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How to Get Your Kids to Read When They Aren't Interested- Incentives for Reading

Updated on June 28, 2013

I hate reading!

You have a child who isn't interested in reading. The statistics are staggering when you research what makes a child likely to succeed in life, and literacy is at the top of the list. While most kids know how to read, far fewer become lovers of literature. As a parent, is it important for you to foster your child's love of reading, or is it enough that they can do it?

"When the State of Arizona projects how many prison beds it will need, it factors in the number of kids who read well in fourth grade." -Arizona Republic (9-15-2004)

That's a bold statement, but hundreds of studies have linked literacy with the ability to succeed in school and lead a productive life. Even if you know the stats, you are stumped with your child. What books do I pick out for him or her? How can I foster an environment in the home that includes more reading?


Find books that hook you...

Raising three children over various ages, and a bookworm myself, here are several things to look for when picking out a book for a disinterested reader.

1. Find books with lots of pictures and colors. Graphic novels have gained popularity in recent years, and are great for more artistic or visual learners. Comic books, picture books, non-fiction photography books with animals, food, etc. all captivate a reader who isn't fond of words.

2. Pick out stories that are relatable. If you have a third grade boy, go for tales of middle school aged boys. Kids are always fascinated with the stage of life that is coming up next, and will be more likely to read a plot with someone older than them.

3. Find a topic that your child is interested in. Novels aren't the only source of reading. If your child loves weapons and castles, find a non-fiction full color book with descriptions of various castles and cannons.

4. Pick out a book that you as the parent enjoy. If you are hooked on a book, chances are you'll be more likely to read to your child, and reading to him or her is a fantastic way to build literacy and promote bonding.

5. Find short series. Lots of books like Geronimo Stilton, Boxcar Children, Junie B. Jones, and others are quick reads that have many books to choose from. If your child likes collections, he or she may be more likely to "collect" a series than if they had to start a whole new book with changing characters, scenes, etc. There is a comfort to books with the same characters.

Think outside the box...

Books aren't the only source of reading. If your child struggles with feeling overwhelmed at a whole book, consider other ways to sneak in literacy.

1. Magazines. You can get a subscription to fit almost any interest, and the short articles and photos may captivate your little one.

2. Travel brochures. Did you just come back from a trip to Disney World? Grab all the maps from the parks for your child to pour over. They'll be reading as they find their favorite rides and restaurants. You can easily go to your local travel agent and find other interesting brochures to look at.

3. Cereal boxes. We all love to read the back of a box while we eat cereal. When you are at the store, check out the back of a box and make sure it's interesting. Put it in front of your child during breakfast and most likely, they'll read it.

4. Give your child opportunities. When you are at the store, ask them to look at the price difference of cookies and pick out the best price. Have them help you find products with coupons, pick out greeting cards for family members, or read the back of a movie rental.

5. Play games in the car. While driving on the highway, encourage your child to find key words on certain road signs. Offer them a treat if they can locate the word you are looking for.

6. Video game manuals. For a boy who loves video games, consider buying a manual or guide of cheats. The motivation to finish the game will motivate your child to scour the book for answers.

7. Cookbooks. This teaches two skills in one. Go shopping together for a kid's cookbook and help your child learn some of the recipes. By doing so, they'll be reading and doing math!

Offer incentives...

Bribery is never a good way to instill quality reading habits, but a reward or incentive system can work wonders. The key is to pick something that your child enjoys immensely, and is willing to work to get.

1. Minute for minute. For kids who love video games or television, design a system where one minute of reading equals one minute of TV time. Your children will light up if they know that three hours of reading can equal that much time in front of the television. Yes, you may have to allow more screen time than normal, but you are ensured that fifty percent of their free time involves reading.

2. Free books. Reward reading with coupons to buy more books! Determine a set time to finish a chapter book, and if they accomplish it, they receive ten dollars towards their next book purchase.

3. Reading/chore swap. If money or television aren't incentives you want to use, perhaps you can do a reading/chore swap. For every book that's read, your child can get a coupon to use that allows them to escape a chore. Perhaps the coupon could give them an extra hour up at night, or some other "freebie" that will motivate them to get their nose in a book.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Diary of a Wimpy Kid | Source
Geronimo Stilton
Geronimo Stilton | Source
Captain Underpants
Captain Underpants | Source
Junie B. Jones
Junie B. Jones | Source
Jolly Postman
Jolly Postman
The Water Hole
The Water Hole | Source

Some of our favorites...

So here is a list of books that have been successful in our home. Many of these aren't necessarily "classic" novels, but are excellent choices for lackluster readers.

1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid Chapter book Ages: 7+
A book about a boy and his middle school woes. Why is it good? First off, it is hilarious, and you as a parent will laugh out loud if you are reading it to your child. It is a comic novel, so there are pictures on every page. There are several books on the series, as well as movies. You may have to endure middle school humor, but most kids will continue to read the series after the first installment.

2. Geronimo Stilton Chapter book Ages: 7+
This mouse is an adorable detective and goes on lots of adventures. Why is it good? One of the nice features of these books are the full color photos interspersed within the novel. Even the words in the story are decorated with colors and wacky styles, ensuring that readers who don't have a long attention span will stay hooked. The stories are fast paced, easy to follow, and funny. This is a large series with lots of books to collect. His cousin Thea Stilton has her own series for female readers.

3. Captain Underpants Chapter book Ages 7+
George and Harold are two friends who write hysterical comics about their dorky principal. Why is it good? Well there is a lot of immature humor surrounding underwear. It isn't the most intelligent of reading, but the stories are harmless, funny, and appeal to kids who enjoy being silly. It is also a comic novel so there are pictures everywhere. It is easy to pick and put down, and there are several books in the series.

4. Junie B. Jones Chapter book Ages 6+
Junie is a first grader who has a great comedic edge to her voice and musings of first grade drama. Why is it good? They are short, easy to read, and aimed towards first grade girls. This is also a series and there are plenty to choose from. Pictures are approximately every two to three pages.

5. Insiders Books Non-fiction (all ages)
Forget Eyewitness books, these outperform all other non-fiction picture books I have found. Boys and girls alike will be drawn by the incredible photos and lots of small chunks of information. Why is it good? These books are visually more appealing than other non-fiction titles. The colors and photos are stunning, and there are several books in the series including, oceans, dinosaurs, sharks, earthquakes, volcanoes, rain forest, space, Egypt, insects, human body, knights, and reptiles.

6. The Jolly Postman Picture book (all ages)
This book is great for kids who love to discover something a little extra. The rhyme and cadence of the words make it a great story to read aloud. The plot is clever, as this postman goes around delivering mail to fairy tale characters. Why is it good? Most children love getting mail, and this book is all about the mail. Each delivery includes a letter that is hiding in the book with little delights to discover. There is a companion book for the holiday mail as well. Children love discovering this book over and over again.

7. The Water Hole Picture book (all ages)
Pictures, pictures, pictures. This book is short on words but offers hours of concentration if your child is interested in discovering the hidden world of animals. Why is it good? Aside from the astonishing color photos, the simple words and story make this book a great choice for kids learning how to read. There are hundreds of hidden details to discover, and kids will marvel at the ability to see something new each time. The author Graeme Base, has put together other books with a similar style.

Perhaps you will need to put aside your idea of what a good book is, and go with what captivates them. Eventually reading will become habit, and then more care can be spent on picking out books with more complicated plots and characters.

Happy reading!

-Julie DeNeen

Other articles by Julie...


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    • vox vocis profile image


      6 years ago

      Great incentives for getting your kids to develop a reading habit! It's true that literacy and the amount of time you spend reading has an impact on your success later in life. I'll check out your favorites (some of them don't ring a bell)!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I love children's literature. This is a great collection of ideas and a great Hub about the importance of reading! Invaluable advice for parents.

    • girlonfire profile image


      6 years ago

      Also take advantage of the iPad and other tablets. Lots of reading apps/books that can entice children.

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 

      6 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Very well written article, and lots of information! Voted up, interesting and useful. Also shared, because you shared another Hubber's article. On FB, Twitter, HP, Stumble and Digg. Have a good day.

    • michememe profile image

      Miche Wro 

      6 years ago

      Thank you for writing this. My daughter love Math more over reading. I love to read. I am looking for more ways to get her interested.

    • teacherjoe52 profile image


      6 years ago

      Very good and useful.

      I like to make stories from photo's I have takes and weave it so the children are involved in the story. Have their photo's in the story with balloons with the talking in the balloons. They really like the funny voices I use

    • kartika damon profile image

      kartika damon 

      6 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

      It is very important children learn to love stories, words, and language early on. My niece's little ones just came to visit and they read all the time - ages 3 and 5. They learned phonetics and this is a great tool for teaching children to sound out words. That's how I was taught to read. Great job!


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