15 Effective Ways to Motivate Your Child to Read
As a pediatrician and mom of book-loving bilingual children, parents often ask me, “How can I motivate my child to read?”
Most parents know that reading is important for language development and general success. However, we’ve all heard our kids say, “I don’t want to read. I just want to play!”
The good news is that simple changes in our home can make a big impact on our child’s interest in reading. Here’s how to create an environment that inspires curiosity about words and their meaning.
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15 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Read
If you can create a supportive setting, your child will be more likely to ask and reach for books. Some children will need more encouragement than others, and that’s okay!
Explore these 15 strategies that encourage strong and smart reading habits. Then see which ideas make a difference in your child.
1. Simplify your home
Look around your home from the eyes of a child.
Do you notice any books?
If you can declutter the child’s playroom and bedroom, books will be more easily noticeable. When there are less things around, paying attention during story time can be easier.
Of course, play is vital! Although educational toys can teach kids various life skills, many children struggle with focusing with excessive and distracting options around.
2. Turn off the TV and iPad and put away your cell phone
Books cannot compete with a TV or computer; try to minimize these addictive devices which can overstimulate a child.
Just as a cluttered space can distract a child from reading, screen-time is a major obstacle to reading and also has negative short and long-term effects on neurodevelopment.
This advice also applies to parents’ and caregiver’s mobile devices. If we spend most of our time watching YouTube shows and playing computer games at home, our children will be influenced by what they see.
3. Encourage reading by gifting books
When friends and relatives ask for gift suggestions, put books on the wish list! We always give books for birthday and holiday presents.
Why? The gift of books suggests that reading is special and important, and you want to share it with people you care about.
In addition, books are the best gift for multilingual kids, because quality books in minority languages can be difficult to find.
4. Read with your child everyday
Each day, make a habit of reading at least 15-20 minutes as a family. If you have older children, allocate more time for reading longer books.
According to research, reading aloud to children is the single most important activity that improves language development and promotes literacy skills.
In addition to reading aloud at random times throughout the day, story time is a standard part of the bedtime routine. Since my kids would rather do anything than sleep, I ask, “Are you ready for bed or would you like to stay up to read 2 more stories?”
Without hesitation, they choose to read over sleep! Therefore, we start bedtime routine earlier to make more time for reading.
5. Offer a variety of books to encourage reading
There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books.James Patterson
Children are more likely to find a desirable book when they have options. Explore options at your local library, and build a kid-friendly library at home.
In addition, variety is necessary to expose children to perspectives that they might not have personally experienced.
For example, due to the relatively homogeneous community that we live in, both of my children are exposed to diversity mainly through books.
Books by different authors also expose children to different sentence structure and styles.
Explore this: Chinese Books for Kids Organized by Type and Level
5. Turn to stories for answers and support
Starting school? Read books about going to school.
Has a loved one recently passed away? Read about how characters have experienced grief and bereavement in children’s books.
When you share relevant stories with children, books become a healthy coping mechanism for new situations and challenging emotions.
6. Display the front cover of books to entice your child to read
Make books noticeable by placing them at the eye-level with the front cover visible. The more you see of the book, the easier it is to get excited about it!
Bonus: Children can learn to read many Chinese, Korean, and English words simply by looking at book titles!
If you don’t have front-facing bookshelves, you can put them in baskets for babies, on a ledge for toddlers, or atop a bookshelf for older kids.
7. Motivate your child to read by rotating books on display
Change up the displayed books on the shelf, and switch them out when your child seems bored of them. Choose a book theme with your child or surprise them with new books on their bookcase!
For example, at the start of each year, we set out Chinese Lunar New Year books and Korean Lunar New Year books.
Of course, our kids can read these books any time of the year, but it’s a simple way to encourage kids to read about timely topics!
8. Learn new stories through audiobooks
Audiobooks are a fantastic way to introduce children to a variety of new stories. In addition, listening to audiobooks can improve reading fluency.
These days, technology has made it easier for kids to hear stories. Free audiobook apps and websites, such as Ximalaya, offer stories in multiple languages.
On the other hand, Luka Reading Robot is an audiobook player that can narrate stories in Mandarin Chinese and English!
9. Write big words and messages
Our easel is the perfect place to write big messages. Because the words are so noticeable, my children learn new words when they walk by it.
If you don’t have an easel, you can write a giant words on paper and post it on the fridge or wall.
10. Leave funny notes around the house!
Surprise your children with silly notes around the house.
My daughter was amused by the note on this tissue box which reads: “不要用你的袖子. 不要挖你的鼻子. (Bùyào yòng nǐ de xiùzi. Bùyào wā nǐ de bízi. / Do not use your sleeves. Do not pick your nose.)
In addition, lunch box notes can be a fun daily surprise!
11. Read signs, labels, and ingredients
Make reading relevant by pointing out words on street signs, clothing tags, and food ingredients.
When you run into the same signs or refer to the same recipe, re-reading these familiar words will increase a child’s confidence and comprehension.
Try this: 有道 Youdao Dictionary Reading Translation Pen for Chinese-English Learners
12. Enhance pretend play with signs
Give your child chances to read outside of books, such as through signs around the home.
For example, add “name-tags” on toy animals and dolls. You can also add signs to your child’s pretend animal house or LEGO sets!
In our backyard, the kids use a small chalkboard for their store sign. Indoors, we keep it simple with construction paper or cardboard signs.
13. Make cards for friends and family
Card-making is a natural way to encourage reading and writing practice! We rarely buy cards because handmade cards are simply the best. As a bonus, by using handmade cards for reading and writing practice, my children have learned to write many words in Chinese, Korean and English.
If you need any more convincing, store-bought cards are often overpriced. Hand made cards are an easy way to save money!
14. Have fun with literacy activities
When kids are learning to read, simple literacy activities and games can motivate them engage with words!
When we play outside, we use sidewalk chalk activities to practice tracing and writing, and the kids love to jump on words!
15. Brainstorm stories together!
One of my favorite things to do is come up with stories with my children. Sometimes we write stories about our day, and other times we just chat and make up stories on the fly!
If you and your child prefer something more hands-on, you can make story stones, such as these Hungry Caterpillar story stones or Chinese 石 (stone) radical words!
Create an environment that can naturally motivate your child to read!
In summary, kids will be more motivated to read when:
- Parents and caregivers model good reading habits
- Books are accessible, relevant, and interesting
- Reading opportunities outside of books are also available
What are your favorite ways to motivate your child to read?
I’d love to hear your ideas in the comment section below! Habits take time to form, and I sincerely hope these ideas help spark that love of reading for your child!
How to motivate bilingual kids to read in the minority language
- Teach Your Child a Second Language at Home with 5 Key Steps
- Create a Print-Rich Environment with Labels that Promote Literacy
- How I Taught My Daughter to Read 1000+ Chinese Characters as a Non-Fluent Parent
Cool ideas! Thank you! I liked the idea of reading with your kids together for at least 20 minutes a day. Kids do love routines, plus this will be a fun activity that allows families to spend more time together.
I’m an American au-pair living in Germany. German is my 3rd language. (I grew up in a Spanish-English bilingual home.) My au-pair kiddos are not big readers & Middle (8F) is a terrible speller, probably due to the fact that she hates reading so much. I did find a fun game to play that we use to help 8 & 10 w/ their English vocabulary. I pick 12 words that they both know, usually from 8’s vocab list, & they come from 2 different classes of words, like “clothes” & “colours.” 8 &10 race to sort the words out & spell them correctly. They have fun w/ it, & I’m looking for an opportunity to play it more often w/ them & their friends.
I really liked your tip on encouraging family members or friends to gift books to children and how giving books can help the child understand that reading is important and special. My sister has been struggling with getting her daughter to read at the level she is supposed to be at. I think since she is in middle school a good gift could be a supernatural fiction mystery book to possibly get her interested!
These are great tips and I’ll be putting them to use. Thank you.
Thank you for reading, and I’m so happy to hear the tips are helpful!
Love the funny notes around the house and it is so simple yet impactful when we simplify our home! I used to do pts 2,3,7 And 10. I agree all these that you do will bear much fruit years down the road! You remind me so much of my past. Such a delight to see you enjoying this nurturing stage. Blessings for the new year. Will be sharing this post of yours.
Hi Angie! I hope you are having a wonderful start to the new year! Thank you always for your thoughtful and encouraging feedback! I was a little worried about starting with #1 simplifying as it is so counter-cultural! But having less really gives more breathing room! Thank you for sharing the post, and I look forward to reading and learning from your blog this year! God bless your family!