How do I get my kid to read more?
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
- Most tweens read for fun at least once a week, but almost a quarter say they do so less than once a month.
- Reading for fun drops off dramatically after the tween years: Thirty-eight percent of tweens enjoy reading "a lot," compared with 24% of teens; and 35% of tweens are daily readers, compared with 22% of teens.
- Girls read for pleasure about 10 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 lowbrow, it's the same book every week), stay mum (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 wishy-washy 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.) Do they hate their baby brother? (Yes, there are books about that, too.)
Many books written for kids and teens are adapted into movies, and knowing there's a big-screen version of a book can motivate kids to read the book first—or after—to compare the book and movie versions of, say, Little Women or Wonder.
Savor a series
If your kid likes the first book in a series, keep 'em coming. Check out our list of the best book series for tweens.
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 the tween years, including exposure to complex vocabulary words they might gloss over on their own, not to mention providing a good excuse to snuggle. Taking turns is a nice way to further their reading progress.
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.
Hearing stories boosts lots of skills, including pronunciation, comprehension, and the ability to listen critically. Podcasts with serial installments are also a good choice.
Have your kid read to you
Practicing reading aloud helps kids build confidence in their abilities to read or present in school.
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.
All that white space on the page can make poems feel more inviting than blocks of text, and the spare, lyrical approach can really pack a punch. 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!.
While fairies and superheroes tend to capture kids' attention, nonfiction books teach kids about the world, famous people, and current events.
The tween 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 glean more data, 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—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: Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie), Rick Riordan (the Percy Jackson series), Jason Reynolds (As Brave as You), and Marie Lu (Legend).
Laugh out loud
Some parents wrestle with letting their kids read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Unteachables, and other edgy humor books about kids getting in trouble. Talk to 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.
Graphic novels (and manga, the Japanese version) 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 to satire.
Be a storyteller
Crazy 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).