No matter your child’s age or ability level, time spent reading will pay off with academic, developmental and mental health benefits. So how do we convince kids to spend time reading? Maybe even encourage kids to pick up a book all on their own?
A parent can dream, right?
We can’t control our kids’ interests or whether they will become voracious or less obsessive readers. (Or, even, kids who just aren’t into it much at all.) What we can do is cultivate an environment and a culture of appreciation for reading in our homes.
What Are the Benefits of Reading?
There’s plenty of reason to devote time to reading, even when life is busy with sports and homework. Reading is the doorway to education and opportunities, and we all want that door open for our kids.
Reading practice of just 15 minutes per day can improve reading and learning. Students unable to read at grade level by fourth grade are four times less likely to graduate from high school. The earlier you can build daily reading into your family’s routine, the better.
Among reading’s benefits are a variety of mental and learning effects:
- reading is associated with higher standardized test scores and higher scores on intelligence and cognitive tests
- reading helps build memory and keep us sharp, making it a valuable habit to maintain as we age
- reading has calming effects in the immediate and is associated with higher quality sleep
- reading fiction helps children build empathy and understand other people and relationships better
What Motivates Kids to Read?
Children get better at reading by reading often; like all skills, more practice accelerates learning. It follows, then, that part of improving a child’s reading is improving their motivation to read. So how do we improve motivation?
Extrinsic motivators, like a frustrated parent or a fear of failing an assignment, can get a child reading; it’s true! But, while extrinsic motivation comes from outside influences, intrinsic motivation is borne of a desire to improve and gain satisfaction for one’s self.
Getting angry, threatening or bribing kids will create negative associations with reading which ight actually be detrimental to their motivation. Especially when reading is difficult, role modelling calm and staying positive is key.
Intrinsic motivation to read is especially associated with better reading skills, probably because it inspires regular reading. Intrinsic motivation from a desire to read for pleasure, an interest in the reading material, and/or a desire to improve one’s own reading and mental health — that is powerful motivation!
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How to Motivate Kids to Read
Here are a few tried-and-true ways to encourage positive associations with reading and opportunities to read. With a reading-positive home, you’ll let your child’s intrinsic motivation to read flourish!
Be a Reading Role Model
Plenty of research demonstrates the importance of reading role models in a child’s life. Adults who choose reading for fun naturally show children the value of reading as part of daily life. Frequent readers are more likely to be from families where the adults view reading as a fun activity. Making reading a daily part of your own routine can not just enrich your brain but spill over to lay a foundation for daily reading for your kids.
Preserve Family Reading Time
As you’re helping your child develop an appreciation for recreational reading, you’ll need to help them develop a regular reading habit. Making reading and academic time a family affair may help! Create family reading rituals, like Saturday afternoons in the backyard. Try also to make daily reading a family routine, and read alongside your child if they’re no longer at the read-aloud stage. Pile into the bed with books for 20 minutes before bed or read in the living room to wind down together before dinner.
Let Kids Choose Their Own Books
Kids feel way more positive about reading when they get to decide what they read! Help kids explore books, magazines and literature of all types at the library or local used bookstore. Try not to prescribe books without their input, or bash their choices. Graphic novels are, in fact, novels! Magazines are jammed with reading material. Non-fiction books are usually less popular with kids than fiction, but they’re highly engaging to certain readers. Re-reading books is comforting and helps consolidate learning. All reading is reading and, if they enjoy it, they’ll do it more often and for longer.
Surround Your Child with Books
As many as 6 out of 10 children say they struggle to find books they enjoy, and this is highest among infrequent readers. Since kids can’t always procure their own books, it’s key that you provide a robust home library. Frequenting your public library is an affordable way to open your child’s eyes to a world of literature of all types. There’s something fun, even for the reluctant reader, to indulge in a stack of new-to-you books or magazines. Take advantage of the human love of novelty to trigger your child’s curiosity with a rotating selection of books.
How do you keep reading a part of your family culture? Are your kids natural book lovers or do they need support like this to develop a healthy love of reading? Share below!