I’ve been hearing a lot of stories from Mom’s of big kids struggling to get them to WANT to read anything that’s not “required” for school. This always gets me going because I do think kids can learn to love to read with methods and ideas that turn reading into something fun and rewarding. My ten tips below are definitely not a one size fits all guide. Hopefully they spark inspiration and ideas you can implement in your own families to make reading less of a chore and more of a privilege! The power of words and stories and history and imagination and information… these are gifts that will serve our kids for their entire lifetimes.
Before reading this list remember the number one way to encourage kids to develop a love of readIng is to let them see you reading!
So how else do we get kids to want to read?
Shift toward early (or earlier) bedtimes – the only thing our kids can do besides go to sleep is to read. This, I think, has been a secret weapon for our family. All of our kids go to bed at 7:30. They are allowed to read in bed as long as they want. The little girls usually fall asleep by or before 8:30 but Lilly will keep reading until 10 if we let her. I’m sure this will start to push later and later as the kids get older but the concept is the same. Help your kids get to bed before they have to go to SLEEP so they always have time to read (if they want to!).
Set up a challenge with a fun reward. My older brother Eric, and Lilly’s godfather, challenged Lilly to read the entire list of Newbury Medal winning books for $100. Set up your own challenge with a reward that works for your family. Here are some ideas:
- Read an entire series and earn a shopping trip to half price books.
- Read 5 biographies and earn an alone date to the history museum with Mom and Dad.
- Read two books a month for the whole year and earn new bedding and a squishamallow.
- Read a chapter book out loud to a sibling over the course of a week and earn a milkshake night at home.
- Read 5 historical fiction books from the same time period and earn a subscription to National Geographic.
- Read a book your grandparents loved at your age and earn $ for your college savings account.
Have 1-1 read aloud time together. Kids crave undivided attention, especially in homes with many children. Spend some quality time together reading to your big kid even though they can read to themselves. The benefits of this practice are amazing (try this title for a more in depth look at why reading aloud to kids is so important).
Have kids read aloud to you in exchange for a foot massage. Is it just our kids or are all kids obsessed with foot massages?! Sometimes it’s the only way I can get them to sit still. Listening to their sweet voices read while you massage their feet seems likes a worthy trade.
Get a cool book light. I asked for book light recommendations on Instagram once and got a ton of great responses. Book lights feel much more magical than overhead lights or lamps and are always a fun treat for kids! What do we use? Headlamps from Home Depot! They are about $10 for a pack of three and come with batteries installed! Win.
There is no greater gift for a child from a parent than a love of reading!
Find the books that speak to your kids (not that speak to you). This is so important. It can have a gorgeous cover, be featured in all the blog posts, be about an icon or notable time period or enchanting story. But if your CHILD isn’t interested, they won’t be able to get into it and they won’t WANT to pick it up to read. I’m always happy to give my recommendations for books based on your kids interests and curiosities. (Random recommendation but reluctant readers love the “Weird But True” fact series!). Don’t get caught up in acclaimed literature here- keep it simple. And remember- graphic novels ARE books.
Help kids learn the beautiful differences between books and movies by creating a “throw down” style game. Read the book then watch the movie. Which one wins? Why? You can keep the game going over time and see if the movies or books are more often winners.
Print out a coloring page book log. Gift it to your kids with new crayons or pencils or markers. I have one that my girls love available here, and this is another one from a book blogging Mama that is super rad.
Help organize a tween/teen book club at Starbucks. Pick one book each month and have kiddos meet at Starbucks to discuss their book. This one takes a little parental coordination but it’s a fun way for friends to get together. Click through for a whole blog post with a fun way to create a book club printable journal- diy summer book club journal.
Always allow your kids to “bring a book” – to restaurants, grandmas house, in the car, to the swing set, to school concerts for siblings, to the doctors office, to target. I never say no if they ask to bring a book. Sometimes just HAVING a book handy is half the battle!
What other ways do you try to instill a love of reading in your big kids?