Books

This is part of my series on parenting.

One reader asked: How do I get my kid to read more?

While there’s no silver bullet, there are numerous things you can try to help them become lifelong readers.

1. Set aside time

Designate an hour a day where reading is the most exciting thing to do. This sounds mean, I know, but it works.

For example, my 8-year-old son has an hour before bed where he can read, play with Legos, etc., in his room. There are no screens available, and he’ll often choose a good book over playing with toys.

2. Find books they’re excited about

What is your kid interested in? Is it princesses, Chinese fables, or exploding rockets and volcanoes? Find books related to what they want to learn about.

For example, in fourth grade, I read every book about UFOs in my elementary school’s library. I even asked the librarian to show me how to use the card catalog (I’m old!), so I could find every book related to space, spacecraft, and alien conspiracies.

Right now, my 8-year-old son loves the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and is reading book 9.

If you’re not sure what your kid will enjoy, you can:

  • Pay attention to what movies/TV/YouTube they watch.
  • Ask teachers or family members with kids their age.
  • Search Google for recommendation lists,
    e.g., books for 8 year old boys
  • Search goodreads.com for a book they already like, and scroll to the section Lists with this book. There you’ll see book lists with similar books.
  • Take them to the public library and let them wander the junior fiction section.
  • Ask a librarian.

And don’t be afraid to try age-appropriate manga, comic books, and graphic novels.

3. Lookup Lexile Scores

Most kids’ books have a Lexile score, which indicates how difficult it is to read. For example, the first Harry Potter has a score of 880L and is too difficult for some young readers.

I recommend looking up the score of your kid’s favorite book at hub.lexile.com and use that as a baseline to compare other books to.

4. Help them find their reading spot

Where’s their reading spot? Does it have all of their creature comforts, like a soft blanket, favorite stuffed animal, etc.? Is it quiet and have enough light?

5. Set goals

Is your kid achievement driven? Setting tiny goals—like reading for two minutes a day—can get the ball rolling. Over time, increase the goal until it’s fifteen minutes a day.

My son has a fifteen-minute reading goal, but he’ll read much longer when he has a book that he loves.

6. Read to them

Kids love a good story when it’s read to them. Introduce them to stories and characters that they’ll fall in love with.

7. Try audiobooks

Audiobooks can be expensive but may resonate better with some youngsters. Public libraries usually have a selection of audiobooks and books on CD.

For example, last summer, my family drove from Utah to California (USA), and we enjoyed listening to the first Harry Potter.

8. Discuss what they’re reading

Kids crave attention and will excitedly tell you about the current favorite book, if you ask and then listen.

Conclusion

In recent decades, books have taken a back seat to many forms of stimulation: first, the radio; then, the television; and most recently, video games, computers, phones, and tablets. Of the many strategies to encourage kids to read, these two are the most effective:

  1. Set aside time when there are no screens to watch.
  2. Find books they’re excited about reading.

If you only accomplish those two, everything else will likely fall into place, and your kid will become a lifelong reader.