If you are looking for ways of encouraging your child to read, here’s a smart way we’ve done summer reading incentives that also limits screen time. These tips for parents to encourage reading serve multiple purposes for both parents and kids. Try out these strategies to encourage good reading habits in your kids!
One of the defining characteristics of the Fagan home is that we as a family and as individuals are typically working on at least one goal of some sort.
Whether it is my constant goal to lose weight, to make my prayers and scripture study more meaningful, drive more responsibly, have more charity, or to use my musical talents more; Katelyn’s goal of reading 30 books in a year, getting back to pre-pregnancy weight, or running in a 5k; or our kids goals to learning to swim, bike, read, etc.; we are constantly striving to better ourselves and use goals as mile markers in these challenges.
Like most people, we almost always take advantage of New Years as a time to make goals for the coming year, but for us it doesn’t stop there. Not only do we keep track of these goals throughout the year, but as a way to help us meet these long-term goals, we often make intermediate to short-term goals as a way to help us follow through.
We do this because often our long-term goals sound more like wishes and hopes as they are often poorly defined and have no built-in accountability. By regularly pondering on our main goals and setting secondary and even tertiary goals, we bring focus on the main goal, keeping it fresh and lively throughout the year.
This year, our twins are focused on becoming better readers. This goal in and of itself is a nice thing to aim for, but again, is poorly defined and lacks accountability.
For this reason, we built a system of rewards for the twins, and even their younger brother, who wants to be like his sisters, to serve as a way to encourage reading, to incentivize reading, especially during the summer months.
As a homeschool family, we have built-in flexibility in how and when we do school, and though we are doing year-round homeschool and working on both English and math this summer, the pace is much slower than during the normal school year.
This means the twins and our son are getting semi-regular lessons. We might go a week without explicitly working in the schoolroom with them. Just like all the other children who are out of school for the summer, there is some concern about summer reading loss.
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of summer reading loss, there is a great piece written in the Washington Post back in 2011 based off of research done at Clemson in 2008. Though summer reading loss it is often associated with low-income homes, it is a reality more and more for families of all backgrounds as the amount of screen time for children increases by the year.
Below are our ways to encourage reading, combat summer reading loss, limit screen time, and encourage our kids to work toward their goals of reading books independently at home.
How to Encourage a Child to Read Books
Since our kids are still young – all our kids are 8 years old or younger and money has little value to them – the currency of choice is screen time. As they get older we will reevaluate the plan to suit their needs, which will probably mean introducing money as a form of extrinsic motivation. That being said, I am pleased with our children’s ability to be intrinsically motivated at such a young age.
First and foremost, in order to earn and make use of screen time, our kids must complete their daily chores, and when applicable, complete school work for the day.
They also cannot cash in on their screen time minutes unless they have at least 15 minutes of screen time banked.
For more on daily chores read these posts:
- Regular Chores for 3-Year-Olds
- The Age-By-Age Guide to Teach Kids How to do Laundry
- Basic Kids Chore Chart (Free Printable)
- Free Editable Household Cleaning Schedule Printable
Once chores are completed they have the opportunity of earning five-minute blocks of screen time in the following ways:
- Read approved books for 20 minutes (reports on reading must be made which helps with reading comprehension)
- Be physically active for 30 minutes (e.g., walking, running, biking, etc.)
- Read scriptures for 5 minutes by themselves or with a parent (outside of our regular family evening scripture study)
We keep track of the minutes earned by sending texts to each other as they earn and use minutes. We were going to create some sort of chore chart, but texts are about 500% easier than create and maintaining a chore chart minute recorder system. Plus, it helps the kids do some math themselves as they keep track of their own minutes more this way.
The 4:1 ratio for reading to screen time works well as it takes some effort for the older kids to read for 20 minutes.
I can imagine as our children get older we will need to adjust the amount of reading done to the extrinsic value of that time spent. After all, I want my kids to be motivated to read for the pleasure of it, not for what mom and dad will let them do because they’ve read.
We have an adult friend whose mom has a similar way of encouraging your child to read. She challenged her adult children to read 100 biographies or autobiographies, which if they did, she would pay them $500. She read an article once that said the most influential leaders in history read autobiographies and biographies often and how reading about the lives of others made them great leaders.
But, she really believed the best minds in history were all well read and wants to encourage her children to read, even as busy adults. She did a few other challenges for her children while growing up, like paying them $10 for every chapter they read of Jesus the Christ, doing so whenever she felt prompted to do so.
Our friend, her daughter, is a successful lawyer and mom of four young kids and completed this goal recently (several years in the undertaking) and her siblings and cousins are on books 50-70 of the 100.
Strategies to Encourage Reading: Earn Extra Screen Time
The above are the basics of our summer reading incentive program here at home, but we are open to coming up with new strategies to encourage reading and earn extra screen time.
One of those is a standing offer, that if our twin girls read out loud to their younger brother or sister for an hour they can earn an extra five minutes. We love this because it encourages sibling bonding, engages our younger kids in books and stories, and keeps ALL of the kids entertained and busy and QUIET for an hour. Win all around!
This is a common choice for our daughter Alison as she will choose to read to Michael or Emily for an hour earning her fifteen minutes for reading for 3 chunks of 20 minutes and an additional five minutes for reading out loud to her siblings.
Occasionally, we offer extra minutes for doing especially difficult chores that do not normally fall into the realm of their daily chores. (Be sure to read our post that answers the question “should kids get paid to do chores?“)
For instance, last week I offered 30 minutes of screen time for weeding a couple of especially weedy gardens. It took them quite a bit of time to complete the task, but they worked hard and got the weeding done, and expressed a desire to do more tasks similar to the weeding.
The very next day I gave them another weeding task, which they gladly took and accomplished over the course of an hour. In my mind this is a precursor to earning an allowance, and also is a way to teach them the value of hard work.
Encourage Reading at Home with Summer Reading Programs
To assist in bolstering our children’s desire and goal to read, we make sure to take advantage of reading programs set up by the local libraries, Barnes & Noble, and Half Price Books. During the school year, we participate in the Six Flags’ Read to Succeed program and the Pizza Hut Book It! Program.
We live in an area where three towns are in close proximity, each with their own library, each running a summer reading program. We signed each of our children up for the program and have our children fill in their own reading logs which includes the times they read themselves, the time I read to them, and the time spent listening to audiobooks on our various adventures (check out our big list of great audiobooks for family road trips post for some engaging story ideas!).
The libraries reward reading with prizes from local companies and simple toys and gifts. To earn these prizes, the kids need to read 4 hours per log, fill out their reading log which includes their name, address, age, phone number, hours read, and titles of books read or listened to. They can turn in one reading log a day for the length of the program. Each time they turn in a log they can claim a small prize and get a raffle ticket for the chance to earn a bigger prize. We hope that between our four kids doing the reading logs, at least one of them will win a bigger prize this year.
We also are having our children participate in Barnes & Noble’s and Half Price Books’ summer reading program where they earn MORE BOOKS! I like this idea better than the free burger from Whataburger or a free kids meal from Chipotle (prizes they can claim for turning in reading logs at our local library), as free books are more relevant to the goal they are working on (reading), and it gives the kids the opportunity to explore new books for free!
In the end, the goal all along has been to encourage reading and to help our children love reading, far more than about limiting screen time, winning prizes, entertaining them during the summer, or getting free books.
Thus far there has been quite a bit of success, even in this one summer.
We read scriptures daily with our kids, and have from the beginning, and I think it is a key part in their success with reading. I also read stories to them at bedtime, and have for a long time now. I feel like by using the plan laid out above as a way to encourage reading, in conjunction with other summer reading programs, we are seeing additional growth with their reading, as well as a growth in their desire to read.
We know every family is different, so we’d love to know how you are encouraging your child to read.