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6 Ways to Get Kids Excited About Reading

How do we motivate our children to engage in reading experiences and understand the value of the written word? Some early readers struggle and get frustrated. Others find the many distractions more compelling (and instantly gratifying) than doing the work of reading.

Researchers have found that there are “two sides to reading”. Reading includes skills, such as vocabulary, comprehension, phonemic awareness and word recognition, but the other (more exciting) part is the “will” to read. This means the motivation to read and the desire to practice and get better at it!

What can you do to get your children motivated to keep reading and enjoy that oh so special, personal experience of sitting down with a good book? Research shows that literacy starts as early as six months, so engaging with children at even the earliest stages of life is key.

Here are six ways you can add reading-focused activities to your daly life to help foster the crucial “will” to read:

1. Expose children to a print-rich environment
Label things! All the things! Furniture, toys, food, pets (okay, maybe not pets) – anything a child might see or use.

2. Talk about the text in books
Ask children questions that focus on elements of print within the text. You can comment on the length or shape of the words. Ask where the words on the page are and point out features of the book like the author’s name, book title, or page numbers.

3. Pretend read
Kids love pretending and make believe, so tying that activity to reading is a great way to positively connect the two in the child’s mind. Encourage your child to “read” a story to their favorite stuffed animal (or that non-labeled pet.)

4. Make a book together
This is both an awesome craft project AND a literacy tool! Let your child dictate the story. You write the words and they make the pictures.

5. Write in front of your child
Engage in various writing activities in front of your child, whether its writing a letter, journaling, or balancing your checkbook. Say the words you’re writing aloud.

6. Read in front of your child
Read a variety of types of text in front of your child and talk about them. Stories on Novel Effect come with a multi-sensory experience, which can help provide context clues and keep everyone more engaged in what’s happening. Look for poems, a different type of text, on Novel Effect starting in April!

Keep the conversation going with some great information on motivating older readers from the good folks at PBS Kids.


Some of the ideas in this post were adapted from “Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful Motivated Readers” (2014) By Anne Cunningham and Jamie Zibulsky. Anne Cunningham is a literacy expert and teaches at the University of California, Berkley. She is also on the Board at Novel Effect. You can pick up a copy of her book here.

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