How to Get Kids to Read

In many homes and schools, it’s an ongoing question. How do we convince kids to read more? How do we give them the opportunity to fall in love with reading? What can we do to support positive reading habits? What books will break down walls, build up confidence, spark curiosity, and set the path for a lifetime of learning and engagement.

Spiderman reading newspaper perched on building

Pretty easy, right?

We all know how important it is for kids to read. We also know plenty of kids for whom reading never comes first. Maybe reading is hampered by developmental challenges, maybe they’ve never had reading role models, maybe they just can’t sit still. Whatever the reason, kids who don’t read are the ones more likely to fall behind in school academically.

And think of the joy they’re missing by not diving into a good book!

Here are five tips for getting students more interested in reading.

  • Invite the kids to help you re-categorize your library. I know, the hours in a school day are incredibly short and seem to shrink every year, so it’s hard to imagine that spending several hours going through your entire library with your students is worth your time. But by asking your kids to help, you’re encouraging their investment in a collection of books and fostering a feeling of ownership. Also, they’ll have great ideas! Should you group books together by genre, topic, Dewy decimal system, alphabetically? Should all books on sports get shelved together, including fiction, biography, and how-to books? Don’t be surprised if some of those books never make it back on the shelf after being discovered by a kid who didn’t even know what they were looking for.
  • Ask kids what video games and movies/TV shows they love. Chances are your students spend at least some of their time on a screen playing games and watching shows. You can help turn screen time into learning time by pairing them with books they might like based on their media choices. If a kid loves world building and adventure quests, they might love books by Ursula Le Guin. Check out these book recommendations for kids who love video games. They might also be interested in novels that are actually based on video games.
  • Let them read whatever they want. Independent reading is just that—kids reading books they choose on their own. Is your 13-year-old still obsessed with Wimpy Kid? Let them be. Are graphic novels always the first choice in your house? Don’t worry about it. Maybe draw the line with books that discuss topics you feel are too mature for your children, but other than that, give them free rein. As they gain in confidence, you can nudge them toward slightly more challenging books that still have some of the features they love in their favorites.
  • Read the books your kids seem drawn to. Maybe manga isn’t your go-to choice for your own reading time, but when kids see you reading the material they like, that’s a powerful vision. Any sense of hierarchy melts away and you can enjoy the conversations that follow. And you might just discover new favorites! Instead of worrying that “My kid hates to read,” make sure you’re modeling the behavior you want to see.
  • Reading out loud is still important! Even long after kids learn to read on their own, they still enjoy being read to, and read alouds have a funny trick of turning into quiet, independent reading time.
  • Audio books are wonderful tools. Listening to books is a truly wonderful option for anybody, especially kids who have trouble with text or who have trouble sitting still! They can listen while they skateboard, build stuff, cook, dance, ride bikes, and just about everything else. They can even listen in the car, which can go a long way in making long rides that much more bearable.

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