Before you start teaching how to read, thinking about reading comprehension, reading worksheets, or learning about reading theory, we have something important for you—especially if your kids hate reading books or you have a struggling reader. How to motivate your child to read is less about how to read faster and more about how to enjoy reading. LEARN HOW
Every time someone talks to me about teaching reading (or reading strategies or reading comprehension), I cringe inside a little.
What if I told you that you need to stop worrying about reading levels and reading programs so much?
Hear me out.
I want to tell you a little story about how my daughter went from a struggling reader to an avid reader.
Then, I’ll give you some tips on how to read that you can use starting TODAY, so KEEP SCROLLING after the story!
So, forget the reading strategies for a moment.
(Yes, I know that reading is fundamental, so I’m going to show you how to develop it into something a child loves!)
Here’s how it all started:
Not long ago a friend of mine posted about how to read a book.
And it made me very sad.
She posted something like this:
“Looking for suggestions on chapter books for my son. The teacher told him that the graphic novels that he loves to read aren’t appropriate for his level.”
And, my heart sank a little.
Reading for kids shouldn’t be a job or chore. It should be something that kids naturally look forward to learning and doing—something they can use to learn more about their interests, not something that meets a standard.
What really happened that day was not a teacher moving a child along in their reading skills (because the teachers have to follow certain rules and meet certain standards).
What really happened that day was society told a child that what he loved to read wasn’t good enough.
And, this can be devastating for a kid, especially when they’re learning how to read or are generally uninterested in reading (or even hate reading).
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I think this tugs so hard at my heart because I had a non-reader.
Early on, my daughter had no interest in reading, despite being read to every single day.
Even after learning how to read, she just wasn’t interested in sitting down and reading books on her own.
(I have no idea how that happened, but that’s for a different post.)
This all changed when we moved to a different area and got a library card for the new library. It is a smaller, less intimidating library and has a fantastic children’s area.
As I watched her look through the sections, she pulled from the picture books (which would be considered well below her level).
Then, she pulled some from the (“level-appropriate”) chapter books.
And then, I watched her discover graphic novels.
And on that day, it was like I could see the switch flip to ON in her head.
She was hooked on reading.
She would devour books (of all levels and types) and then ask to go back to the library in the same week.
And, it happened over and over and over again.
She found an online book app and asked if we could sign up.
And, she read books of all types and levels on her iPad.
Right before my eyes, I watched my daughter become a reader. All because I never made rules about how to read and I ditched the fundamentals of reading that everyone says you must do.
And, guess what else is happening?
In my decision to let go of the reading level chart and not direct how to read, my daughter has naturally advanced herself along in reading, even picking some adult level books that interest her (and were topic appropriate).
Now, without fail, every time we go to the library, she also still finds picture books to check out . . .
. . . and some don’t even have words (or only have a few words).
And, I allow it because I never want to tell my daughter not to be interested in a book because it’s “beneath her reading level.”
Want to help how to help struggling readers?
Stop telling children to read at their “grade level” and worrying about reading comprehension strategies and start allowing kids to read what they love so they can develop a lifelong love of reading.
It seems like we’re always with teaching our kids how to read faster or how to read a book effectively that it’s all just become so . . . clinical.
We’ve forgotten to model for our children how to read a story and just enjoy it.
(It’s called a story book for a reason. We’re supposed to enjoy the story and not attach a bunch of measurements to it!)
I fear that living in a society of do this, not that is crushing our kids’ natural love of learning.
When we take away something they love to use for learning and replace it with something we think they should use for learning, we are telling them that they aren’t good enough.
We are telling kids that what they’re interested in reading isn’t good enough.
(UGH. That hurts my heart.)
And, we’re effectively crushing their natural interest in learning … and this especially happens in our society when teaching kids how to read.
I’m not talking about first learning to read (although that counts, too).
I’m talking about teaching our kids how to read — as in what they choose to read.
Why can’t a fourth grader read graphic novels as part of her reading?
Or, why can’t she read picture books because she enjoys stories with fabulous illustrations?
Why can’t we teach with picture books during her homeschooling, even if they are “below her learning level”?
The truth is: we can use whatever books interest her.
How do you teach someone to read?
It’s less about how to read faster and better and more about how to enjoy reading.
All kids can and should be able to choose what they want to read without fear that they aren’t at their “grade” level or “learning level.”
(And, we are, of course, talking about topic appropriate books. I’m certainly not suggesting your seven year old reads Fifty Shades.)
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So, what to do when my child hates reading?
Or, how to get your child interested in reading?
(Don’t even worry about how to get your child to love reading yet. You just want to first get them interested!)
23 FUN Reading Motivation Strategies for Kids
So, how can I help my child learn to read?
1. Allow your children the freedom to choose what they want to read . . . even if it is below (or above) their level.
2. Get your child a library card.
3. Visit the library regularly!
4. Sign up for a library (or community) program where your kid gets to practice his or her reading skills by reading to a dog. (Yep! It’s really a thing!)
5. Don’t be afraid to suggest or introduce books that you think your child may like, but don’t push them to read them.
6. Make a book into a theme lesson where you cook, do crafts, or explore the places from the book.
7. Create reading nook for kids throughout your house. They can be quiet corners, window seats, or even hideaways under the stairs or in a treehouse. It just needs to be somewhere comfy that your kid wants to hang. (Start with a super fun rug!)
8. Have books available throughout your house.
9. Let your child see you reading.
10. Read together (no matter the age), where you take turns reading aloud or discussing a picture book.
11. Give your child a budget and let them buy cheap kids books that interest them from thrift stores or used bookstores.
12. Read at bedtime. Not only will it help your kid with reading, it’s also a great way to spend time together and wind down.
13. Look up words that they have problems pronouncing or if they don’t know the definition.
14. Create a READING TREE with a tree wall decal and add a “leaf” with the book name, author, and date read each time your child reads a book. It will give your child a sense of accomplishment to see everything they’ve read by the end of the year (or summer or whatever).
15. Ask your child to tell you about the book he or she just read. It will help them with their understanding of timelines and their communication skills.
16. Have your child create some art based on the book.
17. If your kid loves coding, let him/her code something that represents the book. (Try Scratch, a free and easy coding program!)
18,. Let your child pick out books he/she loved to donate to a shelter or for kids in need.
19. Set reading goals and map them on a graph or add stickers to a chart when goals are met.
20. Create a reward program (or reward store) for reading goals and reading rewards. Let them keep track in a reading log and each time they hit a milestone (determined by you), they get to pick a prize or go to a special place.
21. Get them a tablet or e-reader and get them reading books online (especially if they’re more into technology than books!).
22. Create times for reading out loud, no matter your children’s ages and stages. Hearing the words helps with pronunciation and comprehension. (Plus, it’s just FUN to create a family reading time!)
23. Have fun making a reading list together of favorite books. Or, give your child a theme (like bubble gum, Christmas, nature, robots, etc.) and allow them to create their own reading list at the library from the theme!
How do you get better at reading? | How to Make Reading a Confidence Booster [VIDEO]
4 Alternatives to Reading (That Secretly Encourage Your Child To Read)
So, how do you inspire reading?
It can be difficult if you have a child who is struggling, has a learning disability, or just isn’t interested.
ENTER: Alternatives to reading . . .
These are ways that will encourage your child to read or pique their interest in reading . . . without them even knowing it!
1. Use Reading Rainbow (and Other TV Shows and Movies)
It may seem counterintuitive, but you can use television and movies to inspire reading in non-readers—especially since many great books are made into movies or shows.
• Check out our THEME LESSONS section that pairs a lot of books and movies with different learning activities.
2. Introduce Audiobooks
One of the reasons that some kids don’t want to read is because they struggle with it (for whatever reason).
This is where using audiobooks is extremely beneficial!
Audiobooks vs Reading
I know, it may seem like allowing your kids to listen to books instead of reading them is the exact opposite of what you should be doing.
However, did you know that there are many benefits to audiobooks and that they can actually encourage reading?
- Help increase vocabulary
- Help with pronunciation
- Improve comprehension
- & SO MUCH MORE!
CHECK THIS OUT NEXT:
If you need a place to start, you can try audiobooks with Amazon Prime free online for 30 days.
You get two free audiobooks and also two free Audible originals.
If it doesn’t work for you, you can cancel before the 30 days, but you still get to keep the audiobooks and originals and it doesn’t cost you anything!
It’s a great way to try out audiobooks for kids and see if they work for your family!
3. Play Reading Games
Allowing your kids to play reading games is another fantastic way to encourage reading without being too IN YOUR FACE about it.
(Yes, they even have fun reading comprehension games online if that makes you feel better!)
Try these free free educational games for reading:
• Teach Your Monster To Read (free, but requires login)
4. Use Reading Apps for Kids
Here are reading apps for kids that will allow them to have access to hundreds of books right at their fingertips:
- Kindle. (Did you know that you don’t even need a Kindle device to read Kindle ebooks? You can access Kindle books from many different devices! LEARN MORE)
- Sight Words
- Endless Reader
- Wanderful Interactive Storybooks
Don’t Forget About Picture Books for Children
Again, I can’t stress this enough:
Please don’t discount the learning power of picture books (or anything else your child wants to read).
Picture books that inspire creative imagining is learning!
So, don’t discount reading kids’ books, even if they don’t seem “age appropriate.”
Whether it’s wordless picture books, classic children’s books, or silly, popular children’s books, your child can learn from them . . . no matter his or her age!
(And, PS? You don’t have to like them. I ::eyeroll:: internally at a TON of stuff my daughter reads and finds amusing!)
Reading a picture book about a topic that inspires interest in chapter books for kids is learning.
Reading graphic novels that may also pique an interest in drawing is learning.
Naturally progressing yourself to different levels and topics is learning.
Give them room to learn.
The rest will follow.
And, please, for the love of all that is good, please stop telling children that they can’t read a book because “it’s not at their level.”
Children’s Books List
Looking for some new favorite children’s books?
Here are a few books my kid loves.
Maybe your kid will, too!