As parents, it’s easy to fall into the ol’ treat trap. Kids can be stubborn, and sometimes they need a little motivation to do the things we know are best for them: eat their vegetables, put the screens away, play outside…
But, we have some advice when it comes to motivation and rewards for reading.
Reading is rewarding. But don’t reward them for reading.
You know that, here at Literati, we stand strongly for the importance of childhood literacy. It’s pretty much all we talk about. Books not only help our children excel in their education, they develop the social skills and personal awareness that shape our little humans into good, well-adjusted big humans. So, obviously, we believe all parents should encourage a love of reading. (Key word: love.)
If you start giving treats in exchange for reading, your kids are going to liken books to brussels sprouts. Instead of trading 30 minutes of storytime for 30 minutes of tablet time, the two should be entirely unrelated and equally fun. We have to try to separate reading from that daunting category of “what mom and dad make me do,” or else it may never become “something I love to do.”
Here are a few helpful tips to skip the rewards and encourage a natural love of reading:
1. Leave School at School
It’s a truly exciting time when your child starts learning to read at school. But school itself isn’t always as exciting for kids. School means work, curriculum, and structured learning. School is where children have to read; home is where they get to. Let the teachers do the disciplined education (and thank them for it!) and avoid “required” reading time or gold stars at home. Reading is the gold star.
2. Lead By Example
Children idolize their parents. It’s one of their most endearing traits, and it’s also a great opportunity to pass down important values—like a love of literature! Emphasize your own love of reading and how happy you are to curl up with a book at the end of the day. Your child will see that reading is not just for kids. Because every kid wants to do grown-up things.
3. Set Rules to Be Broken
Really want to pique a kid’s interest in something? Tell them they can’t have it. Tell them “no reading after bedtime” and we’ll bet they’ll be up, sneaking books under the covers. Designate a shelf for “grownup books” and they’ll gravitate towards it. Making rules around reading will make it seem like an enticing taboo.
4. Try a Change of Scenery
Getting out of the house is always an adventure for our little ones. Although the pandemic has put a damper on things, you can try working book-related stops into your errands or outings. Plan a curbside book pickup at the library for a post-grocery-store surprise. Or, make books the star of a special weekend picnic (and take it even further by choosing foods or activities around the theme of the book!). These little ventures will show your kids that there’s a whole world of literature that extends well beyond the pages.
5. Put a Bow on It
Try giving books on special occasions from an early age. On every birthday, give them a book “especially made” for their new age, so it becomes a part of being a big kid. Ask grandparents to give a book for the holidays; everything from Grandpa and Grandma is special. Make a big deal about adding every new book to their growing collection. Kids love to collect things!
6. Don’t Be Discouraged
As they grow older, children may reach for the iPad much more than the bookshelf. Don’t give up. If the right framework is laid early, the love of literature will always be there. We all remember those rebellious preteen years when Mom and Dad were always wrong. Your little rebel will grow out of that just like you did, and they will remember the joy and devotion to books they felt when they were young.
At the end of the day, you’re reading this because you appreciate literature. Let your own inner bookworm shine for your family and you’ll be raising lifelong readers in no time!