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How to Get Your Child Interested in Reading (even if they hate it)

how to motivate your child to read book and child middle class dad

All parents want their kids to be successful at school and to do well in life, and learning to read is a huge part of that. With 1 daughter who loves to read, but another who hates reading, I wondered how to get your child interested in reading.

Start reading to your child as young as possible. Read to them daily and create a routine. Take them to the library weekly. Also, ensure a proper bedtime so your children get enough sleep. For reluctant elementary-school-aged readers, comics or graphic novels can be a great way to get them in the habit of reading.

But there’s a lot more to know about why and how to get your child interested in reading.

We also know that learning how to read is an important part of being successful in all walks of life. But many parents see their kids struggling to read. Worse still, many parents have kids who just don’t want to read or even seem to hate reading.

Forget Baby Einstein.

There are much better things that we, as parents, can do to help our kids learn and grow and develop a love of reading.

In this post, we’re diving deep into the world of kids, reading and the key roles that we, as parents, play. We’re answering all the top questions and backing up the claims with noted scientific studies.

Specifically, we’re exploring how to get your child interested in reading. Because once you do, you’re setting them up for success in school, careers, and life in general.

co-authored with Sam Evans, owner of MovingBabies

How can I improve my child’s interest in reading?

Learning disabilities aside, the biggest challenge with kids and reading is often with those kids who enter kindergarten without having learned the basics.

These days, many kids attend pre-k. They may also have had parents who knew how to get their kids interested in reading from a very young age.

As such, those parents who expect to drop their kid off at kindergarten to learn to read are setting their kids up for failure.

When I was a child in kindergarten, it was basically just playtime like a daycare.

But times have changed and these days, kindergarten is more like what 1st grade used to be. Thus it’s crucial that kids already know how to read a little before they ever even set foot in a kinder classroom.

Going back to the Annie E. Casey Foundation study, they found that:

  • Children who could not read proficiently by 3rd grade were 25% more likely to drop out of high school
  • Children in poverty were 16% more likely to read below grade level and to not graduate from high school
  • Impoverished children of Black and Latino families were almost 8% more likely than Whites to not read at grade level or graduate from high school

If you suspect dyslexia or other challenges

If you realize that your child has a hard time recognizing letters, or confuses letters, or can’t sound out words, or cannot recognize words that he has seen many times before, it is possible that he has a learning difficulty such as dyslexia.

Discuss your concerns with your kid’s school and then speak to their learning specialist, who should be experienced in the diagnosis and early intervention.

Once a parent raises the concern, in the US at least, schools are obligated to provide a “Response to Intervention”.

The student will be tested, and the results shared with the parents.

I (Jeff) recently went through this process with one of my daughters. My wife is also a teacher of special needs kids and thus is an expert in these areas as well.

If the school does find a genuine learning disability, while they may require a professional evaluation by a  neuropsychologist or educational psychologist, your child may be given an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The IEP is a legal document available to the educators that assist your child. It lists what services students need, what accommodations need to be provided (verbal assistance from a teacher, extended time, etc) and more.

In short, schools are legally obligated to act when a parent brings up a potential disability, and to provide solutions.

If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, while it’s important to always follow your doctor’s recommendations, it doesn’t hurt to also check out some of my proven Ways of Treating ADHD Naturally.

In that article, I go through some of the best tips I’ve learned as a father of 3 and as an educator who works with hundreds of kids a week in my day job.

Just click the link to read that now on my site.

Does reading make you smarter?

Yes, is the short answer.

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health shows that reading to children and discussing the book as you read may be the single most important way to improve your baby’s IQ and instill a love of reading.

Specifically, they found that there was “compelling evidence that improvements in reading ability . . .  may result in improvements in both verbal and nonverbal cognitive ability, and may thus be a factor increasing cognitive diversity within families”.

They went on to state that “Early remediation of reading problems might not only aid in the growth of literacy but may also improve more general cognitive abilities that are of critical importance across the life span.”

How does reading help a child at school?

School performance correlates more directly with children’s reading scores than any other single indicator.

Children who elect to read independently become better readers score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas, while having broader content knowledge compared to those who don’t.

Most parents buy board books for their babies and say they hope they’re going to love reading. And yet, by middle school, most kids stop reading books that aren’t assigned in school.

Even worse, in the united states, an alarming 65 percent of fourth-graders in public schools were at a reading level below the proficient level in 2015 (Study by Annie E. Casey Foundation).

Thus it’s clear that learning how to get your child interested in reading is a must for all parents.

How do I motivate my child to read?

Start early and read often are the big takeaways for how to get your child interested in reading.

When you start reading to kids as babies, they become used to the sing-song nature of the words and they gravitate towards the fun pictures. They also begin to associate the images, words on the page with what they are hearing.

Aside from instilling a love of reading, you’re also teaching them invaluable lessons on communication, vocabulary, and life in general.

After you have read the book, depending on the age of the child, ask questions about the story. See what details stand out and see what aspects are most important to them.

That helps both in determining what kinds of books they naturally gravitate towards, but also what areas they might be struggling in.

So now we know why it’s important, so let’s review . . . 

How to Get Your Child Interested in Reading

1. Read to Your Baby From the Beginning

And not only at bedtime.

Buy board books and cloth books as a number of your kid’s first toys. Carry them around with snacks in the diaper bag.

Create “cozy time,” a ritual of connection where you both associate love and cuddling with reading. Any moment either of you needs some slack, grab a book and read to your youngster.

During lunch, after school, as you have your coffee on Sunday, any moment is a great time. Pop a couple of books in their stroller when you go out for a walk.

2. Begin Going to The Library Regularly

By the time your child is two, they may well prefer reading to any other activity.

That’s the beauty of learning how to get your child interested in reading at a young age.

Utilize the time in the library to read to your child in addition to picking books.

Supervising a toddler and perusing bookshelves is always a challenge; it helps when you can develop a list of authors and books to help you find good ones easily. Librarians usually have a listing of favorite books for various ages, along with other parents and kids will always an excellent way to obtain suggestions.

Find some series you think they would like and share your child’s excitement whenever you find another book by a favorite author.

3. Read to Your Baby as Often as You Can

Before my children could really take part in the conversation at mealtimes, reading to them during lunch or an earlier dinner (when the other parent is not yet home from work) entertains them enough to keep them seated.

The distraction is often enough that they are much more likely to test the foods put in front of them with the diversion of a book.

This is very different from putting kids in front of a screen while they eat.

Then, they stare at the screen while they unconsciously put things within their mouths. Being read to is more like listening to the radio; they could look at their food and savor it as they listen, glancing occasionally at the pictures you hold up.

4. Do Not Push Your Child To Be Able To Read

Most children learn to read naturally when they develop preliminary skills.

Your aim is certainly not just to help them to sound out words but to learn how to get your child interested in reading.

Thus, encourage a love of books, both pictures, and stories.

Teaching them can take all of the fun out of reading. If you push your child, they will feel put on the spot, in which they’ll feel dumb. That feeling will last his experience of living, plus it won’t help him like reading.

Some children naturally come to reading at an older age.

Don’t worry. Once you learn how to get your child interested in reading, their reading skills will grow quickly.

It’s a little like whether a kid learns to walk at nine months or 16 months. Who cares as long as they learn to walk…

5. Don’t Stop Reading to Them Once They Learn to Read

Read to them every step of the way, as long as they will allow you to.

Continuing to read through to them keeps them interested as their skills develop. And it gives you lots of ideas for conversations about values and choices.

There is often the issue where children CAN read, but simply don’t seem to want to read.

The child’s problem, of course, is the fact that they can read simple books, but their imagination craves more developed plots and characters. Those books are harder work, with too many words they don’t know.

The effort distracts them from the story. The clear answer? These kids need their parents to continue reading to them; to help keep them captivated by the secrets of books.

That’s what will motivate this child to accomplish the hard work to become a proficient reader.

At this vulnerable stage, it is definitely worth the extra time to track down books they can read and can find exciting.

Picture books with lots of words work very well since the child can use the pictures to help them to stay interested and help them with the words. Soon, through with the work in school, along with the books they pick up at home, the kid’s reading skills will match up with their excitement for books.

Within a couple of months, they’ll have the ability to handle simple chapter books. When this occurs, seek out series books, which often lure kids about the next book in addition to next.

6. Ritualize A Daily Reading Time

Set aside a reading time every day.

This could be after school, or after lunch, or a wind-down time at the end of the day. It’s amazing how motivated kids are to read through if this allows them to keep up a little later.

Some children are exhausted by the end of the afternoon, such that reading is too much work with them then.

Until your youngster is ready for bedtime reading, try setting up their reading time as you make dinner, after homework. The only downside to it is you will need to carve out 15 minutes to start them off at what is probably your busiest time of the day.

Also, know that many students are chronically sleep-deprived. Thus getting them to bed at a reasonable hour will not only help give them more energy to read, but also improve their learning across the board.

Learn more about the devasting Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Students in a recent article on my site. Just click the link to read it here.

7. Help Them Tackle the Next Level

Pick a novel your child can read, but that’s a bit harder than she might choose on their own; an easy chapter book, rather than a photo book, for example.

Read together until you have to answer the phone or start dinner, but a minimum of a quarter of this book, so that your child is hooked.

Then tell them it is read-alone time. Keep suggesting engrossing, slightly harder books.

Working on how to get your child interested in reading is an ongoing and changing process.

8. Try Comics or Graphic Novels For Reluctant Readers

Some kids get a good jump with comics or graphic novels, which are less intimidating to them than chapter books.

Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes as well as the Tin Tin series, are examples of kid pleasers with sophisticated vocabulary and concepts.

A graphic novel like The Baby Sitter’s Club is a far cry from The Grapes of Wrath.

But if it keeps them engaged, expands their vocabulary and keeps their screen time to a minimum, then you’re succeeding in how to get your child interested in reading.

9. Read Yourself

You’re their role model. You don’t learn how to get your child interested in reading by not reading yourself.

Discuss what you are all reading over dinner.

Institutionalize family reading time, where a parent reads to the whole family.

As children get older, they can take turns as the role of the reader, or the book could be passed around taking turns.

10. Limit Technology

A book can’t compete with a screen.

The allure of seeing their friend’s latest Tik Toc or watching funny cat videos on YouTube is just too much for the average pre-teen.

Most kids, given the choice, just won’t choose the book often enough to ensure it becomes a habit.

Limiting screen time is one of the most important things you can do to encourage reading. But it also helps develop communication and social skills too. A kid with a screen in hand for hours a day is going to severely limited as they get older in terms of being able to interact with the “real” world.

Something as simple as giving them a couple of books in the car for them to look at while they are in their car seat is a much better option than installing an iPad for them to watch.

If screen time is out of control in your house, I highly recommend you take a moment and review some of the crucial Benefits of Limiting Screen Time.

In my article, I review some of the scientifically proven benefits of having limits for your kids and their tech time, including the reason Steve Jobs didn’t allow his kids to have iPhones or iPads.

Just click the link to read that on my site.

Did we cover everything you wanted to know about how to get your child interested in reading?

In this post, we took an in-depth look at the world of teaching our kids to read and getting them to love books.

We looked at tips, tricks, and what to cut back on to help foster that love of a good book.

Specifically, we explored the top ways of learning how to get your child interested in reading. Once they are hooked, a new adventure is only a library away.

About the co-author of this post.

Sam Evans is the owner of MovingBabies, an online review site of everything you need to get your child from A to B including strollers, travel systems, and car seats. Follow Sam on Facebook! Facebook!

Want to write for Middle Class Dad too? Check out everything you need to know on my Guest Blog Page.


Jeff Campbell

Mike @ Ninja Budgeter

Monday 23rd of April 2018

Going to the library - good for your kid, good for your wallet. It's a win-win :)

Though my kid does like to read, he also likes to throw expensive electronics down the stairs, so I'm kind of winning?

New Middle Class Dad

Tuesday 24th of April 2018

Haha! Sorry that made me laugh, Mike. Definitely a win in my book! I lived at the library when I was 12ish; I could get lost in there for hours.