Our Reading Lives

What To Do When Someone Tells You They Hate Reading

Lucas Maxwell


Lucas Maxwell has been working with youth in libraries for over fifteen years. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, he's been a high school librarian in London, UK for over a decade. In 2017 he won the UK's School Librarian of the Year award and in 2022 he was named the UK Literacy Association's Reading For Pleasure Teacher Champion. He loves Dungeons & Dragons and is the author of Let's Roll: A Guide for Setting up Tabletop Roleplaying Games in Your School or Public Library. You can follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

As a high school librarian, I love getting the “I hate reading” response. It means a couple of things are about to happen.

First, that I have a challenge in front of me, which is always fun.

Second, it gives me a chance to show off the books that the student may not have seen before. Books that I know are awesome and that given a little time, they might love as well.

It’s like being Book Santa Claus every single day.

I’ll admit, it can sometimes feel like a punch to the gut hearing the words “I hate reading.” My job is to not take it as a personal attack against literature. I’m a book pusher and it’s my responsibility to hook them.

There are a couple of strategies I use when I hear the “hate” word.

The Selection by Kiera CassFirst, I ask them what their favourite television shows are. The Selection series by Kiera Cass are the books I show fans of reality television because it’s basically The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games, in a good way.




When someone says they hate readingThe I Survived series by Lauren Trashes are the books I hand fans of grittier, survival type shows. This series combines high-octane action and historical fact.





wonder-170x250Wonder by RJ Palacio is the book I show any fan of real-life, soap opera type dramas because your heart is made of a burned out wasps nest if this book doesn’t touch you somehow.





hate readingBroxo is a graphic novel about a barbarian that fights off a hoard of zombies. I’m not sure I need to say anything else about this. It’s awesome because of the words “barbarians” and “zombies.” I show this to the “I hate both reading and television” students.




hate readingShadow & Bone is the book I do everything but throw at students that I know are book lovers but just haven’t accepted it yet. Strong female protagonist? Check. A storm cloud stuffed full of demons with razor sharp teeth that is rapidly descending on said protagonist’s homeland? Check. You’re welcome, students.



screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-8-43-42-pmThere also exists a large growing pile of books by YouTubers that will raise the eyebrows of any self proclaimed book hater.

I also ask them questions about their favourite sports, hobbies or any other interests outside of school. This will often give me a few nuggets of information to grab a book off of the shelf that will keep them coming back.

It’s not always perfect, or easy, or pretty, but good librarian has enough grit in their guts to keep pushing until they find something a book hater eventually likes.

This is of course a very small collection of books that can grab the attention of reluctant readers. Graphic novels, real life stuff, sports and action are the kinds that I often grab.

For a nice list of books of reluctant readers, check this page out.

Let me know the kinds of books you reach for when you hear the dreaded “I hate reading!”