How to Turn Children into Readers

College of Education

Helping children develop as readers requires more than giving rewards for completing books, encouraging competition to see who can read the most books or asking them to read a number of texts in an allotted amount of time. In order to encourage a child’s intrinsic motivation to read and support them on their journey to becoming lifelong readers, we need to look at both their value of reading and their expectations for success with reading. The following is a list of suggestions to help promote lifelong reading habits with children.

Researchers agree that choice of reading is a motivating factor for children. When empowered to choose a text about a topic or genre of interest, children will likely place higher value on reading. Additionally, ensuring children have access to these texts will likely increase their value of reading. Access may include varied exposure to books by taking trips to the library, providing a brief overview of a book through book talks, and providing books as a gift.

Reconsidering what counts as reading can also prove helpful for reluctant readers who prefer other forms of reading than the traditional book. Blog posts, graphic novels, comic books and books with integrated technology represent just some of the various alternatives to traditional texts that can engage unengaged readers and increase their expectations for success with reading.

Finally, children need to see reading role models. To solidify the value of reading, children need to see reading being done at home by respected others (e.g., siblings, parents, etc.). Setting aside time to read as a family where children see the importance of reading, taking the time to read to children daily or discussing the books children are reading will increase children’s experience with and exposure to reading.

Lifelong readers are created through positive experiences with books in varied environments rather than solely experiencing reading at school.

— Leslie Roberts, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Curriculum, Foundations and Reading