How do I “get” my child to read?! (Part 2)

In my previous post, I gave three tips on how to “get” your child to read. Today I want to focus on what WASN’T on my list!

Again, before you read on, make sure you’ve watched the video from Drive by Daniel Pink, which you can find in last week’s post. Today, you’ll find that what DIDN’T make it onto my list ties in with all three principles of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Test yourself to see if you can find the connections. 🙂

#1 Paying your child to read. Whether it is with money or other rewards, please try to resist the urge to bribe your child to read. I realize that your child will respond to money, or other incentives, and may end up reading more, but it will likely NOT result in genuine love for reading.

Let’s take the example of paying your child to do chores. Learning how to manage money is a good thing. And doing chores to understand that we all contribute to the family and home is also a good thing. And what do you know? Your child does the chores in order to get the money! But say you stop paying them. How likely is it that your child will continue to do the chore?

If your goal is for genuine love of reading, bringing in an extrinsic motivation will be a deterrent. As cheesy as it sounds, you really want your child to experience the reading as its own reward! The only situation in which I would say an external reward makes sense is if the reward is MORE BOOKS! 🙂

You might be saying, “Hey, didn’t you have a reading challenge with the 7th & 8th grade girls this summer, where if they read 30 books, they got to go with you to Monterey House for a reading camp? Isn’t that “paying” kids to read?” Why yes, I did (future post to come), but guess what we did at the reading camp? Not even kidding, we READ…and we read a lot. And we wrote in our writer’s notebooks, and made blackout poetry. So I think it falls under the category of reading 30 books being an accomplishment that was its own reward. And I rewarded them with…more reading!

#2 Forcing your child to read ____ minutes/hours every day. Yes, it’s true that reading 20 minutes a day can have a powerful impact on your child’s education. [Where did you get that statistic, Emily? Don’t leave us hanging! Well, stay tuned because it shall be revealed tomorrow!]. HOWEVER, you don’t want to FORCE your child to sit down and read. If your child is a reluctant reader, the worst thing you could do is to force them to read. That will only reinforce reading as a dreadful activity in their mind. That will put reading on the same level as practicing piano, which most kids will do anything to get out of!

Again, you have to remember your goal. If your goal is for your child to develop an actual love of reading, you want to create as many positive associations and experiences around reading for your child as possible!

(Just in case it’s not perfectly obvious, any combination of #2 with forcing them to read a specific book you have chosen would also be…pretty dreadful and counter-productive to your ultimate goal.)

#3 Requiring your child to write a book report for every book they read.  Like the now-famous quote/phrase from James Kim that Pastor Ed Kang used in his Perfectionism III message a couple of weeks ago, you’ll end up “ruining both things.” The both things in this case being reading and writing*! Think about the books you love(d). Did you write essays about them? Teachers, and parents who have their kids write book reports, say, “How else can you have them prove they read the book?” Oh my, oh my, don’t get me started. There are so many ways to “prove” we have read a book, but a book report isn’t one of them. You and I know (some of you know better than I do) that you don’t have to have READ a book in order to WRITE A BOOK REPORT that would get an “A” grade from a teacher!

I’m all for having rich text-based discussions about a book. I’m for really different kind of written projects that involve a lot more critical thinking. I’m for creative projects that require a child to make connections, and really enjoy the process of communicating something important about the book.

And trust me when I say that if your child really read the book they chose, they won’t be able to help but talk about it, tell other people to read it, and maybe even pick up another book to read because it’s similar in theme, or someone who liked their book recommended it, or because it is by the same author. It’s amazing really.


Safe-space confessional time: Have you done any of the above? Was it successful? Did it backfire? Did you have any of them done unto you? How successful was it?




*About writing: kids have so many things they want to write about. 99% of them don’t involve the canned book report!

1 thought on “How do I “get” my child to read?! (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: The Bibliopolis 40-Book Challenge | Gracepoint Church Library

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