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8 Ways to Motivate Kids to Read

Motivating Kids to Read - All About Reading

Some kids love to read—in fact, it can be hard to tear a book out of their hands. But it can be difficult to motivate a child who doesn’t love to read. It may even seem impossible. But it doesn’t have to be.

When I was a kid, I LOVED to read. I didn’t have to be pushed and prodded. In fact, sometimes my folks had to pry the books out of my hands!

Children who are motivated to read will actively seek out books to enjoy and are happy reading quietly by themselves. Research confirms that motivation is a key factor in becoming a successful reader. When children are motivated, they read frequently, which in turn helps them become skillful readers. And children who are skillful readers learn well and deeply and successfully.

But Not All Kids Are Motivated

Some kids hate to read … especially struggling readers. For these reluctant readers, it may take a lot of extra cajoling and a bit of creativity to convince them to spend time reading. And it may take even more effort to help them enjoy reading.

There are many reasons that kids don’t enjoy reading. But before you can work on motivating your child, it helps if you understand why he resists reading in the first place.

Does Your Child Fit Into One of These Categories?

“Reading is hard!”

Most people don’t choose hard work as a leisure activity, and that’s true for reading too. A child who has to work at reading is not likely to find reading fun. Does your child have issues with fluency, or have gaps in his phonogram knowledge? Maybe he’s struggling because he’s guessing at words or hasn’t developed strong vocabulary skills. If your child feels that reading is too much work, try to begin by identifying and addressing his areas of weakness. As he becomes a better reader, he will grow to enjoy reading much more.

And remember, reading takes much more patience than the relative ease of watching television and playing video games. Limiting “screen time” may increase a child’s interest in reading.

“Reading is boring!”

For some kids, reading isn’t hard, but it isn’t fun either. But it may be that they just haven’t found reading material that motivates them. So think about what your child loves to do. Does he have a hobby or special area of interest? Does your son like dinosaurs? Does your daughter like gymnastics? By finding reading material that piques their interest and draws them into reading, you’re giving your child a motivational boost that can propel him to increased enthusiasm for books.

Child reading book on reptiles

More Tips to Help You Motivate a Reluctant Reader

  • Make time for reading. If you and your children have jam-packed schedules and reading is shoved between gymnastics and band practice, reading may seem like an unwelcome chore. Allow reading to be a relaxing and enjoyable time.
  • Set aside a regular read-aloud time with your children. Reading aloud helps your child develop an interest in reading. Choose a variety of high quality literature that appeals to your child’s age and interests. Don’t abandon read-aloud time when your children get older—even teenagers love being read to. Don’t forget about audio books, either; they can offer another great option for a reluctant reader.
  • Create a cozy reading nook for your child. A special reading space may be all the encouragement your child needs to settle down and spend time with a good book!
  • Motivate kids to read with reading nooks
  • Make sure the reading material isn’t beyond your child’s reading abilities. The interest may be there, but if the book is hard to read, your child’s motivation will wane.
  • Look for a variety of reading material. Children often gravitate toward the fiction shelves in the library, but don’t stop there. There are many other genres to consider. Picture books—even for older kids—can be sentimental favorites. Joke books, cookbooks, how-to books, graphic novels, and biographies are all great non-fiction possibilities. And children’s magazines can be a great out-of-the-box way to encourage a child to read.
  • Have your reluctant reader read easy picture books to younger siblings. This provides excellent practice yet it doesn’t feel like work.
  • Boy reading to younger sister
  • Try buddy reading with your struggling reader. Buddy reading can help improve a child’s fluency by making him feel more comfortable with reading on his own.
  • Let humor work its magic! Select a funny book at your child’s reading level and read the first chapter aloud. Then stop reading. If your child wants to find out what happens next, he’ll have to read it himself!
  • Encourage familiarity with words, books, and reading. Even very young children can begin to understand the importance and joy of reading.
  • Exhibit a love of reading. When your kids observe that you love to read, they will likely develop a love of reading themselves.
  • Provide access to books. Use your public library. Create a home library. Keep books accessible. When your child decides he wants to read, you want to be sure there’s a book at his fingertips!

Have you discovered a great way to motivate your child to read? Please share in the comments below and we’ll add your idea to our readers’ tips box.

Motivational Tips Recommended by Our Readers

  • My daughter earns a sticker for each mom-approved book she reads. When she reaches ten stickers, she gets to choose a prize from a bin full of Target Dollar Spot goodies. (Recommended by @dandljacobs via Instagram)
  • I try to pick subjects he’s already interested in. For example, anything about knights, castles, etc., and he loved The Great Mouse Detective movie so we read aloud Basil of Baker Street. (Recommended by @larasplace via Instagram)
  • Have them pick a book or topic that they enjoy reading or learning about. Letting them choose always works! (Recommended by Sarahi D. via Facebook)
  • I make sure that books with higher reading levels have lots of illustrations and diagrams. Minecraft has been a great motivator. (Recommended by Nancy B. via Facebook)
  • Comic books!! (Recommended by Alaina K. via Facebook)
  • I have one who is motivated by keeping a reading log of books he has finished. (Recommended by Robin W., AALP Customer Service)
  • My oldest son got interested in reading when our local library got in a new section of graphic novels! (Recommended by Corrie via Facebook)
  • I used two small finger puppets (one for me, one for her) and we pretended the puppets were reading the story. (Recommended by Marci via blog comment)
  • Silly chapter books like How to Eat Fried Worms can be a great motivator. (Recommended by Rachael via blog comment)
  • My son is reading more now by reading to his little sister when I need a few minutes to get a chore done. He loves showing her how he can read! (Recommended by Ann Marie via blog comment.)

Photo credit: Rachel Neumann

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Leave a Comment

Awesome indeed. I love these books. The pictures are amazingly motivating. Reading is challenging for many kids and adults a like. Reading demands discipline and dedication. I agree with Iam successful in my profession because i love to read. If i see a book, i just grab it and swallow the contents and with it the knowledge acquired.Knowledge is power because those who know can not be easily swayed and therefore can not take to the idea of fake news of this terrible era.

Mark Anthony Martinez

says:

These are all great ideas for the upper and middle class family in suburbia, my issue is how do you get kids whose mom or dad are working two jobs to just get by. How do you help the kid that is in 5th grade but has been passed on because they are SPED?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Mark,
The tips and suggestions here will help children of any socio-economic status. With school and public libraries, nothing here would require money in order to be put into practice. Even the suggestion for a cozy reading nook could be accomplished with a couple of blankets near a window.

Finding the time to do many of these suggestions can be difficult for parents in all kinds of situations, but it can be done although creativity may be needed. I knew a struggling single mother that read with her children over breakfast before they left for school and she left for work.

Frances Powers

says:

Children learn by example. Parents should be seen by their children read books as well.. bake cookies together..read the recipe with them.

CW

says:

Finding Child-Interest Books that are on-level can be tricky! After much labor, We managed to locate some fabulous engaging leveled reader “classics” pertaining to a favorite theme of our: cats! We located Jow Cowley Sunshine Books, Story Basket, Story Box, and Rigby PM, Rigby Sails, Rigby Stars. My kiddo couldn’t put these down, often reading on his own accord <3

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for these book recommendations! They sound great, but I have never heard of them.

Joyce

says:

Love the reading nook pictured! Thanks for the great tips!

Chris Janzen

says:

My son has certain reading assignments given to him for school. One thing that has kept him motivated to read them every day is getting to choose when they will get read. Sometimes he does the assignments during the normal school day, but other times he loves to save his books to read as bedtime stories just before going to sleep. Either way the work gets done and he loves feeling in control of getting to choose exactly when it is completed.

Anita

says:

I like to challenge my students to make up fun voices as we read. I do it too! They are not sure at first, but they love it.

Also, I use 1-page stories to get them past the fear of the story being too long. I even write my own 1-page stories using their names and their friends’ names to draw them into the story.

Lastly, books on tape really help!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Anita,
Great ideas! I especially like the one about 1-page stories with the child’s own name! Thanks for sharing.

Nichol

says:

A motivational tool we have found is the “book it” program by pizza hut. Set whatever reading goals you wish for your children to achieve and when they are reached the children are rewarded with a free pizza hut personal pizza. We tend to eat quiet healthy so pizza is a real treat at our house.

Crystal

says:

I have a 9 yr old who is still a reluctant reader. He says it takes too long. I have tried various things from reading about his hobbies to aloud reading to trying to make it fun. I will
Try the suggestion to create a spot but I’m thinking might be comprehension issues. Any suggestions on how I tell if it is comprehension issues?

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Crystal,
Have you listened to your son read aloud? Often it is only after listening to a student read aloud for 10 minutes or so can we get a good idea of where they are struggling. Typically, comprehension issues are caused by other reading issues, such a not being able to read smoothly and fluently, or not having the stamina for reading well for longer periods. Listening to him will help you to hear if it is something like this.

Have you seen our article on Is the Matthew Effect Affecting Your Child’s Desire to Read? In it we discuss that good readers read more which makes reading easier which makes it more enjoyable so they read more in an ongoing upward spiral. Struggling readers find reading hard so they read less which makes reading more hard in an ongoing downward spiral. Because of the Matthew Effect, you may find it beneficial to simply require your son to read for 20 minutes or so every day, whether he wants to or not. Allow him choice in reading material, even allowing “easy” or below grade level reading, but require the reading. I have seen this daily required reading to make a big difference in my own sons’ desire to read, but it took over 6 months of requiring reading approximately 5 days a week to see this difference.

Let me know what you find after listening to your son read.

Marci

says:

I used 2 small finger puppets (one for me, one for her) and we pretended the puppets were reading the story. She loves pretend play, and it helped make reading less like work.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

What a way to make it uniquely fun for your daughter, Marci. Thank you for sharing this great idea.

Leslie

says:

Does anyone have any ideas for a child who is fully capable of reading two levels above her grade level, but puts up a fight anytime her own grade level reading is required of her? She’ll happily sit and read to her younger siblings; she’ll happily listen to any length of story read aloud; she’ll happily read a book that she has chosen herself (which tends to be a year or two below her grade level or Captain Underpants). But, ask her to read an on-level book for school that I choose and the whole world crumbles into a heap (not every time, but it’s happened enough that I’m asking the question).

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Leslie,
It could be that reading on or above your grade level is hard work for her, so while she can do it she doesn’t enjoy it nearly as much as lower level reading. This is normal human nature; I am very capable of reading The Illiad, but instead I enjoy young adult fiction much of the time. It is a lot of work to read The Illiad, and a pleasure to read Under the Never Sky.

How you are deciding what reading level the books are? Did you know that The Hunger Games and Kirsten Saves the Day (an American Girl book) are both listed by Scholastic as 5th grade reading level? As someone that has read both books, I can tell you that they aren’t on the same level at all. I am not sure how grade level for books is determined (and there is a lot of contrary information about that online), but obviously there is a flaw in the system if these two books are ranked similarly. For one thing, the content and interest level of one is at a much higher level than the other. Kirsten Saves the Day seems very appropriate for a 5th grader; The Hunger Games does not. I have seen this sort of problem in grade level listing for books a lot, and it makes me leery of choosing my children’s reading material by it.

Have you listened to your daughter read aloud the kind of books that you want her to read but she is resisting? You may find that her reading isn’t as fluent at that level as you thought. Or, you may find her fluency is fine, but the smaller print of higher level books troubles her. Or she sees the thickness, with few to no pictures, and her confidence is shaken. It is very difficult to determine what the issue is without sitting with her and hearing her read it.

I have made the mistake of requiring my children to read books that I felt they were ready for, but they felt were too hard. It never ended up with them being motivated to read more, and at times it ended up with them wanting to read much less. It is a much better tactic to encourage them to read a lot on a level they are comfortable with, but to keep offering suggestions for books they may enjoy. Sooner or later they will move to a higher level and start to enjoy reading there. If you feel the need to require her to read a book of your choosing (which I do occasionally, such as historical fiction that goes along with our studies), set a timer and allow her to stop at 20 minutes no matter how far (or not far) she gets. Another useful technique to encourage higher level reading is to buddy read the book with her.

I hope this helps some, Leslie. Let me know if we can help further.

Jen S.

says:

I need to try some of these ideas! Thank you for sharing them. My younger son 7 is a reluctant reader which is not helped by the fact that his older brother reads a ton and loves reading. My younger feels he can’t read as well and realizes he is struggling.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Jen,
I’m sorry to hear your younger son is struggling, and comparison rarely is helpful. Poor guy. Most children aren’t strong readers at the young age of 7, but grow into over time.

Renae B.

says:

Read this for future advice as my son is not yet ready to learn how to read. He loves to be read to, however, I can see him wanting to give up if he finds reading difficult. He wants to be easily good at everything and is frustrated when he is not.

Emily Lepich

says:

Thanks for all of the helpful advice on reluctant readers

Amy Dapprich

says:

I;m looking forward to trying some of these!

Heather

says:

My son was a reluctant reader. All About Reading and Spelling have helped us to overcome this. Although I thought the day would never come, he is finally beginning to enjoy reading.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Heather,
This is great to hear! Thank you for sharing your son’s success!

Fawn

says:

Great article! As you mentioned, a variety of materials (even comic books) often helps. Also, a time set aside for the child to share with peers or adults what they find fascinating about the book read creates a kind of “book talk”.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Great point, Fawn. Someone else expressing interest in what they read is very motivating for many kids.

Audrey

says:

I always have trouble finding books (outside curriculum), that my daughter can read. And I REALLY want to set up a reading nook for her… just have to find where!!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Audrey,
It can be a struggle to find phonics based reading books on the earliest level, because so much of what is published today is sight reading based. However, if you let us know what level of AAR your child is on, we do keep lists of additional reading material that people have told us have worked for their children.

And a reading nook doesn’t have to be anything fancier than a comfy chair or cushion near a window or lamp for good light.

Mimi

says:

I would LOVE a list of reading materials for my grandson. He is in AAR level 2 but we are hoping to work into level 3 before summer.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sure, Mimi, here you go.

Here are some readers that others have told us they used with AAR 2. We have not looked at all of these to make sure there are no new patterns introduced; I know some will have a few new patterns, so pre-read the materials if you have a struggling learner who might need more help.

High Noon Books Sound Out Chapter Books

The titles that start with Mr. Putter and Tabby. . . (with some help).
… Pick the Pears
… Paint the Porch
… Dance the Dance
… Spin the Yarn
… Stir the Soup
… (and many more)

Christian Liberty Press has a set of 4 Phonics readers: It Is Fun To Read, Pals and Pets, A Time At Home, and It Is a Joy To Learn. Book 3 mainly uses concepts from AAR 2 (some 3).

Sonlight Grade 1 and Grade 2 readers (many of these will be available at a good library).

Henry and Mudge (a few concepts that are introduced in Level 3, but may be decodable by students who don’t struggle with reading–such as the /dge/ pattern)

Dr. Seuss books.

My Father’s Dragon trilogy–one mom said this was mostly decodable, some mastered words, some new words they’ll need help with after AAR 2. “When we came across a pattern that they didn’t know yet, I would give them the sound for that phonogram and then let them see if they could segment and blend the word. If not, I segmented to see if they could blend. Or, if I sensed they were near frustration, sometimes I just said the word so they could keep going.”

Now I’m Reading.

Bob Books (these start easy but the higher sets do use more advanced words. Older students may think they’re too childish however.) Levels 3, 4, and 5 include concepts mainly from levels 2-3 of AAR.

Fly Leaf, A Book to Remember has very nice pictures but can be expensive. You might check your library for these.

I See Sam readers (these are free for iPads):
– Set 1 has 73 regular words (can be sounded out after learning ch/sh/th in AAR 1), and 9 “sight” words. All 1 syllable words. Introduces both small and capital letters.
– Series 2 introduces al, 80-150 words
– Set 3 introduces contractions, er, ou, 100-150 words
– Set 4 introduces ai, ar, ing, ed, 2 syllable words, 200-400 words
– Set 5: ay, ch, ea, ee, ir, ol, oo, or, ow, qu, ur, 300-500 words
– Set 6: au, aw, ew, igh, kn, oa, oi, oy, ph, tion, ture, ue, wr, 500-700 words
– Set 7: prefixes, suffixes, semi colon, prolonged sounds, possessives, abbreviations, initials, 600-800 words per story
– Set 8: suffixes, time, hyphenated words, abbreviations, 4-step approach to decoding multi-syllable words, 700-1000 words per story.

Fun Phonics might also be a possibility–the last 3 books include concepts mainly from Level 2.

From EPS Books:
– Primary Phonics Story Books
– Spire Decodable Readers
– The Alphabet Series

Progressive Phonics – Free phonics books that can be read online or downloaded and used right away. Follows AAR very closely.

The McGuffey Readers were used for YEARS from the mid-1800′s into the early 1900′s to teach reading. They are available online for free in the public domain.

We Both Read books – These books are designed for the parent to read one page of more difficult text and the child reads the other page of easier text.

Heather

says:

I needed to read this right now!

Allison

says:

Great ideas!!

Sharla M

says:

Thanks for this article. Some really good ideas to get my son reading!

Tami Lewis

says:

After teaching six kids to read and work in with my seventh , I can’t stress the reading aloud time enough. We all look forward to it.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Tami,
Yes, we agree. Reading aloud regularly to children, even beyond when they can read well themselves, is beneficial in so many ways, plus it makes warm, fuzzy memories.

Laura Barnes

says:

My older kids read to my younger kids all the time– it’s great for all of them and I love to see them enjoy time together.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Laura,
Yes, reading to younger kids is a great motivator for reading. And, if you don’t happen to have younger kids in the house, many kids enjoy reading aloud to pets or stuffed animals. (Or you can “borrow” a young cousin or a friend’s younger sibling.)

Renee C.

says:

Definitely finding a subject that interests my son works. The Level 1 Star Wars reader worked for him the other day!

Julie B.

says:

Your advice is always welcome! Thanks!

christine

says:

Great ideas. Thanks!

Rachael

says:

My reluctant reader is also a born comedian, so directing him towards silly chapter books like: How to Eat Fried Worms, is helpful. He just finished that one in a breeze since it was something he was interested in.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Rachael,
We love How to Eat Fried Worms! It’s like a generational tradition, as both my husband and I read it as children, and now the children read it. Lots of fun!.

KD

says:

My son is a reluctant reader, so I’ve been reading out loud for me. The only thing that he likes to read to himself is comic books. He is a fourth grader and he still likes reading picture books. We like all the Dr. Suess’ books.

Christina Morales

says:

We are really loving using these programs. My oldest daughter is doing the spelling to fill in the gaps and has learned a lot already. We have flown through two levels at this point but it is worth it to gain a foundation for the future lessons. My youngest daughter is in AAR 1 and loves it. I love watching her face when she figures out a story. Her favorite so far is The Red Pen. She loves that one. My middle daughter is dyslexic and really struggling. Even she loves the level 1 books and is so proud of herself when she reads the stories. Thanks for an excellent program and thanks for your generosity.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Christina,
Thank you for sharing how your children are doing. Let us know if you ever need more help for your struggling learner, although it sounds like she is off to a good start.

Ashley

says:

Great improvement in my child’s spelling using AAS. Thank you!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Ashley. Thank you for sharing your child’s success!

Elizabeth Stankiewicz

says:

I have found that reading aloud to the struggling reader is a great motivator. Also, I gently encourage them to read every other word so we are sharing the “difficulty.”

Jennie

says:

My child loves to read and be read to! This program has really helped her tremendously. It is amazing! i am looking forward to continuing it with her.

Amanda

says:

Going to purchase the first lesson today. So excited to help my daughter with her spelling! Would love to win the giveaway!

Rebecca Armstrong

says:

Thank you so much! Your curriculum has worked miraculously for our different learners. I have tried many spelling and reading curricula and I highly recommend yours!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Rebecca,
You are welcome, and thank you for the high recommendation!

Angela BOYCE

says:

Love this program! As a mom of five it has simlpified our day with the easy lesson plans to follow.

Amy

says:

Our child is definitely a word guessing…we’re working on it!

Jessica W.

says:

Thanks for sharing these great tips!!!

Amanda

says:

Thank you for the tips!

Ann Marie

says:

My son is reading more now by reading to his little sister when I need a few minutes to get a chore done. He enjoys showing her how he can read!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Ann Marie,
This is a great idea! And if you don’t have a younger sibling hanging around, reading to a pet or stuffed animal works as well. My daughter loves to read to the dogs and cats.

Corrie

says:

I finally got my oldest son interested in reading when our local library got in a new section of graphic novels. He didn’t find the “comic” style as intimidating as chapter books.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Corrie,
My own boys have fell in love with graphic novels too. I have been pleasantly surprised with the range of topics available. It’s not just the superhero genre that I expected, but literature, historical events, biographies, and more. My boys especially love the “Hazardous Tales” series that cover American history events.

Thalia Waldvogel

says:

If you have a Six Flags near you, you can sign up to “Six Flags Read to Succeed” program. Your children can earn a feee pass if they read 6 hrs. Not much but it’s an incentive.

Marie Rippel

says:

Thanks for sharing this tip, Thalia!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Oh, I think some people are going to be happy you shared this, Thalia. Thank you.

Stephanie

says:

I Have learned that even if what they enjoy reading isn’t mom’s favorite don’t pick that battle and let them explore as they discover what they enjoy. My kids liked this comic series and I really wasn’t a fan but my daughter who is not an avid reader would get every book when we went to the library and would read every one…eventually she moved on to other books because it allowed her to discover what she enjoyed reading and try new series. I Also found it to be important not to have expectations in their reading and if they stay put at reading below their grade level that’s ok…there’s enough pressure out there and it’s important to let reading become enjoyable as they find material they like to read.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Great points, Stephanie! Reading “easy” books builds fluency and a joy of reading, and it isn’t a bad thing at all. Hey, I read books that are easy for me all the time. Thank you for sharing.

Summer

says:

Marie, just wanted to let you know how much we LOVE All About Reading. I’m using Level 1 with my 2nd Grader, who was a very resistant reader (and still says he “doesn’t like reading”). The last few weeks, he’s starting to read words on signs, cereal boxes, you name it! I tried several different curriculums and yours is hands down the best I’ve tried. It’s fun, easy for me to follow and we are seeing results. Thank you for an awesome reading program!!!! -Summer S. from California

Marie Rippel

says:

Hi Summer! Thanks for your kind words, and thanks so much for sharing this update about your son’s progress!!! I’m cheering you both on!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Summer,
This is GREAT! We love to hear this sort of thing, and I’ll be sharing this with the entire All About Learning Press team. Thanks for sharing.

Naomi

says:

When our former reading program was driving her batty, I just took her to the library and let her pick books that interested her. If the reading level was too high, I read them or helped. It took the pressure off though and now she loves the library.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Naomi,
I agree that allow student’s choice in their reading is a great motivator. Thanks for sharing!

Jo

says:

I agree with limiting the screen time, this article was on point!

Ashley Moore

says:

When my girls first started reading they got a new book for every 20 read. They also had a special doll that they could only hold if they were reading to her.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Ashley,
What motivators, new books and a special doll. Thank you for sharing this idea.

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