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How Do I Get My Kid to Read More?

Twenty ways to foster a love for books.

Topics: Reading
Parent and young child reading a picture book

Everyone knows reading is good for kids. But even though it seems like a no-brainer (pick up book, move eyeballs from word to word), you've got to mix things up so kids don't get bored, run out of choices, or feel the lure of their devices. Our 20 tips should encourage a reading habit.

From our research

  • Nearly two-thirds of 8- to 12-year olds read for fun at least once a week, but one in 10 say they never read anything other than what's required for school or homework.

  • Reading for fun drops off during the teenage years: Thirty-three percent of 8- to 12-year olds enjoy reading "a lot," compared with 23% of teens. And 34% of 8- to 12-year olds are daily readers, compared with 21% of teens.

  • Girls read for pleasure about eight more minutes per day than boys.

Let them choose

If your kid brings home reading material that doesn't thrill you (it's too young for them, it's not educational, it's the same book every week), try not to be judgmental (unless it's horribly inappropriate). Kids choose books for all kinds of reasons. Follow up with their teacher or school librarian, who can help them branch out and continue to provide lots of opportunities for additional reading as well as encouragement.

Feed their interests

Whatever your kid is into, you'll find books about it. If your kid's not sure about what they want to read, look around for inspiration: Are they glued to a certain TV show? (There's probably a book spin-off.) Do they have hobbies? (Rock collecting, jewelry making?) Is there a class field trip coming up? (Find a book related to the destination.) Are they jealous of their baby brother getting all the attention? (Yes, there are books about that, too.)

Go Hollywood

Many books written for kids and teens are adapted into movies. Knowing there's a big-screen version of a book can motivate kids to read the book first—or after—to compare the versions of, say, Little Women or the Bad Guys series.

Savor a series

If your kid likes the first book in a series, keep 'em coming. Check out our lists of the best book series for early readers and 8- to 12-year-olds.

Read aloud

You don't need to stop reading to your kids once they can read on their own—in fact, studies indicate it has big benefits way past their early years. This includes exposure to complex vocabulary words they might gloss over on their own, not to mention providing a good excuse to snuggle.

Have your kid read to you

Taking turns to read to each other is a nice way to further your kid's reading progress. Practicing reading aloud also helps kids build confidence in their abilities to read or present in school.

Establish device-free times and zones

It's really hard to give Harry Potter your full attention when your phone keeps going off. Eliminate all distractions by designating specific times and places in your home where devices are not welcome (but books are).

Be a reader yourself

Let your kids see you read at home. Studies show that kids read a lot more when parents keep books around, read themselves, and set aside time for reading.

Use audiobooks

Listening to stories boosts lots of skills, including pronunciation, comprehension, and the ability to think critically. Podcasts with serial installments are also a good choice.

Read all around you

Make a habit of reading signs, packages, billboards—anything with words—and ask your kid to read them, too. Play games like asking whether the information would make sense to an alien, or how the sign could use fewer words to convey the same meaning.

Try poetry

All that white space on the page can make poems feel more inviting than blocks of text, and the lyrical style can capture children's attention. Take a look at these: Shel Silverstein's Every Thing on It, Kwame Alexander's The Crossover, and Jacqueline Woodson's memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming.

Visit the library

If you can't get to your local branch, see if they have an online version of a book your kid might want. You can also try Project Gutenberg, which offers thousands of free, downloadable ebooks, or download the app Libby, by OverDrive to digitally borrow books from your local library.

Consider a book subscription

Make it easy on yourself: For a monthly fee, you can join a kid's book club that mails out physical books, such as the Amazon Prime Book Box for Kids or Literati, or an ebook subscription service where you download books through an app, such as Epic!.

Be real

While fairies and superheroes tend to capture kids' attention, nonfiction books teach kids about the world, famous people, and current events.

Be relevant

The preteen years can take a toll on kids' self-esteem. Books that give kids confidence to try new things, boost their self-acceptance, or explain what's happening to their bodies can be real lifesavers. Try The Dangerous Book for Boys or The Daring Book for Girls, the Middle School Confidential app, or any of these puberty books.

Stick to a subject

Kids go through phases of genres or topics they're passionate about, from girl detectives to science fiction and fantasy. And by the way, if they want to read Wikipedia to get more information, that's fine.

Feed the favorite-author addiction

Once your kids find a writer they love, they may want to read all of their books. It's a great excuse for a trip to the library or an opportunity for book swapping among friends and classmates. Here are some good bets for favorites: Pam Muñoz Ryan (Esperanza Rising), Rick Riordan (the Percy Jackson series), Jason Reynolds (Stuntboy), and Marie Lu (Legend).

Laugh out loud

Some parents wrestle with letting their kids read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Man, and other edgy humor books about kids getting in trouble. Talk with your kids about the content, but keep in mind that kids like these books not because they want to imitate the characters' actions, but because they can live vicariously through their bad behavior. Humor is a great pathway to book loving.

Go graphic

Graphic novels and manga are really popular with kids—and they're not baby stuff! While they can be a good way to engage reluctant readers, they can also delve into topics ranging from deeply personal stories to social commentary and satire.

Be a storyteller

Ridiculous boss? Awkward encounter? Farting in the elevator? Recount the day's happenings with enough colorful details to keep kids' attention and they'll begin to look for stories in their own daily lives (as well as in books).

Caroline Knorr, former senior parenting editor, contributed to this story.

Common Sense Media

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