When we approach the subject of motivating our children to embrace educational habits that will last for a lifetime, one can sometimes hear the collective groans arising from frustrated moms. Maybe using the term “motivation” is too cliché and we need to open the discussion by looking deeper into why humans make certain actions a habit. 

If we consider brain research, it is a known theory that our brains are hardwired to seek out what makes us feel comfortable. When challenges or difficulties present themselves, we then begin to experience stress and the brain goes into protective mode, sending signals to avoid the offensive activity. 

Your child may be one that considers reading a bit of a challenge. If so, the way that your child catalogues reading experiences might need to change, in order for them to re-frame the way they view the reading experience as a whole. Ergo, we must take the stress out of reading! 

Let me ask you a question? Do you find it easier to motivate yourself to do things that energize you? Make you happy? The answer is most likely a resounding “yes”! So, the key to motivating kids to read is knowing what your child likes and what brings them joy. Providing moments for exposure to various literature and allowing them to select high interest books reflecting their niche goes a long way. For some of our children, they will be born with an intrinsic love for the written word, however, the rest of our reading resistant cherubs must be lured by the promise of fun. 

Below are some tips on how to motivate your children to embrace reading.

Six Tips to Motivate Readers

1. Make selection a celebration

Plan a trip to the local library or bookstore. Generate some excitement around the trip and try to plan for enough time so that they can enjoy the process of picking out new books to read. 

2. Let them choose

Give your child control! Allow them to have the freedom to explore books that they’re interested in most. If you sense them feeling stuck, suggestions are fine, but try to let them lead when you can. 

3. Relate and bond over books

Talk, laugh, and develop opinions about the actions of the characters in the book. Reading one-on-one with your child will not only help with their reading development, and strengthen your bond, but it can also help them to develop a positive association with books if reading together is seen as an enjoyable activity. Asking questions about the material will increase their comprehension skills and help them to stay interested in the content. 

4. Appreciate non-traditional reading sources

The opportunity to read is all around us! Learn to appreciate and encourage reading throughout the day in cookbooks/recipes, magazines that spark their interest, on an iPad or tablet – even the cereal box at morning breakfast. Showing children they will use their reading skills throughout the day might give them the connection they need to see the importance of reading in day-to-day life and might also be a way for reluctant readers to get some extra practice. 

5. Offer movies and treats

A little creativity (and bribery) might just help if you’re stuck for ideas. Chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies can be very motivational! Try to find books that have been made into movies and offer watching the movie as a reward for finishing the book. You can then compare differences between the text and the movie with your child, and maybe enjoy some popcorn while doing it!

6. Appreciate their efforts 

Encouragement can go a long way! Let your child know how happy you are with their progress and dedication to practicing. Share genuine compliments of observable growth and praise for completing a reading session.

If you are introducing these ideas later in your child’s development (from age 9-17), consider reading a school assigned novel with them and striking up a discussion about the main character and what decisions lead to the actions of this character. Appreciate that your children are now responsible for reading large amounts of information as they move onto middle and high school. Make resources like Audible available to provide books for their listening enjoyment. 

Whenever possible, try to introduce these habits and experiences early in a child’s educational journey, before the hormones begin the work of transforming our little wonders into wonderful young adults.



About Karla Thomas Jackson

Karla is currently an English Language teacher having worked in the Baltimore Public County School system for 27 years. In the past, she attended Penn State University, where she earned a Bachelor's degree in English. In addition, she went on to earn a MAT (Master's in Teaching) in English and a MA in English from Binghamton University. In 1991, she began teaching for the Baltimore County School system, also adding an ESOL/ELL certification under Maryland State Education in 2015 and is also currently a tutor for students from China.

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