years of school for most sound combinations.

Even though my wife is a teacher, my 2nd grader (8 yrs old) just wrote me a letter which said,

cupon for dady! Retsel for 1 awer going to race track ice-crem!

Basically she said she wants to wrestle with me for one hour then go to the nearby quicky mart to get ice cream. The spelling is pretty bad, but it is sounded out.

She is a little low for her age, but we don't make her hate learning or school.

Working with your sister as she shows interest is a great idea. Even throwing in little challenges from time to time can be good. However, you should let her school do the main teaching and play an academic support role.

Further, just being a good big sister who helps her feel loved and safe is really the best thing you can do for her.

  • We also have a real problem in this country with literacy. Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 2:49

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