Motivating Kids to Read

Father Reading to his Son, Sitting in an Armchair
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Unmotivated. Reluctant. Struggling. These are all words that describe readers. Yet in today's culture, reading is one way to help your kids attain more academically. Here are some ideas to help motivate your kids to read more from parents who have been there. 

Reading Between the Times

Seven-year-old Samuel and I sat on a towel in the shade. His hair was summer-swim wet, and his hands were wrapped around our tattered copy of Charlotte's Web. He read slowly but clearly.

Reading and fun in the sun. Both are key to my children's development. But shimmying books between baseball games and bike rides? Potential stressor. When my two older boys were small, I scheduled our days. Morning meant reading. Afternoon was for fun. But the boys resisted. They wanted to run, climb trees and make forts in the backyard. Books became a battleground.

With Samuel, however, I've hit a more gentle flow. Reading has become integrated — not separated. When we go to the park, I pack a book. My swim tote holds a book sealed in a plastic bag. There's always an inviting place to read. Sam will need rest and a snack sometime. Playing in the yard can bring tender moments for page turning under our old maple when fun-spent bodies are quiet and still. And real-life adventures can blend with those on the printed page.

—Shawnelle Eliasen

Free Parent-Child Discussion Questions 

Sign in to get great discussion questions that parents can ask kids for over 1,000 children's and young adult books.

Or use the "Reading for Fun" file in this set of downloads. The "Parent-Child Book Club" sheet can be used with any book that your child reads, and the full download contains even more — a book scavenger hunt and a boardgame that helps motivate kids to read more.

The whole download is set up so that you can customize it to each of your children's reading needs. Enjoy!

—Sheila Seifert

Help for Struggling Readers

When my twin boys began learning to read, I discovered that success came more slowly for some kids than for others. At the end of six months, one son was reading Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books; my other son still couldn't sound out the word it. I sought a reading specialist for advice. Here's what helped us:

Auditory games. We practiced rhyming words, as well as words that begin with the same sound. In one fun rhyming game, I would point to a body part and ask my boys to name it and come up with a rhyming word. I usually pointed to an arm, eye, hair, leg or nose. We'd also pay attention to sounds that were easily confused, such as the j and g in jar and guitar. (To practice these and other sounds, you can search for "phonics games" online.)

Memorization. After learning the alphabet in order, we memorized a scrambled version using the beat of a metronome. My sons learned to say common alphabet sounds, on beat, and in random order. We also used this method to learn Fry's first 100 sight words.

Today my sons are in the sixth grade and are confident readers. My son who initially had trouble reading now gives me plot advice for the Adventures in Odyssey "The Imagination Station" book series for first- and second-graders. But he won't read them because he says they're too easy. After the struggle it was to get him to read, I can live with that!

—Marianne Hering

Helping Your Reluctant Readers

When Owen started second grade 20 words under the reading benchmark, my husband and I knew it was time to do something. But how could we motivate a boy who found reading frustrating and insurmountable?

Owen loved football, so we used trading cards as a reading reward — one card for every 10 minutes he read to us. Two keys helped this method work: The rewards were easily achievable, and we constantly replenished his supply of interesting reading material.

By the end of second grade, Owen's reading level was 15 words above the benchmark, and we felt like we had scored a touchdown.

—Kim Harms

Finishing the School Year Strong

My kids begin the spring semester with a bang but often lose steam as the term rolls on. To keep them motivated and engaged during the final months of the school year, our family posts a special calendar that is enhanced with stickers and color-coded for each child. We highlight the holidays and events the kids look forward to, such as spring break, weekend getaways or parties. Books that have to be read are scheduled out by dividing the number of pages by the number of weeks until the due date, so our kids know how much to read each week. Long-term projects are divided the same way. Extracurricular activities, such as recitals, tournaments and so on, are also placed on the calendar.

We keep a pen near the calendar so our kids can mark off completed tasks and the days that go by. They enjoy having something to work toward, and they feel a sense of accomplishment. Before we know it, projects are completed, books are read — and we're ready for summer!

—Marcy Lytle

Little Ways to Raise a Reader

When our second child didn't like reading, I used simple strategies to make reading more fun. I asked her to read a book that included food, and then we made the food found in the book. If it included muffins, we would make muffins. We also explored nonfiction books that interested her, such as butterflies and horses. And spreading out a blanket at the park for reading also became a favorite activity — a reading date.

—Brooke Kramb

4 Ways to Motivate Kids to Read

If you're looking for more ideas on this topic, you might want to read the PluggedIn blog post called "4 Ways to Motivate Kids to Read" to get a few more ideas.

The compiled article "Motivating Kids to Read" first appeared on (2016). "Reading Between the Times" first appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of Thriving Family magazine; "Help for Struggling Readers" first appeared in the March/April 2011 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was originally titled "How to Help a Struggling Reader"; "Helping Your Reluctant Readers" first appeared in the December 2011 issue of Thriving Family magazine; "Finishing the School Year Strong" first appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of Thriving Family magazine; "Little Ways to Raise a Reader" first appeared in the April/May 2015 issue of Thriving Family magazine. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

"Motivating Kids to Read" compiled article © 2016 by Focus on the Family. "Reading Between the Times" © 2012 by Shawnelle Eliasen; "Help for Struggling Readers" © 2011 by Focus on the Family ; "Helping Your Reluctant Readers" © 2011 by Kim Harms; "Finishing the School Year Strong" © 2013 by Marcy Lytle; "Little Ways to Raise a Reader" © 2015 by Brooke Kramb. Used by permission.

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