How to Encourage Good Reading Habits in Kids

These days it’s more difficult than ever to get your child to pick up a book. Your tween is probably a lot more interested in their cell phone than the latest bestselling novel. How do you get them to put down their electronics and choose a paperback instead?

Photo by Annie Spratt

If you struggle with managing your child’s screen time, you’re not alone. Here are some ways that you can make reading more fun for your kids.

Lead by example.

What do you like to do in the evenings? If your answer is to park in front of the TV, phone, or computer screen, then your child will observe this behaviour and follow in your footsteps. To encourage good reading habits, you have to cultivate them yourself, too. Swap out your electronics for a newspaper, magazine, or novel. It’s a healthier way to de-stress at the end of a long day and it comes with a bonus: when your child sees you reading, they’ll be more inclined to do the same.

Set a daily reading goal.

The best way to form a habit is by setting aside time for the activity each day. A good time to read is before bed. Since the blue light from electronics interrupts sleep, try to plan a daily reading session right before going to bed. If you set up a reliable reading schedule, then your teen may find it easier to stick to it. 

Make a comfortable and well-lit space for reading.

It will be easier for your teen to read when they have a space for it. Dedicate part of a room to a reading space; in a quiet section of the house, set up some comfortable chairs. Purchase some reading lights so that it’s easy to see the pages. You can even hook up a speaker to play relaxing music and put a few snacks nearby. Then, dedicate the room as a no phone zone. Your child will be able to focus on reading when they aren’t distracted by electronics.

Read with them.

Turn reading time into quality family time by reading the same book. You can have in-depth conversations about the different events and characters in the novel, which can be fun and engaging for your teen. Ask them to choose the next book that you read together, and soon enough, you’ll find that they’re eager to read with you. Make a parent-teen book club to add a social aspect to reading.

Go to the library together.

Turn the act of finding books into a fun event. You can set up a day of the week where you take your tween to the library and find new novels to read. Handpicking a book from multiple shelves will make the experience more special. Once you’ve picked out a few, grab a beverage from a coffee shop, kick up your feet, and dive into your new books together. Library books also give you a concrete deadline to finish the book by – before it’s due back.

Change their mindset about reading.

If you ask your tween how they feel about reading, they might respond that it’s boring or feels like a chore. They may associate it with homework instead of entertainment. Ask them how they feel after browsing their phones for an hour versus reading a novel – they might notice that they feel less drained and more engaged. Limiting children’s screen time has positive benefits for their health; try to open a dialogue about this to promote healthier habits. 

Place books around the house.

Keep books in places where your teen spends time idly – for example, the bathroom counter or kitchen table. If books are readily accessible, your child will be more likely to reach for them. Instead of taking out their phone as soon as they feel bored, they might decide to read the interesting novel they noticed on the coffee table.

Photo by Debby Hudson

Help them find books that they’ll like.

If your child isn’t interested in a book they’re reading, then they’ll dread every page of it. Their minds will be focused on the latest Facebook updates instead of plot developments. Ask your child about what genres they prefer. If they don’t know, you can guess based on their preferred TV shows or movies. 

Talk to them about books they’ve read or are reading currently.

Engaging your child in a discussion about literature can make them more interested in it. Ask them about some of their favourites and why they enjoyed them. Giving your tween the chance to talk abot exciting books can remind them of the value of reading. 

Words on a page can be more engaging than an action movie or YouTube video – they just require a little more effort. Getting your child interested in reading from a young age will set them up for a lifetime of healthier entertainment habits. We all know how much phones and computers consume our attention; it’s good to give our brains a break from screens and pick up a novel instead.


Veronica Wallace

Veronica Wallace is a childhood educator and blogging enthusiast and is part of the marketing team at KIDTHINK specializes in offering clinical treatment of mental illness in children aged twelve and under, along with community outreach and training for this type of treatment.

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