At a glance
There are lots of reasons why kids don’t finish their reading homework.
Trouble with reading is one possible cause — but not the only one.
When kids feel anxious or struggle with focus, it’s hard to finish reading homework.
Reading is often part of daily homework. But what if your child has trouble finishing reading assignments? It might be a sign of reading challenges. Or it could be a sign of something else.
Here are nine reasons kids don’t finish their reading homework.
1. They read slowly.
Kids read at different paces. Your child may read more slowly than classmates. This doesn’t mean your child isn’t as smart as other kids. But it may mean your child needs shorter reading assignments, more time, or extra support.
Learn more reasons why kids might read slowly.
2. They feel anxious about reading.
Some kids find reading relaxing, but other kids find it stressful. When kids are anxious about reading, they might avoid doing their reading homework. They might also take longer to finish. For example, if kids worry about missing something, they may go back and re-read the same text over and over.
3. They’re struggling with focus.
When kids have trouble with focus, they might start and stop reading a bunch of times when doing reading homework. They might get distracted by things like smells or sounds, and their minds may wander.
Some kids struggle with focus all or most of the time. Others may struggle once in a while. Or they may have trouble focusing on specific types of books.
4. They forget or don’t follow directions.
Kids may simply forget to finish their reading. Others may know what to read but not do it. For some kids, following directions is a daily challenge. They have difficulty doing what they’re asked to do, and that includes following through on reading homework.
5. They’re feeling stress in life.
If kids don’t finish homework, the cause might be stress in their lives. Something could be going on at school or with classmates, like an argument with a friend. A child might be upset by a close relative passing away or by a divorce in the family.
When kids feel stress, they often have trouble focusing and following directions, which can also impact reading homework.
6. They’re not interested in what they’re reading.
Many times, kids have to read specific things for homework. It may be a chapter in a science textbook or an article about a current event. If the topic doesn’t speak to them, though, kids may put it off or not read it at all. It can help to read these tougher assignments with your child, or to connect the topic to your child’s interests.
For some assignments, kids choose what to read. But kids may pick books they end up not liking. It helps to have an adult, like a librarian, suggest books to read based on your child’s interests.
7. They’re doing it at the wrong time.
When kids don’t finish their reading, it may be because they’re not starting homework at the best time for them. Some kids do best when they do homework right after school. Others need downtime first. Some like to start their homework with reading, while others like to end with reading because they find it relaxing. It’s important for kids to have a homework routine that works for them.
8. They’re doing it in the wrong place.
What works for some kinds of homework may not work for all. For example, kids might prefer doing writing assignments in a quiet space at a desk with a sturdy chair. But when it’s time to read, they may do better moving to a cozy chair with soft music playing in the background.
9. They have too much homework.
Reading may be only one part of your child’s nightly homework. When kids struggle to complete their homework — including reading — it could be because there’s too much of it. They may need to take breaks between assignments to stay focused. Or the reading assignment may need to be broken into smaller chunks.
When kids don’t finish their reading, it doesn’t mean they’re not smart.
Your child might have too much homework, or not be interested in the assignment.
Talk to your child’s teacher to help figure out what’s going on and how to help your child with reading homework.
About the author
About the author
Gretchen Vierstra, MA is the managing editor at Understood and co-host of the “In It” podcast. She’s a former educator with experience teaching and designing programs in schools, organizations, and online learning spaces.
Trynia Kaufman, MS was the senior manager of editorial research at Understood. She is a former educator and presents nationwide at education conferences.