How to Motivate Your Child to Read
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 to Read
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.
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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.)
- Creating fun and engaging activities that are tied to the themes or topics of the book can be a way for young learners to enjoy reading. (Recommended by Allyson via blog comment.)
- I like to challenge my students to make up fun voices as we read. I do it too! (Recommended by Anita via blog comment)
- 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. (Recommended by Anita via blog comment)
- 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. Recommended by Nichol via blog comment)
- I used 2 small finger puppets (one for me, one for her) and we pretended the puppets were reading the story. (Recommended by Marci via blog comment)
Photo credit: Rachel Neumann