18 Ways to Encourage Reading in Elementary-Aged Kids

One of the big tasks of early elementary school is learning to read. Mastering the phonetic skills, learning new vocabulary words, and comprehending are the primary focus of these years. I never want the intricacies of learning to read to get in the way of my kids developing a love of reading. I’ve found these ways to encourage reading in elementary-aged kids successfully in our home and I hope you will too!

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A young girl reads outside in the sunlight.

1.Model Reading in Your Family

I think the saying goes, “More is caught than taught.” This is true of reading and so much more in parenting. When kids see you reading for information or leisure, they will likely emulate you and do the same. Read the paper or a devotional at breakfast, read a great novel before bed, or grab a great beach read on vacation.

2. Limit Screen Time

It seems more research is available daily about the negative impact of the passive consumption that screens and social media feed to kids. It’s impossible for a book that requires brain power and imagination to compete with a brightly lit screen that passively entertains. Try having a reading time before turning on screens for the day.

3. Read to or with your Child

It’s impossible to start reading to your child too early! There are so many benefits of reading to your kids. Just a few include bonding, language acquisition, and pre-literacy skills. The importance of reading to babies and toddlers is well documented. Even when elementary-aged kids are reading independently, reading together is still a great way to encourage reading in your family. You can switch off reading paragraphs. Also, consider making this an opportunity to explain new vocabulary words. It’s a great time to talk about topics, themes, or connections your family might have to the text. Our family recently read through The Chronicles of Narnia and The Harry Potter Series. Each of these series took months to complete but are some of our favorite family memories. It was also memorable to discuss themes of sacrifice, good and evil, and the power of friendship.

4. Create A Reading Nook/ Corner

Kids of all ages love a cozy reading nook. Especially as kids get older and can read on their own, let them help to put together a special space dedicated to reading. They might enjoy having their own bookshelf, reading chart, and special seat or floor pillow. It doesn’t need to be fancy- just theirs! We were able turn a window seat into a reading nook in my daughter’s room at it’s just the coziest space.

5. Read to a sibling or pet

As soon as kids can read have them read to a younger sibling. No younger sibling around? How about the family pet? Kids long for purpose and meaning and this is a great way to provide both. Even preschoolers who know colors or names or animals can point them out to a baby sibling. These moments always pull on my heartstrings.

6. Read to younger children

Help your child volunteer to read to a younger class at school, church, or even to other kids in the neighborhood or playgroup. One genius mom I know hired her neighbor’s elementary-aged daughter to come be a “mother’s helper” and read to her babies in their bouncy seats. The mom was able to take of a things around the house. The babies were mesmerized and were introduced to colors, language, and positive social interactions surrounding reading. The neighbor loved having a purpose and got to practice and build reading confidence in a low-stakes environment.

7. Pick books at the library

This one is a no-brainer! A great activity for families with kids of all ages. Added benefits include learning about new books, seeing older kids and adults value reading, and getting to participate in library programs. Our library has seasonally themed scavenger hunts to encourage kids to explore the entire children’s area. There are also story times when a librarian or guest reader will introduce and bring connection and meaning to books your child might not have read.

Encourage kids to select a variety of books and genres from the library.

8. Pick a Book that is also a movie

If you have a reluctant reader in your home, selecting a book they can also see come alive in a movie or cartoon can be a great bargaining tool. I am working from the “any reading is good reading” framework and this can be a great way to start introducing literary concepts such as compare and contrast, character development (which is often quite different in a move than in written text), and themes. Some other book to movie options:

9. Participate in Library or Bookstore-Sponsored Reading Program

Most libraries and some book stores have summer reading programs where kids can check out and log books they are reading to work towards a goal or prize. It can usually be done by books read or minutes read in a week. Sometimes this external motivator can propel a child’s reading.

10. Daily Timed Reading

To some children, the idea of getting through an entire book can be daunting. As kids get older, the expectation is for them to start reading chapter books. Struggling and even grade-level readers can feel discouraged. Don’t always focus on finishing the whole book, or even the chapter. Sometimes setting a timer can be a better measure and motivator for kids. Celebrate and discuss what they read when the timer goes off!

11. Reading Sticker Chart or Jar

For goal-oriented kids these positive reward systems can be very motivating. There are so many great printable options available. I know my kids would love this fun scratch off reading chart!

12. Read on the move

One barrier to children reading is it usually requires them to sit still! Sitting still is a difficult task for many kids! When possible, give kids the opportunity to read on the move. You certainly don’t want your reader walking into things or tripping, but there are some easy ways to accommodate a reader with an active body. When it’s nice out let them read on a swing or in a hammock. During the winter, a kid’s exercise ball or a stationary bike might be a safe place to read on the move!

Enourage reading in elementary-aged kids by letting them read outdoors on a swing.

13. Book Club with Friends

You might have to reserve this one for older elementary- aged kids but we tried it with my daughter and her friends (they were entering fourth grade at the time) and it was a hit. We asked their school librarian for some book recommendations that might lend themselves to good discussion. It was fairly easy to find questions on books for them to discuss. Even if you don’t have book-specific questions start by encouraging discussion about your favorite character, retelling the plot, or favorite scenes.

A little themed snack or activity can go a long way here! One of the first books my daughter’s book club read last year was The Lemonade War by Jaqueline Davies. We served lemonade and had a snack of lemon bars and it was a big success.

14. Book Swap with Friends

Even if getting a group together isn’t feasible a book swap is another way to encourage reading among your child and their friends. I have a few moms who will occasionally take pictures of a group of books their child would like to swap. My kids can look through the pictures and we text back which books we would like to borrow. It is also a great way to save money on books.

15. Letters from grandparents or friends

If opening a book or novel feels overwhelming seems to your child consider other forms of writing. Many times, grandparents or other relatives want ways to connect with younger members of the family. They are usually happy to write letters. If they are retired and have time to do this, you could also ask them to include an interesting article or one of their favorite childhood books.

16. Reading Subscriptions

There are many reading subscriptions available. Literati and BookRoo offer curated age and reading level appropriate collections of books delivered to your door. Other subscriptions that encourage reading are National Geographic Kids, Ranger Rick Magazine, and Highlights for Kids. These are great options for kids who prefer non-fiction. These subscriptions also make great gifts from family or friends.

17. Audiobooks

Another way to get kids to tap into the benefits of reading is through audiobooks. I found this article fascinating about some of the little-known benefits of listening to audio books. I learned that awareness of tone, pronunciation, and dialects can be enhanced with audio-books. Reading comprehension also improves with not just written but audio book exposure as well. When my older two children were independent readers we got our youngest a Yoto Player for an early introduction to audio books.

18. Non-fiction topics

Sometimes, more informational texts are appealing to certain young readers. If they are interested in a certain topic, historical period, sport, or culture/ civilization this can be a great way to let their interests lead them to reading.

I hope that any or all of these ideas encourage your elementary-aged kids reading! Let me know how you are getting your kids to read and their current favorite reads!!

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