How to Motivate Your child to Read

Enjoy this post with the best tried and true tips and tricks to motivate your child to read from a Mom of 2 reluctant readers. In fact, I’ve been successfully using these tips to motivate my own children for several years. No more fighting. No more tears.

Text: How to Motivate Your Kids To Read. Photo: A mother with her child in her lap reading a children's story book. Text: Your Guide to Getting Your Kids to Want to Read. www.CapturingWonderland.com

I love books and even before I became a mother I knew I wanted my kids to love books. When I had my first son I made reading a priority and it became a part of our everyday routine. Each year we’d read hundreds of books through the library and eventually started growing our own home library (more on that later). Finally, my son was old enough to enter our library’s summer reading contest.

Books are so fun for me to read aloud and my enthusiasm leached into him. He would beg for stacks of books every night. Read to your kids. If it’s important to you, it will be important to them because that quality time is what they crave naturally anyway. Make it a part of your life.

But what’s ironic is though I love books I wasn’t a big reader before I had kids. So when my son grew up and didn’t love reading either I kind of figured he took after me. But of course, it’s more complicated than that as we discovered he has symptoms of ADHD and possibly dyslexia as well. It was a challenge, to say the least. I pushed and pushed, but then sort of gave up and just kept reading to him aloud.

Enter the summer reading contest at our local library

Every year our Summer Reading contest would pop up at our local library and I’d enroll him and encourage him every single day to read. We’d pick out books at the library every week and plow through them. It wasn’t easy, but I wasn’t going to give up.

Even with his struggles every year without fail he won first place in the contest in his age group for books read and he reveled in the title and the prize. Still, getting him to read regularly was a struggle and a fight because it just wasn’t enjoyable for him. I couldn’t help but wonder how I could foster that enthusiasm in the summer to continue throughout the year? Here are a few things I’ve learned.

A little girl sits on a couch cuddled up in a blanket with her kitty reading a book.
My oldest daughter. She reads aloud to me every day.

How do I motivate my child to read?

There are a ton of ways to motivate your child to read and actually want to do it too. But it’s probably best to tailor your approach to each individual child. Here are a few ways I have tried and succeeded to motivate my child to read in the summer and during the regular school year.

Create an Incentive Program Specifically for Your Child.

I chose to go with straight-up cash. I try to be minimalist in my approaches and don’t want extra stuff floating around my house. Cash can be saved for larger purchases, be used on what they actually want, can go in a savings account, or put towards an experience like a trip to the movies. An added benefit to using cash is the money they earn can then become a learning experience on how to responsibly save and spend money as well as an understanding of how much things cost and how quickly cash can disappear.

Have Your Child Be Apart of the Process.

I printed out charts for each of my kids and they’re responsible for checking off each book as it is finished. We also have a running list for the year of all the book titles, authors, and grade levels. They get to pick out the books, out of the books I’ve already preapproved. As they get older they will be required to write out all the information 100% themselves and keep track of it all. This gives them ownership.

Reading is non-negotiable. Make the Goals attainable.

Reading comes first in our house. If they want electronics or privileges I first ask “What have you read today?” It’s a priority, it has to be, it can’t be something that they think is optional. But I make the goals achievable. I want it to be a daily goal that isn’t drudgery, just a part of the routine so as to form a good habit. So for my oldest who’s 13 I require a time limit of 30 minutes, my 10-year-old reads a chapter a day, and my 6-year-old reads one story (his stories are short).

Let them read below their grade level, if it’s a good book.

One of the things I am OK with is allowing them to read below their grade level, but not as a regular thing. I also make sure every book they’re reading meets certain criteria. You can read more about that here at The Good and the Beautiful. (This is the curriculum we use and their Library is heavily leaned on throughout our school year).

I chose to allow my oldest son to read well below his grade level for several reasons including the fact that it kept reading enjoyable for him. And that was my ultimate goal because if a child enjoys something then it becomes a lifetime thing.

What do you do when your child hates reading?

Find the Why

In my experience with this, it is extremely helpful to discover the why. Why does your child hate reading? Is it boring? If that seems to be the case then you need to experiment with different types of books and genres. What is your child interested in? The first book I remember my son being excited to read was Charlie Brown’s Snoopy and the Red Baron. Every time he showed an interest I went looking for book options to pull him in. Lastly, ensure there isn’t something physically that’s in the way like vision problems, dyslexia, dyspraxia, etc. If you’ve tried all these tips I mention and you’re still struggling it may be time to consider having your child evaluated.

Supplement with Audiobooks

Maybe your child, like mine, struggles with reading and therefore it isn’t enjoyable. I pushed Audiobooks hard to just get them to hear more books than I could read. Or take the pressure off of me to read literally every single book to them (we read a lot already in our homeschool day). So we started with books that were recommended in our curriculum, either required reading, or supplemental. My kids listen to literally hundreds of hours of books every month. If it does nothing else it has grown their vocabulary effortlessly.

Create an Incentive

Find a way to make it fun. Make it a challenge, give them a chance to get recognition, or the opportunity to earn money. We don’t do allowances in our house, but I will happily pay my children to read books. But you know your child best and if you can’t think of an incentive sit down with your child and ask them. Set a goal, give them a way to track their progress, and decide together on the prize they will get. Start small and build on it each month.

Text: Vintage Reading Charts & Certificates Free PDF Download By Capturing Wonderland. Photo: 9 charts with vintage black and white illustrations frogs, snails & slugs, winged insects, caterpillars, sea life, and lizards.
Vintage Reading Charts & Certificates with black and white illustrations

These printables are available as a free download in the Wonderland Subscriber Library. By simply entering your email address and subscribing you get full access. Please remember these are for personal use only.

How can I promote reading in the summer?

Create a hype. Make it special.

I start early, like a month before summer starts for us (end of April). I remind them what’s coming up and start getting them excited to participate. I’ve worked hard to make it a yearly tradition at this point. But you can definitely start now!

  1. Print off some reading charts to solidify the challenge.
  2. Sit down together and make a goal for how many books they’ll read in the summer months.
  3. Take your kids to the library and pick out books together.
  4. Have a party to kick it off!

I hope you learned a few things and got some great ideas on how to motivate your kids to read and feel inspired and equipped to start right now wherever you’re at!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sincerely Julie Signature

Meet the Author

Hi, I’m Julie! Mother to five beautiful kids, Homeschool Educator, Writer, Handicraft & DIY Enthusiast, Photographer, Thrifter, and Furniture Restorer. Follow along for fun DIY projects creating a handmade home on a budget! Read more about me here→

19 Comments

  1. I am totally pinning this for later! My son is only 2.5 but he is a keen ‘reader’ already. Hopefully he stays this way!

  2. Love this! My oldest has had a difficult time with reading so I will definitely be implementing some of these. I think having a reading chart and goal would help motivate her. I haven’t tried that yet so thanks for recommending it.

    1. You’re very welcome. Trying new things to encourage them is planting that seed, I believe you’ll see growth! Thank you so much for commenting.

  3. Such great ideas! Our toddlers love “reading” but are starting to get bored with our books. I need to add audio books into the mix. Great ideas.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! Yes, we started with a small number of books and we quickly decided to expand! Do you know if the “Imagination Library” services your area? If so, that was one way we started to grow our kids library for free! And there is so much excitement when little kids get their books in the mail.

  4. Thank you, these are great ideas! We just discovered The Good and the Beautiful and I agree it’s a wonderful resource. What has worked for us is finding books that REALLY pull them into the stories, so they can’t wait to go back and read what happens next!

    1. Yes! I have found you can always tell a book that’s “living” because it does just that, pulls you in! Thank you so much for your comment!

      Julie

  5. Great, advise. Our 4 yo loves when we read to her but rarely will pick up a book on her own. I usually bring it up (which acts as a reminder to her that she loves books). I let her “read” the pictures in the book.

    1. I love that age! I don’t know that I’ve met a child at that age that doesn’t love books or being read to, it’s amazing. Thank you so much for your kind words!

      Julie

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