How to Motivate Your Child to Read

Mom.me.Kid Amongst Books

by Mom.me contributor Angie Lynch

Modeling reading behavior for our kids has always been something that came naturally in our house. Three of us are “readers” (my husband, our eldest daughter, and myself), but our youngest daughter is not. At seven-years-old, she’s never shown any kind of self-motivation for picking up a book. Having an older sister who is incredibly interested in books and reading, there is no shortage of available books for her to pick up and read. Even though she has access to books that are both on her comprehension ability and social/emotional level, she is not self-motivated to read. We want our younger daughter to want to read, but since we can’t get inside her head and re-wire her motivators, we have to do what we can to externally motivate her to read. She earns iPad apps, toys, and money for reading and completing books—because let’s face it, out of twenty books she’ll start, only one will be read cover-to-cover.

At nearly nine-years-old, my eldest daughter is and has always been an avid reader. To her, the only motivation she needs to read is a good book and some down time. However, if she’s not immersed in a series she likes or doesn’t have books she wants to read readily available, she’ll be distracted by video games or the television. One of the hardest things for me to do as a parent of a young voracious reader is finding books at her advanced reading abilities that are age appropriate in their subject matter.

During her second grade year, she was cognitively ready to read the Harry Potter series. At seven-years-old then, her abilities allowed for her to read the words and comprehend the story, but as she moved through the series from book to book, her father and I struggled with how long we should let her continue. After discussing the subject matter with her, we decided to allow her to read the books. To say she was enthralled is an understatement. It took her all of about six weeks to read every single book in the Harry Potter series.

She needs no external motivators to read; she’s naturally motivated by herself—to an extent. After finishing the Potter books, she desperately needed something just as interesting as the Potter series. Unfortunately, there are few book series available that live up to that interest level, and after reading another fantasy series (The Heroes of Olympus), she had a very hard time finding other books to keep her intrinsically motivated. For the first time in her life, we had to implement a rewards chart as a reading motivator. Ironically, she was motivated to read more with the incentive to get more books.

To prove that all kids are not alike, our older daughter earns more books for reading—like a good little book nerd—while our youngest daughter earns new iPad apps, jewelry, and money for her reading efforts.

Recognizing our own kids’ motivators for reading will lead to better readers, which in turn grows better students. What works for one child may not work for another. Find out what motivates your kids to read—you may be surprised at what gets them excited about reading!

Mom.me.Angie Lynch headshot

Angie Lynch is a contributor to Mom.me. Angie is an editor and freelance writer who makes her living writing for several online outlets including her personal blog and her book recommendation website.


thumbReading Rainbow thanks Angie Lynch for contributing this week’s guest blog post, and for helping us inspire kids to discover a love of reading, and believe that they can “go anywhere, be anything.”

Try our FREE iPad app in the App Store, or Kindle App in the Amazon Store; download any of our Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.

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3 thoughts on “How to Motivate Your Child to Read

  1. i_am_lisa_too! July 17, 2013 at 9:43 pm Reply

    I’m so glad you determine what is appropriate (age-level-wise…), even though your daughter’s abilities might be at a higher level. I have an 8-year-old whose “friend” (of a slightly YOUNGER age) is allowed to read the Twilight series. Um… sexual thoughts and situations with virginity for that age? Don’t think so. While my children all “know” about “sex” in an age-appropriate fashion, but… Later in the books, it changes to vivid detail… so… I completely understand your thoughts on HP. I sure wish my kid would want to read those books… I’m still trying to talk her into it! Have always loved your writing. Thank you for your thoughts!

  2. Susan Mepham July 18, 2013 at 5:35 am Reply

    A great way to encourage children to read Harry Potter books is to have them listen to the audiobooks of them with Jim Dale reading them. He is amazing and created more an 100 different voices for all the characters. We listen to them driving in the car on short or long trips. Also, after Harry Potter there are many other high-interest children’s books: Fablehaven, Series of Unfortunate Events, The Lighthouse Land Books, Tunnels, 100 Cupoards, 13 Secrets, The Grim Legacy, Blue Balliot books, the Edge Series, Eragon, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, Inkheart, Reckless, Beyonders, the Ruins of Gorlan, and so many other terrific series- some are even better than Harry Potter! Ask a Children’s librarian.

    • readingrainbowblog July 22, 2013 at 10:12 am Reply

      Thank you so much for your comment Susan. It’s not always easy to find age/reading level appropriate books that also capture each individual child’s imagination. These are all WONDERFUL suggestions! I can’t wait to suggest some of these to my daughter!

      Jenni Buchanan
      Reading Rainbow Mom

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