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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

10 Ways to Make Reading Books Irresistible to Kids

By Janeen Lewis

One of the most important things parents can do is raise a reader. Successful reading leads to successes in academics and gives kids a solid start in life. In fact, recent research shows that kids who read at least 15 minutes a day have accelerated reading gains.

But no matter how diligent parents are at supporting reading, sometimes kids resist. Books have to compete with those oh-so-scintillating devices, video games, and TV streaming apps.

Why not shake things up a bit and try some stealthy ways to hook a book lover? The following 10 ideas are sure to win over the most reluctant reader.

1 Get free stuff! Google “free stuff kids can earn by reading” and oodles of free items will pop up. By merely recording the titles they are reading, my own children have earned these free things: Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizzas, frozen yogurt, books from Barnes and Noble, and amusement park tickets.

2 Let the books out. Don’t cage them up on the shelves! When my son was 8, he announced that he didn’t want to read nonfiction books because they bored him. I checked out a big stack of nonfiction titles from the library and in my most nonchalant voice said, “You don’t have to read these, but I think I will. They seem very interesting.” I strategically placed the books throughout the house, concentrating on his favorite places. That kid read every book by the end of the week. Research shows that children from print-rich homes are better readers, but it helps if the books, magazines, and newspapers are out where kids can see them.

3 Reward with extra bedtime reading. Have you noticed that the child who has a plague-like aversion to reading during the day suddenly develops a fondness for reading when it’s time for bed? Why not embrace this motivation and let your child earn extra reading time at bedtime? If he or she reads for a specified amount of time or reads a certain number of books, extend lights-out for a few minutes—as long as your child spends that time reading.

4 Make your book nook the envy of the neighborhood. Think: a tent with twinkly lights. Plump pillows. Comfy chairs. Make your child’s reading space as comfortable and inviting as you can. When my children were young they draped a sleeping bag over the footboard of our queen-sized bed. Extending it from the back of the bed, they lapped it over a chair and then curled up with their books in the “reading fort.” My kids have also built “reading caves” with old moving boxes.

5 Make it a double feature. Every year new films come out that are inspired by books. If your child wants to see a movie that was based on a book, have them read the book first and then rent the movie and watch it together. Compare the two, and have your child explain which he or she liked better.

6 Get graphic. Umm…I’m talking graphic novels here. They may not be the conventional kind of books parents grew up with, but they may draw your child into reading. And while you are mixing it up, let them read comic books. Oh, and throw in some audio books, and let them read on a device sometimes. Imagine all the possibilities that might engage your child in reading.

7 Subscribe to children’s magazines. Magazine subscriptions make kids feel grown up and tempt them to read. Some good ones to try: Ask, Ranger Rick, National Geographic Kids, Sports Illustrated Kids, Cobblestone, Ladybug, and Highlights.

8 Tickle a funny bone. From Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Peggy Parish’s Amelia Bedelia or Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine, a funny story is a good way to hook a book lover. And if you read a humorous book with your child, you might find yourself chuckling along.

9 Let there be light. Come on, don’t be so stuffy! Let them read with a flashlight under the covers. Also, there are a plethora of really cool reading lights in today’s universe. Headlamps are a unique option, and there are even book lights that keep track of minutes read.

10 Be a rock-star reader yourself. Daily carve out time for your child to see you poring over the paper, curling up with your favorite book, or discussing a tidbit from a magazine. Model a reading life, and your child will be more likely to embrace the same literature-loving values.

Janeen Lewis is a writer, teacher, and mom to Andrew and Gracie.