Incentivizing Your Child to Read

By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington

Incentivizing Your Child to Read

Although many parents may wish that their child would always choose a good book over a television show or video game, reading may not necessarily be every child’s go-to activity. If you’re looking for ways to encourage your young reader to read more often—or simply consider reading as an alternative to other activities—here are a few suggestions. These simple ideas, incentives, tips and activities will help you get your child into the reading habit.

Read together. Make reading a family event. If you think your child may be too old to be read to, think again. Reading aloud is an enjoyable activity at any age, and if you let your child choose the book, you may have greater success at capturing his or her interest. Try alternating readers each night.   

Go interactive. For the techie child, try e-books or interactive stories on your tablet, laptop or even your smartphone. Many tablet-based stories make for an entirely unique story-reading experience, whereby readers can sing along, personalize the story, make choices, play games and take quizzes along the way, and much more.

Uphold a nightly 20-minute reading period. From a young age, make 20 minutes of reading a part of the nightly routine. The earlier you begin this habit, the better—but if you’re just starting this when your child is already of reading age, make it a family activity. Every night after dinner and homework, make hot chocolate or lemonade, put out some snacks and have everyone grab a place on the couch or the floor with a favorite book. Check out new books from the library every week or every other week.

Create a rewards chart. Try celebrating your child’s reading success with small rewards. Create a chart to track your child’s nightly reading, and establish a few goals and prizes for when those goals are achieved. For example, if your child reads 20 minutes a night for two weeks, maybe he or she can have a friend over for a sleepover. For every book read, your child could earn a prize from a prize box that you fill with inexpensive treats and small toys—or your child could save up his or her “points” for a bigger prize.

Make reading the reward. Reading for pleasure is a luxury for many busy adults, so as your child’s school and extracurricular schedule gets busier, perhaps try a different approach to make reading the prize that he or she can earn. For example, if your young child completes his or her chores without being asked, let him or her have 10 extra minutes of reading time that night, an afternoon at the library with mom or dad, or some “book dollars” that he or she can put toward building the home library. 

Hold a reading raffle. Put a bowl or jar in your kitchen and have your children write their names on a slip of paper and drop it into the bowl each time they finish a book. Each month, pick one slip of paper from the bowl and reward the winner with a prize or fun outing. 

Give a book allowance. If your child receives an allowance, consider making a part of it an allowance for books. Then, take your child to the bookstore once a week or once a month, or shop for inexpensive books at

Let your child stay up late. Now and again—a weekend night might be best—let your child stay up late as long as he or she is reading a book or magazine. Give him or her a flashlight to make it even more fun. Make those lights-on nights a treat or a reward for putting forth good effort on that test or project.

Without a doubt, reading is an activity that becomes more enjoyable and exciting as a child becomes a stronger reader. If it takes occasional or even frequent nudges to get your child to read more, that’s okay. The incentivizing may very well pay off in the long run. Once he or she becomes engrossed in the adventure and joy of books, there will be no stopping your child from choosing to read. Of course, encouragement and incentives are only effective if your child is capable of reading well. If you sense that your child is having difficulty with reading basics, no amount of incentives will make him or her want to read. Don’t wait to seek help. Contact Huntington for a diagnostic evaluation of your child.


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