Hopefully, getting your children to read isn't as hard as getting them to write, but it isn't a favorite activity for every child — or every adult. From toddlers to teenagers, here are some ideas for motivating the students in your home.
1. Start young
The best time to get children turning pages is to do it when they're most likely to listen, and are still craving your attention — a decade before they'd like you to mind your own business. Every day after lunch, every afternoon after school or daycare, or in the evening before bed: choose the time that works best for you and your family.
Early on, keep a special stash of books aside for the rainy day, and the long road trip. It's helpful to have new material to pull out when they'll be reading more than usual.
2. Let them read to you.
This can begin in the toddler years; it just looks different than when they get older. Young children love repetition, and often enjoy the accomplishment of "reading" a familiar book to an adult. They may not have every word correct, but using their memory, as well as the pictures on the page, is a great pre-reading skill.
When your child is old enough to read chapter books to you, include this in your family's home life: one chapter a day, or a certain number of pages. Use it as some great quality time one-on-one, during dinner preparations, or as part of the evening routine.
3. Supply them with a variety of great books, but go with their preferences, too.
Of course, most parents are likely to censor reading material in the household, in one way or another. That said, it's probably not necessary to micromanage every single title. Having good literature readily available will help encourage a variety of titles (many of which they'll eventually need to read for school).
If you don't know where to start, the Association for Library Service to Children has the Caldecott Winners and honor books listed for the last 70 years. The Caldecott Medal is awarded each year "to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children."
For teenagers, especially those headed to college, check out these reading lists:
- College Bound Reading List
- Outstanding Books for the College Bound from the American Library Association
Sometimes the price of books can be daunting. To stock your own home, take advantage of library book sales, garage sales, used book bookstores, and rummage sales.
4. Set goals and provide motivation.
In other words, you may have to use a little bribery, but that doesn't necessarily mean tossing your child a treat for every page they read. In some informal, Facebook-based research, several seasoned parents mentioned using incentives such as electronics play and computer games as rewards for reading a certain number of books.
Others made it more of a goal-setting adventure: using reading charts with rewards like special meals or family outings, and taking advantage of library programs that reward reading with books and other prizes.
In her article, Promote Summer Reading For Your Kids, Sarah Winfrey points out that using incentives may be the only way to get some children to read.
5. Occasionally plan activities to go along with a book, or a book's theme
For young children:
- Have them use crayons or paint to create a picture of their favorite part of the story.
- Help them create the book's characters out of modeling clay or play dough.
- Set out "story props" for them to retell the story on their own (using bowls and chairs for Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or photos/magazine pictures of the various foods in The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.
For tweens and teens:
- Visit a history museum following the completion of historical fiction novel.
- If appropriate, let them watch the movie after reading the book. They may even want to invite friends and make it a party. Just look what Harry Potter books and the Twilight series have done for reading.
6. Let your children see you reading.
It's important for reluctant readers to see adults reading — for information and for pleasure.
Additional resources for parents: