Here are a few tried-and-true guidelines from Reading Is Fundamental on how to motivate kids to read, with comments and suggestions from kids themselves.
Let kids pick out their own books
Book choice is a strong motivation for readers young and old. Let kids pick out books at the library or bookstore. It’s almost a sure thing they’ll want to read them. If you pick them out, they won’t.
“Let your children pick out whatever interests them. When I was little, I always picked dinosaur books. My dad would read them to me. I got to pick out any book, and he would read it, no matter how hard it was,” says Brian.
Set goals and reward reading
Reward reading with more reading, we’ve always said. Stop by the library or bookstore for the next book in your child’s favorite series, or let your child shop for it online. Most kids agree, but they don’t also see a problem with more … well, extrinsic rewards.
“Go around your town and find out about contests — you know, like the ones at the library where if you read so many books, you get a reward. Or make up your own,” says Vincent. “If your kid likes ice cream, then every time he finishes, say, two chapter books at least over a hundred pages, then take him out for a little treat.”
Let your kids see you read
Read the newspaper over your morning coffee, take a magazine from the rack in a doctor’s office while you wait, and stuff a paperback into your purse, pocket, or briefcase. Your kids will catch on to the fact that reading is something you like to do in your spare time.
“If parents don’t read a lot in front of kids, and instead watch lots of electronics — like TV and the computer — then the kids will think that’s what they’re supposed to do and they might not read as much,” says Cameron.
Make reading together fun and memorable
Parents can convey important positive impressions about reading by making reading an experience their children will remember and cherish.
Emily says, “My mom really likes to read to me and she makes the books sound funny by using different voices.”
It’s not what you read to your child that counts; it’s how. Make a story come alive by changing your voice and pace, or using sound effects and motions.
“For me, it was not just books — it was how my mom read the book that got my attention,” says Brittany.
Create loving associations with books and reading
Reading together is a time for closeness and cuddling — another way to show your love as a parent, grandparent, or caring adult.
“My mom would write magical notes from Santa, from the tooth fairy, and ‘discover’ and read them with me in the morning. It was the sweetest reward knowing she’d taken the time,” says Brittany.
Luis says, “My grandma is coming, and I want her to read to me.”
For children lucky enough to have parents who read to them, the memory is lasting and their love for books and reading lifelong.
“Most of all, do it the old-fashioned way. Hold your child while you read together. One of my fondest memories is having my mom read to me in bed at night and falling asleep in her arms. I slept perfectly those nights,” says Taurean.