You’ve worked hard to instill a love of books and reading in your kids. You read to them while they were babies and toddlers. You take them to the library regularly. They’re reaching that age where they are finally old enough to read on their own and suddenly, now that they have to do it themselves, getting your kids to read is like pulling teeth. What do you do?


You can’t force this feeling!

First, understand that for a lot of kids, making the transition from being read to to reading to themselves is a difficult and intimidating one. Even for kids who read far above their age or grade levels, picking up those chapter books feels scary. Acknowledge that fear. Getting your kids to talk about it is one of the best ways to work through it.

It is also okay to let your kids take their time transitioning into reading for themselves. By pushing and trying to force the issue by simply ordering them to read, you’re doing more harm than good. You’re turning reading into something they will associate with pressure and chores! Back off a little bit. No matter what anybody tells you, what matters is not how quickly they pick up reading to themselves but that eventually it is something they choose to do of their own volition.

That doesn’t mean you can’t provide some incentive! Here’s what worked for me: My mom was reading one of the Ramona books (by Beverly Cleary) to me one night and stopped in the middle of a chapter to put me to bed. The next day, I couldn’t stand the idea of waiting until bedtime to find out what happened and, because my mom was “too busy” to read to me, I picked up the book and started reading to myself.

The key here was that my mom didn’t make a big deal out of it when she walked into the room and saw me curled up with the book. She knew that if she had, I probably would have put the book down because I would have felt embarrassed or startled. So she just let me read.

After that, chapter books didn’t feel so scary.

But what if your kids have already made the transition to reading to themselves but simply claim that they don’t like to read? They gravitate more toward screens (television, video games) and playing outside. How do you convince them that reading can be really fun?

1. What Do They Play?

What games do your kids gravitate toward when left to their own devices? Do they like games with lots of action? Do they like games based in puzzles and riddles? Do they like games set in fantasy settings or featuring animals?

The games they choose will tell you a lot about the stories they like. A child who likes puzzles, for example, will probably enjoy Encyclopedia Brown. A child who gravitates toward animals might like the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series.

2. What Do They Watch?

Let your kids choose a few television shows or movies and pay attention to what they select. Much like video games, you can tell a lot about the types of stories they enjoy and find books that are similar in structure or setting.

The best of both worlds?

The best of both worlds?

3. Tie-Ins

If your kids are still wary of books, consider encouraging them to read the novelizations of their favorite shows, movies, and games. Remember – right now you’re not worried about what they’re reading. You just want them to be reading, period!

4. Good Old-Fashioned Bribery

A lot of parents set up a reward system to encourage reading. Give your kid one point for every minute they spend reading. Allow them to trade in their points for extra free time in the evenings or on weekends. They can turn in five points for five more minutes on a video game or outside. You never know – eventually they may ask to turn in points for extra reading time if they get really into the books they’re reading.

What are some of the things you’ve done to encourage your kids to choose books over other forms of entertainment?

Erin Steiner writes about small business, family, and pop culture topics. In addition to niche writing, she profiles companies like She also managed the children’s sections in three different bookstores before making the leap to full-time freelance writing. She’s well versed in convincing kids that reading is cool.