​​Getting Kids to Read More for Fun—7 Tempting Ideas!

If you grew up loving the library, getting to know book characters as ‘friends,’ and hating to be interrupted when you were in the middle of a juicy chapter, you probably want that for your children, too. But sadly, today’s kids aren’t as inclined to pick up a book the way we did back in the day. 

So what happened to reading for fun? Why don’t kids read more?

While there’s a lot going on here, one culprit is the increase in technology toys and entertainment. Television, video games, and social media all have a seductive way of drawing kids in—and keeping them there. Unfortunately, each of these activities is designed to passively entertain your kids rather than challenging them to use their own imaginations to populate stories with unique characters, build worlds, and engage on a personal level. (That is, of course, unless they’re the ones developing the games and content!) 

READ MORE: Hidden Dangers in Today’s Popular Video Games like Fortnite

Reading draws on a different part of the brain that’s kind of like a ‘muscle,’ one that gets flabby when not used. Try your own experiment! Watch a one-hour TV show, then read a can’t-put-it-down book for the same amount of time. Which one challenges you to be more personally involved? Think more? Work harder? Experience more empathy?

Can’t you just ‘feel’ the difference?

Another reason kids don’t read more is that many children are struggling to learn how to read. In 2022, almost two-thirds of fourth graders in the United States were not proficient readers, which is also indicative of literacy deficits around the globe. This alarming statistic points to kids who not only aren’t reading for fun but who are actively avoiding reading altogether. 

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Many parents are not happy about this trend but aren’t quite sure what to do about it. (Other than nag!) So if you’re tired of forcing your kids to pick up a book, try a few of these tips. Even your most reluctant reader won’t be able to resist!

7 tips for encouraging kids to read:

  1. Books by mail. Kids love to get mail. Join an online book swap, so your child can choose his or her own book and order it from another reader. You will be pleasantly surprised to see your child checking the mailbox for the latest book, then reading it as soon as it comes in. The only cost you incur is postage to send your contribution to another young reader.
  • Front yard libraries. Start a Little Free Library—you can buy one or make your own. These free-standing libraries hold about 20 books, and you can set them up in your front yard or on community property. You may want to restrict this “Take a Book, Leave a Book” concept to children’s books only, or you can extend the service to everyone. Your child will love checking it every day to see which books were taken and which ones were dropped off. As an added benefit, neighbors with children will stop in front of your library, giving your child a chance to mingle with other kids.
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  • Book clubs. Start a book club for a small group of your child’s friends. Your child will look forward to reading the book, and the ensuing discussion will help him or her think about books in a new way. 
  • Book shopping. This one may sound simplistic, but it works. Let your child buy a book every now and then. Ownership creates responsibility. If your child spends his or her time at a bookstore choosing the perfect book, the likelihood of that book getting read goes up. If there are no bookstores near you, try a book delivery service. The point is, let your child choose the titles.
  • The Dolly Parton Imagination Library. This free service sponsored by Dolly Parton is an exciting way to encourage your child to read more. Sign up and your child will receive a free book in the mail every month!
  • Read aloud. A lot of parents assume that read-aloud days are over once their children become independent readers. Not so! There’s nothing sweeter than reading a chapter of The Hobbit or Wind in the Willows to your nine, ten, or eleven-year-old each night before bed. As an added bonus, when you get to a really exciting part, you can put the book down, to be continued tomorrow night. Few kids can resist picking up the book themselves to find out what happens! 
READ MORE: 26 of the Best Kids Books For Children of All Ages
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  • Set an example. If you have your nose in a book, chances are, your child will, too. Rather than reading at night before you go to bed, read more during the day so your child can see that reading books is a ‘big people’ thing to do. Better yet, each of you grab a book, go to a nearby coffee shop, and order a latte for you and a smoothie for your child. Curl up in those big, comfy chairs and read away. To add to the fun, sometimes bookstores are connected to coffee shops. Make a day of it!

By using these creative techniques, your child just might become an avid fan of books. Make it a family affair, and you will foster a love of reading that you so badly want for all your children. Getting kids to read more is a lot easier when you make it fun!

Photo Credits: Pexels, Unsplash

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Mary Follin
Mary Follin
Mary Follin is the founder and developer of Teach Your Child to Read™ , an online phonics-based program for teaching children ages 3-6 to read. She is also a parenting advice columnist for Fredericksburg Parent & Family, and the author of Ethyr, winner of a 2018 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. Her parenting advice column, 'ASK MOM,' won a 2021 Parenting Media Association Award.

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