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Parent-proven tips to get kids reading

Try these ideas from GreatSchools parents to get your child excited about reading.

By GreatSchools Staff

Thanks to our Parent Advisor newsletter readers who shared their tips for inspiring children to read. Some readers suggested favorite books and others described reading games. Read on to learn creative ways to encourage your own children to read.

Take turns reading aloud with your child

One reader from Ohio notes the only way she can get her 12-year-old daughter to finish a book is by taking turns reading with her. After she reads a chapter, they discuss it, and then they switch roles for the following chapter. Another reader suggests that by reading aloud together the parent is able to determine the child's level of comprehension. And several of you wrote about the added benefit of sharing quality time with your kids by reading together.

Offer an incentive program

A parent in Alabama allows her children to stay up an extra 30 minutes past bedtime, provided their time is spent reading. TV is the reward incentive for an Illinois parent who offers her son one minute of television for every one minute he spends reading. Once her son begins reading, he ends up not wanting to watch TV, or he saves minutes when he knows friends are coming over so he can watch a movie. Another family in Ohio keeps track of the minutes spent reading and then every couple of weeks the family chooses a "free activity" for what they call a "double reward" day. During this special day they might picnic at a water-splash park, go bike riding and go out to lunch or go fishing.

Create your own "library days"

One family in North Carolina spends two days a week reading and writing book reports during what they term their "library days." The family determines a reading list and the children write book reports on the books they have completed.

Read on the go

Play a word game in the car. Each person takes a turn reading as many words as he can from street signs, billboards, store names, garage sale signs, etc. The player reads the words aloud as quickly as he can. It's a fun exercise and even though it's not a book, it gets kids reading.

Beyond books

Although many educators worry that children who spend time at the computer aren't reading books, some of our readers argue that the computer has vastly increased opportunities to read. Not only does the Internet provide a deluge of material, but video games, multimedia software and even instant messaging provide virtually non-stop reading opportunities.

A reader in Texas writes, "Video games can be something a parent can love." She suggests buying video game guides to your child's favorite game and subscribing to video game tips magazines to encourage reading.

Two parents suggested reading software programs that help struggling readers by utilizing text-to-speech software so the reader can hear what she is reading. Texthelp and Read Please offer software programs that can be useful tools for helping new readers.

A nonprofit program entitled Adopt An Author offers reading and writing curriculum for teachers that is designed for teenagers. Best-selling thrillers along with author appearances in classrooms, interactive Web sites and classroom phone calls from authors are some of the ways this group inspires teens to read.

Importance of the book series

We heard from many of you how important the introduction of a book series was to fostering your own child's interest in reading. For many new readers, discovering books that pique their interest can be the beginning of a lifelong interest in reading. Here are a few titles that were mentioned as some of your children's favorites:

Osbourne, Mary Pope. The Magic Tree House series. Random House, 2001

Park, Barbara. Junie B. Jones series. Random House, 2002

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House series. Harper Trophy, 1994

Wrede, Patricia. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Magic Carpet Books, 2003

These titles were also recommended by a parent whose 9-year-old enjoys the ridiculous:

Pilkey, Dav. The New Captain Underpants Collection. Blue Sky Press, 2002

Yaccarino, Dan. The Lima Bean Monster.Walker Books, 2001

Kotzwinkle, William. Walter the Farting Dog.North Atlantic Books, 2001

(See our best book series for preK-K, 1st-3rd grade, 4th-6th grade, and young adults, too.)

Set a good example

We were also reminded by some of you that it's important for parents to be readers. The impact that your own behavior can have on your children can't be underestimated. "Talk about what you are reading with your children. Share what you find most interesting and explain why. Ask your kids to share the parts they like with you from whatever they are reading. And talk about what you are reading with each other," offers a mom in California.

It's never too late...

And finally, a young reader confirms that reading, even during the summer is actually a good thing:

"I'm a 13-year-old girl and every summer, I would never touch a book because, hey! It's the summer! But this article has encouraged me to read more. Now, I'm into Stephen King's books! In fact, I've even read my big sister's books too. One of them is October Sky. I finished it within three days."


Comments from readers

"One more tip; My 10 year old hating reading but loved TV and movies. I began having her read the books of movies or TV shows that whe wanted to watch. "
"These are really beneficial and all of us would like to implement these to find better way to get good ranks in Tests."
"I think it's the 'The Silver Spoon Mystery - by Dorothy Sterling'. Hope it's the right one. Good Luck! Thanks for the tips. I feel more confident knowing that I'm doing the right things to get my kids to read. "
"This isn't feedback but a request to all the teachers and parents who read this site. Years ago as a child, I read a mystery book about some children who solved a 'case' that involved some valuable silver spoons that were taken from a library. I seem to recall that there was a little old lady in the story who drove an electric car. PLEASE email me if any of you know the name of this book. "
"I found this article to be very interesting as there are a couple of ideas here that I hadn't thought of. In my experience, reading a chapter every night seems to work well. The suspense from night-to-night, and talking to my daughter the day after reading a chapter really piques her curiosity. Also, by reading a book this way with your child, you can better sense how well your child is comprehending and how much they are retaining."
"I would like to see a book list that is developed for the gifted child only age appropriate. For example, I have a nine-year-old that likes material his age enjoys but reads at a ninth grade level to adult. It is very hard for me to find something that challenges him but is appropriate for a third grader."
"I am a mother of a gifted child. We came from our country Panama, just 1 and a half year ago, and my daughter is learning how to read in English. I buy a cabinet for her bedroom and I told her that this cabinet is only for books, magazines and trophies from school. So she is very excited in getting the cabinet totally filled with books, magazines and is reading a lot of books and of course I'm reading too."
"I want to thank all the parents who have submited thier expireinces and advise, it truly is great advise, I tried a few ideas and they worked remakably! again thank you!"
"I homeschool my daughter and found it difficult to get her to read. We began reading at lunch, she with her book and I with mine. Now she doesn't want to stop reading. She has read all of her Junie B. Jones books, and has fallen in love with the American Girls series. While appealing to her interest in reading about girls her own age, it has also increased her interest in history. I no longer have to fight with her to get her to read, and I get reading time of my own. I plan to continue this throughout the summer."
"I'm a librarian, and one thing that wasn't mentioned is that almost all libraries see their Summer Reading Program as one of the most important activities of the year. Kids read books or have someone read to them and earn prizes from the library. They can read anything they want and anywhere they want. Our library has separate programs for 0-3 years, 4-12 years and one for teens. The prizes are great - a real incentive for reluctant readers!"
"I loved this article. I am a new teacher and I am planning to share this with my parents and colleages."
"This article gives great tips on how to get kids to read. I'm an incoming freshman and remember enjoying reading books series such as 'the series of unfortunate events'. It gets you hooked and makes you want to read all 13 books. That's approximately 4,550 pages! Other titles i reccommend are 'the da vinci code' - dan brown, and 'a step from heaven' - an na"
"Reading is an absolutely wonderful tool that boosts children's comprehension, confidance and communication skills. I have been an avid reader since I was a child and applaud parents that encourage their children to read. "
"As a teacher, I loved your suggestion that parents take turns reading with their kids. It not only makes sharing reading a great family time, it allows you to model reading (expression, flow, deciphering skills, etc.). I read with my older child every night until he was at least 8 and he loves books. I confess that I read less often with my second child, and she does not have the passion for reading that my son does."