Back to School Reading Blues: 5 Ways to Keep Your Kids Reading

Whomp, whomp.

Summer is over.

And with it goes the fancy summer reading programs at libraries. Now, reading isn’t just for fun, it’s for learning.

For a lot of kids, reading during the school year can be like pulling teeth. Actually, for a lot of kids just cracking a book, magazine, or even a brochure can be akin to torture.

It seriously doesn’t have to be this way! It’s all how you approach it, and what you are offering for reading materials.

Lower Your Expectations

Ok, so not what you thought to see from a TEACHER of all people! But I’m also a realist: not all children are going to be prolific readers or read ultra challenging materials or enjoy reading.

And that is fine.

Say it with me: it is fine if my child doesn’t read a lot or hard materials. Instead of pushing your kid to do more or read harder, meet him where he is right now. Seriously.

If all your kid wants to read is Sports Illustrated for Kids, fine. Get a subscription and mine the library for back issues. Maybe, slowly, highlight kid’s editions of athlete biographies or leave a copy of a sports fiction book around the house.

If you kid doesn’t want to read at all, try audio books or book/audio duos. Read aloud to her or use one of the many reading apps. I like You Tell Me Stories and Reading Rainbow. Or you could match books and movies: read a book and then watch the movie. There are book/movie pairs from PreK (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) to high school (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).

Trust me, there is a way to get your kid to do reading, any reading.

Right Space

You will see all sorts of cute Pins and Instagrams and articles about creating an ideal reading space for your reluctant reader.

Walk away. Too much cuteness and overthinking can ruin the whole point.

Kids will read anywhere...Honestly, your kid will read anywhere, if they are going to read. I’ve had kids read on desks, under desks, with legs propped up on walls, and sprawled out on a cold tile floor. Yes, even reluctant readers.

If you want to set up a space, KISS. Keep it Simple Stupid.

  • make it comfy: couch, cozy chair, pillows, bean bag
  • keep it full: scatter lots of books and magazines in your child’s area of interest
  • make it multi-purpose: if it’s just for reading, your reluctant reader might not use it; keep coloring supplies, puzzles, and crafts, whatever; just no electronics or screens!

Find Out What They Like

Like I said before, if they like it there is a better chance of them reading it.

So find out!

Sports, movies, pop stars, animals, or magic. There is a book, magazine, or even book series out there for your child in their interest area. And these are available at all different levels.

Let’s look at just fairy tales:

You can do this for so many things, from sports to animals and beyond. You might need to get creative or call in resources. Check with your child’s teacher, school librarian, and local town librarian for recommendations.

And you can always provide and read books for younger readers to older children. It’s fine, I promise!

Don’t Stress Out

Every kid “reads” something, eventually. Even if it is an audio version of a book. Or a road sign.

The more you make an issue of it, the more your kid will push back. Just like with veggies at dinner.

If you make it a big deal, it becomes a big deal. Remember your childhood: did you ever WANT to do something your parents were nagging you about? Probably not.

Instead, stop. Leave high-interest (what your kid likes, not what you want him to like) reading things around the house. Cut down on screen time during the week. This limits options for entertainment to: outside, homework, or reading. Let her catch you reading. Read with him.

Reward Reading

Just because summer is over, doesn’t mean that the rewards for reading have to stop, too. You can set up your own reward system at home. It’s actually super easy!

Reward Reading!

First decide if you want to have a known or unknown system. Known means your child knows what she is working for and what she has to do to earn things. Unknown means that you reward your child without explaining the criteria.

For unknown, you can create your own checklist of reading behaviors you need to see. Include: time reading, trying a new book or genre or kind of reading material, going to the library, etc. Then, when your child has met your private expectations, dole out a reward. You could make it anything from food (pizza, ice cream, cookies, candy, etc.) to a toy to a motivational thing (sticker, bookmark, new book, etc.).

For the known system, you and your child use the same types of rewards. But you also set certain benchmarks for dishing out those prizes. Maybe your child needs to read so many minutes per week, or try so many new genres/reading materials per month.

Your rewards could be grab bag style: meet a goal, pick any of the prizes. Or incremental: reach level 1, get smaller prize; reach higher levels to get bigger ticket items/experiences.

It’s up to you!

Reading Expert

As a bonus, this month we have a Librarian and Children’s Literature expert guest posting all month with book suggestions. Deb van der Linde will be sharing titles of some of her favorite books, for all ages, stages, and interest levels. Stay tuned!

How do you get your kids reading? Tell me in the comments!


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4 thoughts on “Back to School Reading Blues: 5 Ways to Keep Your Kids Reading

  1. Great post! I definitely have made use of your “find out what they like” suggestion. We enjoyed a long run of books with animal characters, from Bunicula and Catwings to Brambly Hedge and The Wind in the Willows. I also continued to read aloud with my children even after they were well into their own chapter-book reading: a cherished memory that is as much about “family” as it is about “literacy.”


  2. Hey, great post! Have you heard about Kids can log their reading and earn rewards that their parents and teachers define for them.


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