How To Get Your Child To Want To Read

Reading has long since been an alternative to video games every parent WISHES their child would get into naturally, but that doesn't happen often these days. It didn't happen for me or my brothers or most of my cousins and friends. Reading just can't be compared to video games, they're too different.

So why is it one of my top alternatives to video games?

Because reading is one of the most powerful things a person can do for themself. Seriously, I'm not being dramatic. Reading broadens the mind, it will teach you things subtly, without smushing it in your face. It lets you live through the minds of other people, real and fictional.

It's no coincidence that your open-minded friends have opened a book or two in their day while your close-minded friends think reading is boring. Broadly speaking, of course, but it's a common truth. And the best reason reading is powerful is because it strengthens the mind.

It will give you words to battle with in arguments, it'll give you oomph when you express yourself, it'll help you sort through your own ideas/thoughts, it'll make you a sharp, articulate being and THAT will help you shape the world around you.

Okay so how do you get your child to WANT to read?

Floating books in the air, black and white, tied to strings

Get Your Child To Read Daily, Even For Just Ten Minutes

Overwhelming your child to read 20-30 minutes a day will likely result in them seeing reading as a punishment instead of something they do for pleasure. 

It's easy to get your child to read for half an hour a day. You give them a book and make them sit down on the couch for 30 minutes and they're not allowed to get up and do anything else. 

We know what's going to happen, that kid is going to be in a bad mood, begrudgingly read slowly, their heart's not going to be in it, and the whole thing will be a pain in the butt for both of you. 

That's a lose-lose situation. 

You're going to push that child even harder towards video games, not that I believe video games are inherently bad, but the point of all this is to teach your child that reading is worthwhile. 

So take baby steps here. 

Start with just ten minutes a day -- even just five minutes a day would work! That's not a big task, they can knock that thing out no problem, they might even want to. But the major point of this is to have them develop a habit of reading. Once that habit gets ingrained, you've won the war.

Young boy lying down on the floor, reading a book

Pavlov Said To Pat Them On The Head

I don't think Pavlov actually said to pat your children on the head whenever they do something you want them to do, but the science on this is clear: 

Reward behavior you want to see, punish behavior you do not want to see. 

So when your child begins their daily reading without fuss, give them a small reward. If they begin to want to do their daily reward, give them a slightly bigger reward. 

And of course, if they make a big deal out of not wanting to do their daily reading or if they flat-out refuse, then punish accordingly. I'm not really sure how you would punish this behavior, but best not be a tyrant about it, right?

Young girl sitting on her bed, reading a book

Allow Them To Choose The Books They Read

This is probably the biggest tip for parents who find themselves micromanaging their children more than they should. The world of reading is vast, filled with thousands upon thousands of books. And if your child is a picky dude, in general, the amount of books he'll want to read is small. 

Believe it or not, that's an excellent thing!

Speaking as an overall picky individual, anything I find that hits the spot is a treasure, even a godsend! And that goes doubly when it comes to books since they are a time investment. The first book I actually bought to read for fun was I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak (Amazon Link).

It was the first book I even bought in the afternoon and finished before I went to sleep. I had no idea someone could write like that -- write an actual story that compelled me to keep reading. It had the same effect video games had on me.

I wasn't reading like I would read for a school project. I was hypnotized by the words. And that's what storytelling is -- hypnotizing the reader and casting an illusion spell on them so they can live in another world.

That was the first book I chose for myself to read. And it was because I walked in a bookstore and explored. The experience of bookshopping became a treasure hunt :)

Huge pile of books, reading, fantasy genre

Read By Example!

Okay that play on words doesn't make sense (supposed to be "Lead By Example") but C'MON! 

Children learn in all sorts of ways, but I think the most powerful way is by watching and replicating. And you are their biggest example. 

Even though I resisted being like my parents when I was a teenager, I catch myself repeating the same things they do/say all the time. It's ingrained in me, these things. 

I take most after my father. So much so that many of our idiosyncrasies are the same. My family even comments on how we even walk the same way. 

I became a writer because of all the years I spent playing tabletop RPGs (role-playing games) with him, my cousins, and my older brother. I watched my dad write in his journal and go over his notes for weight training and martial arts and our silly stories for our RPG characters. 

And from watching him write in his journal diligently, I began to do the same ever since, though I didn't realize it until I was an adult. 

So if you want your children to be readers, show them (especially early on) that you are a reader, as well. Lead by example and prove reading is awesome with your actions.

Mother covering half of her face with a book, looking at you, example

Take Turns Reading Aloud

For parents who want their children to do more things besides playing video games, I'm a major advocate for doing things with their children. At least sometimes, right? 

So when it's time for your child to do their daily reading, why not extend that time just a bit and take turns reading paragraphs. They'll be more inclined to read since this activity is interactive and they get to do it with you. It's awesome! 

Plus this segways nicely into the next section.

Son sitting on his mother's lap, both of them reading

Talk To Them About The Stories They're Reading

My favorite thing about reading are the characters. Like any Scifi/Fantasy geek, I have a handful of fictional characters I love and relate to the most, especially when we enter the realm of anime and manga

One of the first things you learn when you start writing fiction is: In order to see what your characters are made of, you have to crack them open! 

This means that you have to put your characters through difficult situations to see what they will do. No one wants to read a story about an invincible, all-powerful hero who saves the world with the flick of his wrist. That's boring! Where's the struggle?? 

The conflict and how characters deal with that conflict, that's exciting! So talk to your kids about it. 
  • What's currently happening in the book? 
  • Who are their favorite characters? 
  • Who are they suspicious of? 
  • What would they do if they were in the story? 

Young boy reading on a couch, books, book

Don't Underestimate Comic Books And Manga

Why do snobby people look down on comic books, manga, and graphic novels? Not only do you get excellent storytelling, you get excellent illustration

And something has to be said about how engaging they are, especially when compared to traditional novels. The chances of a child finishing a comic book or manga is exponentially higher than them finishing a book, first of all. 

Reading comic books and mangas are even in my Top 10 Video Game Alternatives list!

For stubborn children who don't want to read, get them into comic books and manga, it's a great way to ease them into the world of reading. Plus they can show off their collection to their friends. 

Another route you can take is buy them digital copies through (Amazon Service)! Not only can you and your youngsters take advantage of all the sales, you can also get the unlimited service, which gives you discounts on all your purchases and a library of stories you guys can read for free.

Close up of lots of comic books and graphic novels

Audiobooks - Listen While They Play

Okay this is an interesting recommendation, it's pretty ingenious, if you ask me (or rather, I'm just gonna tell you). After years of listening to music while playing video games, I switched towards listening to stand-up comedy. 

And when I got bored of that, I started playing movies and tv shows in the background while I got my grind on in World of Warcraft. 

So why not get some "reading" done with audiobooks while you play video games? This method wouldn't work with every video game out there. It usually works with something like Minecraft or World of Warcraft or even Rocket League -- games where you don't rely too much on sound to play. 

But in a game like Fortnite, you can bet your bottom dollar you need to listen diligently in there. Enemies around every corner, shots being fired in the background, you need all the audio cues you can get. 

Stubborn children require creative solutions when it comes to getting them to do things you know they should do though. So strike a deal with them. Have them play an "audiobook-friendly" game for 30 minutes a day. 

Of course, they don't even have to play a video game while they listen, they can draw, paint, put together a model, lots of things -- as long as it doesn't require them to listen to the activity, it might work.

Young girl listening to her audiobook

Get Them Their Own Kindle 

I understand the appeal of physical books. Feeling and smelling the pages, physically keeping track of your progress as you read, the thickness of how much story you have left to digest, it's a romantic idea. 

Well buckle up because the rise of ebooks ain't slowing down (CHOO CHOO MOTHERTRUCKERS)! 

I believe there's room for the digital and physical world of reading, but I'm a major advocate of ebooks, especially the Kindle ecosystem/platform. Not only can your children store all their books onto ONE device, they can carry it with them wherever they go. 

It has the same appeal and advantages of handheld gaming (Hello Nintendo Switch, you beautiful thing). 

But for real for real, don't get me started on my love for the Kindle. I accredit it as the biggest reason I became an avid reader. It allowed me to explore books like I never could before. I could actually download samples of ebooks I was interested in. It let me take advantage of the daily and monthly sales of ebooks. 

Ugh, I love it. And your youngster may love it too. It'll kindle a love for reading like this handy device did for me :) 

Something about carrying my library in one device, that's magical, in my opinion. 

Start A Tabletop RPG Campaign With Them

Okay hear me out. 

Play as a ragtag team made up of a barbarian, a ranger, a wizard, and a healer. Cousin Ricky's coming over? Great, he'll play a thief, that sneaky bugger. 

Having a thief in the group will come in handy if you ever have to pickpocket someone in the tavern. Sometimes it's best to not have to resort to battle!

Playing tabletop RPGs is the biggest reason I became a writer. It opened up something in me. It not only unleashed my imagination, it made me fall in love with storytelling. And the by-product of that is I became a reader :) 

I started playing these games before I could even read! I was hooked though, all I ever thought about was my D&D character. I would draw him, draw his weapons, imagine him pulverizing any monster he came across. 

You know, regular boy stuff. 

Getting into D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) is an awesome way to spend time with your kids, but it's also a great way for your kids to play with their friends too! Tabletop RPGs, as well as board games, is one of the best alternatives to video games out there. 

If you're hesitant about this recommendation, the starter pack will give your children everything they need to get started and at a cheap price too (Amazon Link).

Fantasy village for tabletop rpg

Reward Them For Completing Books

This is my last recommendation on how to get your child to want to read and it's one I picked up from my time in middle school. Students were required to complete a certain amount of books by the end of the year. 

And in order to prove we read these books, we had to take "standardized" tests (scantron style) and answer multiple choice questions. 

It was relatively easy to do and there were ways to cheat the system, but ultimately, it made me want to read. And it made me a more mindful reader. 

My teacher went a bit above & beyond with this program and gave her students extra rewards for completing a book. She did this by having us write a summary of the book we just finished. If the summary was well-done and proved we paid attention to the story, she'd open up her treasure trove of snacks and let us pick a few items. 

They were mostly candy bars, but this was enough motivation for us students to read even more. Most of us finished our yearly reading requirements months earlier than the other classes. She was so happy, she threw us a class party where we got to eat pizza and watch a movie! 

This harkens back to my second recommendation (remember Pavlov?), but goes a little further by rewarding completing books. So I say do the same with your children.

Funny cartoon of a man holding a trophy, reward

In Conclusion

The main takeaway of this blog post is to not force reading onto your children, but entice and guide them into the wonderful world of storytelling. Go so far as reward them for doing their daily reading and reward them even more when they complete a book and prove they understood it. 

Thank you for reading my blog, I hope you bookmark it so you can return in times of need. Be sure to check out my other blog posts, especially my list of Things Kids Can Do Instead Of Video Games