How to Encourage Children to Read

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If you’re reading this, you probably know and believe reading is important. But sometimes it’s hard to know what to do to encourage your children to read. In this post I’ll give you some ideas to help you do just that, so you can raise well-read, well-rounded, confident readers.

I am an avid reader. When I was two years old my mom put all of my books in the bottom drawer of my dresser so that I had access to them whenever I wanted. If I was being too quiet, she would come check on me only to find all of them spread around me with at least one on my lap open and me studying the pictures and trying to read the words.

So, when I became a mom I knew that I was going to raise readers too. I had grand visions of recreating what I loved to do as a toddler.

But you know what happens to grand parenting visions when you have real, live children…they don’t always look quite the same.

All three of my kids were early readers. My oldest likes to read often for fun and can often be found with a book in his hand. My youngest adores stories and has a goal to be the best reader in her class this year.

But the middle one. Oh my. She is the definition of a reluctant reader who needs lots of encouragement. Getting her to read just what she’s required is hard! She doesn’t want to do it and honestly, I’ve struggled because it’s not something I understand very well.

But, because books are so important in our family, these are some things that I have done to encourage my children to read and they’ve have helped her become a better reader and enjoy it more.

Encourage children to read by starting early.

This one is pretty basic. Because when they’re little, it’s pretty easy. Read to them every day as much as you can. Before nap time, bed time, and any time in between. You choose the books, and they mostly listen to what you read. Creating that habit and culture of books in your home is essential.

I mean, there could be some children like Matilda, Roald Dahl’s character who has parents who discourage reading, who still loves it anyway. But, you’re much more likely to need to encourage your children to read.

Some ways that I practiced this was by talking to them all. the. time. I kept books all over the house. We played games involving stories (I’ll get to more on that in a bit). And I just made books an expectation.

Though, like I said before, this worked with only two out of three. There’s still more to do.

Encourage children to read by reading aloud longer than you think

encourage children to read by reading aloud

One of the most important things you can do is keep reading out loud to them, even after they can read for themselves. When my oldest was in preschool, I learned about The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. It’s not only full of books for every age, but includes “proven techniques and strategies for helping children of all backgrounds and abilities discover the pleasures of reading and setting them on the road to becoming lifelong readers.”

The philosophy of the book is that you should always read to your kids–even when they’re big enough to read for themselves. Because it helps them learn how words are should be pronounced and the flow of language. One day they will be more likely to pick up books in the future.

We LOVED the suggestions in that book because the books are just so good. Some books I’d never heard of that became favorites, and it includes classics that I hadn’t thought of reading to him at his age.

As he grew as an independent reader we kept up reading together before bed and took turns reading every other page. That’s actually something we still do, even though he’s in middle school. We’re currently (slowly) working our way through Harry Potter.

Encourage children to read by understanding their point of view

If you have a child that just won’t read, or it’s a struggle all of the time, ask some questions to help them–and you–understand where their reluctance is coming from.
What are they feeling?
Are they reluctant because they are struggling to understand the words or pronounce them?
Are they nervous to make mistakes?
Are they too tired at reading time?
Can they see and understand the words?

We found out that with my daughter, she didn’t ever want to read aloud (so I would actually know she was reading and didn’t just look at the page) because she was afraid of making a mistake because she doesn’t like looking “bad” at anything.

So, we had some discussions about risk taking, and how it’s ok to make mistakes. Then, shortly after that, she told us that the words were blurry. Turned out she needed glasses, so once she got those, she’s dramatically improved.

Taking the time to learn what’s happening in their head can be half the battle.

Encourage children to read by letting them choose their books

This one is hard, but especially important when you’re trying to encourage children to read. We, as parents, often research books that we think will be good for our children, (you can see some of my favorite recommendations here.) Or have ones we liked in our own childhood. And sharing them with our kids is great. But, sometimes, much to my annoyance, my kids seem to love the books I hate the most. (Why do they do that!?!)

So, what to do? Let them choose what books they want to read–within reason, of course. My middle daughter loves graphic novels. I don’t. But, she’s reading, and some of them aren’t as bad as they look. My girls will read some of them again and again.

But when they aren’t into a book, well…it doesn’t go as well. When my son was about 8 I bought him all of the Percy Jackson books in a set through the school’s book fair. I was really excited because he was at the right age and level, and I figured he’d be excited too.

Uh, not so much. He wanted nothing to do with it! He told me he just wasn’t interested. Once my mind stopped reeling, I realized that most often, letting them choose appropriate books they want is better.

Now–this is not a blanket statement. We also have a “required reading” list in our house. It’s comprised of books that are just good and should be read. So far, my son has said he’s really glad I “made” him read all of the books and wishes he’d read them sooner.

Encourage children to read by setting reading goals

Sometimes you just need the proper motivation. We went through our home library with a reading chart and made a list of books that each child wanted to read, and some books that I wanted them to read. There are about 20-25.

Now, they know which books they want to read, I know what they want to read, and I can follow along with them. We can read together if they want, and they can earn extra screen time privileges or more allowance when they finish a book. They also have to read a minimum of 20 minutes per day before electronics.

Download a copy of our chart here:

Encourage children to read by exposing them to lots of books

encourage children to read with lots of books
Have lots of books available

I mentioned this a bit farther up, but exposing your children to lots of books is a great way to encourage them to read.
Beyond just reading to them daily, this can include regular trips to the library, visiting book stores to browse–or buying books to create your own library at home.

Visiting the library–it’s truly a great way to expose kids to books. When they’re small story time is fun, interactive and social. Depending on where you live, and your children’s ages, there are many programs, activities and possibilities to learn and explore at the library.

Book stores–ah, there’s just something about a book store that makes my heart sing. And, it’s another place your children will be surrounded by books. There’s so much diversity in a book store, and obviously it’s meant for you to pick books to take home and keep forever–which can be important for some kids. This is a great route to go if you’ve borrowed something from the library that your child loves and you want to have a copy.

It’s also great for creating your own home library! A place where your child’s books live so they can visit them any time they want. We’ve gone back and forth between keeping lots of books in the kids’ rooms, and having most of them in one central place. It depends on your kids’ ages, space, and where you think they’ll read more.

For creating a home library you can also consider a subscription book box. My “reluctant reader” is starting to look forward to her books each month and deciding which ones she wants to keep and which she’s not so into. Read more about our favorite one it here.

Encourage children to read by making reading fun

Reading should be fun. So make it fun! It shouldn’t be serious and disciplined. Tell made up stories, play story-making games (the series from Story Cubes is great), make a craft related to the story, make a food related to the story if possible. Just, make it interactive and they’ll be so much more likely to respond positively.

Encourage children to read by reading yourself

Moms need to read too!

This one is pretty self explanatory, but it may need mentioning. Let your kids see you reading–something other than social media on your phone! Children learn by example, and by seeing a parent read for fun, they’re more likely to want to as well.

It could be anything–from a newspaper (do people still get those?) or a magazine to a novel in print or digital.

Another option is audio books. I don’t particularly like them, but they’re all my husband “reads.” And they can be great while you’re doing other tasks–like washing dishes, cooking, driving in the car etc. as long as it’s kid appropriate ; )

Encourage children to read by just doing your best

Raising children who enjoy reading is not guaranteed, no matter what foundation you give them. And sometimes they’ll look like they’re taking steps forward, but then go back. But, the important thing is progress and enjoyment.

Hopefully these ideas will help you along the way to helping you encourage your children to read and become a confident reader. Good luck!

43 COMMENTS

  1. Hillari | 20th Apr 20

    This is great! I am a huge reader, as is my husband and daughter. I am also an eighth grade ELA teacher; I love that you have done so much to create readers within your own home <3

    • Kirsten Reeder | 20th Apr 20

      Thanks Hillari! English was always my favorite subject. Though…curious, when did schools start using the term ELA instead of just English? What books do you read in 8th grade?

  2. Tricia Snow | 20th Apr 20

    Practicing is key but more importantly starting young. I loved choosing the books! Great advice!

    • Kirsten Reeder | 20th Apr 20

      Yes, starting young is really important for sure! Thanks!

  3. Linda Egeler | 20th Apr 20

    Great post. Reading aloud when kids are young is so key! I still read aloud to my kids.

    • Kirsten Reeder | 20th Apr 20

      Thank you! It really is, so important. That’s great that you still read aloud to them. It’s such a tendency (even for me) to stop reading aloud to them when they can read on their own, especially upper elementary and older, but it really is still important. =)

  4. Holly | 20th Apr 20

    Great tips and advice! I really appreciate learning new ways to help encourage my grandchildren to read!

    • Kirsten Reeder | 20th Apr 20

      Thank you! Sounds like you’re a great grandma. I loved reading with mine when I was young.

  5. Rachel | 20th Apr 20

    Thank you for this! Were starting to get our kids to read more

    • Kirsten Reeder | 20th Apr 20

      Oh, that’s great! Hope it helps!

  6. Eva Keller | 20th Apr 20

    I’ve always been worried that if I had kids they wouldn’t be into the same things as me and maybe even like the things I hate. It’s good to know there’s ways to expose them to what I like and let them pave their own way with it. Even if they don’t enjoy the same books, at least they’re reading.

    • Kirsten Reeder | 21st Apr 20

      I totally understand that worry. It’s real! But like you said…expose them to things you like, then let them make their own way.

  7. Lee Anne | 21st Apr 20

    Great advice. Having my kids pick their books makes it much more enjoyable for them!

    • Kirsten Reeder | 21st Apr 20

      Thank you! It does, it really does.

  8. Debbie | 21st Apr 20

    Goals and rewards. Reminds me of read a thons in school! Loved reading when I was younger too!

    • Kirsten Reeder | 21st Apr 20

      Oh, I loved read a thons! They were so fun. Do you still get time to read?

  9. Suzan | It's My Sustainable Life | 21st Apr 20

    Great suggestions for encouraging reading! My daughter was this way & at times it was like pulling teeth to get her to read & even be read to. She is now heading into her 2nd year of her masters and has to read ALL the time. Guess she got over it, thank goodness πŸ™‚

    • Kirsten Reeder | 21st Apr 20

      Thank you! That is sooooo good to hear that they can also grow out of it!

  10. KENDRA | 21st Apr 20

    Great tips. I always loved reading until I was told what I HAD to read.

    • Kirsten Reeder | 21st Apr 20

      Right! We can make recommendations, but usually giving them options is best…

  11. Santana | 21st Apr 20

    Great tips! I love to read and I hope I can get our children to enjoy it as well

    • Kirsten Reeder | 21st Apr 20

      Thanks! I’m sure you can =)

  12. Sandi | 21st Apr 20

    Great advice. Sometimes magazines on a subject they like help light a spark too.

    • Kirsten Reeder | 21st Apr 20

      Magazines are really great too! My kids like the Ranger Rick ones about animals.

  13. Jen | 21st Apr 20

    I have some reluctant readers at my house! I’ve even gotten to the point of paying them to read a book and write a summary for me. They’re teenage boys! These are all great tips!

    • Kirsten Reeder | 21st Apr 20

      Oh, teenagers can be hard to get to read unless they really like it for sure! I would totally do that–actually, it is part of our reward chart. Each book has a value, and when they finish it we add it to their $ total. Sometimes, whatever works!

  14. Tiffany | 21st Apr 20

    I most certainly will never give up but it is always a struggle here. Whenever my kids ask me what I did when I was younger (video games? play? sports?) my answer is always reading! To this day you can still find me with a book!

    • Kirsten Reeder | 21st Apr 20

      Never give up! Mine do that…and I’m always telling them I read a lot! What was one of your favorites?

  15. Lisa Manderino | 21st Apr 20

    Okay I have been inspired my 4 year old can read beginner books but doesn’t love reading, he would rather be playing. So I am going to do some motivating rewards!

    • Kirsten Reeder | 21st Apr 20

      Glad it helped! I do understand when little ones want to play more than read. Motivating rewards, and bedtime stories and keeping books around in different places for him to pick up and it will all work out!

  16. Sara - Seek Discover Learn | 22nd Apr 20

    I love The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. It’s one that I have on my shelf. I also enjoyed The Real-Aloud Family by Sarah MacKenzie. Even though I was already a fan of reading aloud to my kids and was putting a huge emphasis on it, The Read-Aloud Family motivated me, even more, to continue what I was already doing. If you’re not familiar with Sarah MacKenzie, you should check her out – Read-Aloud Revival.

    • Kirsten Reeder | 22nd Apr 20

      Thanks so much for that suggestion Sara. I haven’t heard of that one, but will definitely check it out!

  17. Shirley | 22nd Apr 20

    Great tips. I did not grow up reading a lot. I did not live in a house full of children’s books. I do love reading now. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Kirsten Reeder | 22nd Apr 20

      That’s so great that you’ve grown into reading as an adult!

  18. Lisa | 24th Apr 20

    Great tips! Saving this for when my son comes of age to start reading.

    • Kirsten Reeder | 24th Apr 20

      Thank you! Hope they help you and your son πŸ™‚

  19. Cindy | 27th Apr 20

    Great suggestions! My son was a reluctant reader until I let him begin checking books out of the adult side of the library. There he could indulge his love of law enforcement, magic tricks and inventions.

    • Kirsten Reeder | 27th Apr 20

      Thank you! That’s really cool. My friend’s son only likes to read non-fiction books, so sometimes that’s what it takes! Glad he likes to read now.

  20. Ruth Iaela-Pukahi | 4th May 20

    Great job Kirsten! I am an Elementary School Librarian and mother to seven children that all love to read. πŸ™‚ I am currently creating an online course to help parents get their children to read more.

    I love that you discovered that it wasn’t that your daughter didn’t want to read but that she had difficulty seeing what she read! Another thing to do as a family is to listen to audio books. They are really great!

    The best part is that you didn’t give up and really know your children! Reading this post made me so happy! Thank you for sharing!

    • Kirsten Reeder | 4th May 20

      Thank you so much Ruth! I really appreciate that! I would love to hear more about your course when it’s done–please let me know!
      My kids do like audio books–and it’s all my husband reads. I can’t get into them unless I’m alone on a long car ride lol.
      I seriously thank you for commenting and for your commendation. It really means a lot to me! And don’t forget to let me know about your course =)

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