Friday, March 4, 2011

how to trick your child into reading {my devious methods}

Thanks to the makers of Pine-Sol® for sponsoring my writing. A study shows a clean smelling home can help children succeed, so Pine-Sol® is supporting Reading is Fundamental (RIF) this year. Click "Like" on Pine-Sol®’s Facebook page here and they will donate books to RIF!

I am the meanest mom in America. The other day my son whined, "Why do you always have to torture me?" He's seven. I asked him if making monkey bread, playing the Wii, and reading stories together was the definition of torture. I guess those things don't count if you make your child do their homework. Because for him, that is the definition of torture. Apparently he already knows everything. But homework and reading are extremely important to my husband and I, so we continue to torture him day after day.

After school at our house is a little like Grand Central Station. Kids coming and going, snack time, homework, chores, reading time--it's a lot to get done before I have to start making dinner. So we've instituted a pretty strict routine we stick to to ensure it all happens each day. But sometimes, when your child is feeling especially "tortured", a routine is easier said than done. Sometimes, you have to get creative.

This week we had a few extra kids over, and knowing that getting them all to sit quietly and read instead of pull all the pillows off the couch to make a landing pad at the bottom of the stairs would be difficult, I made reading time a little more fun.

It happened to be Dr. Seuss' birthday, so we had a Dr. Seuss reading party. I satisfied their need to de-pillow my couches by having them build a reading room. They piled pillows behind the couch and piled themselves on the pillows. They each chose a Dr. Seuss book and took turns reading to the group. I couldn't believe how well it worked! They all wanted to be sure their book was read, and they listened quietly to everyone else's choice. Of course I rewarded this amazing behavior with Cat In the Hat marshmallow hats (via this blog) and allowing them to jump on the pillow pile when they were done. Whatever it takes.

The other reading strategy my genius husband cooked up has to do with my boys' favorite pastime: video games. For every minute they spend reading, they get one minute of time on the Wii or DS. We designed a little chart that I slipped in a page protector so we can record and update the minutes daily with a dry erase marker. They can read quietly to themselves, to a younger sibling, or to me. The remarkable thing is that they actually spend a LOT more time reading than they do playing video games! I am still shocked, but I often hear them say, "I'm going to keep reading so I can get more Wii time!" They seem to think that if they amass hours and hours of Wii time, they can play for hours and hours on end. Like all night. As if. But they haven't figured that out yet, so until then we'll keep this game going. Genius, I tell ya, genius.

Reading is fundamental, but getting them to do it takes more than a little creativity! What's your strategy?

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19 Responses to “how to trick your child into reading {my devious methods}”

Lettie B. said...

I love the 1 min read, 1 minute video game. My kids are younger but they love playing games on the computer (and we're talking educational ones from PBS or something, so they are still learning!). I think I might try this idea out and have them earn computer time.

Jenny at Red House said...

What great ideas! I have always struggled to get mine to read which is such a shame as I absolutely adore a good book, Im a great believer in lifelong learning though! jennyx

Nelly said...

I like that idea may have to do same as My GKids just dont read as much as I would like,and one struggles at 8years of age

Anonymous said...

I love this! My are to young to read yet, but I just may have to use the video game trick with my I think the reading party is a great idea also, I am for sure going to do this! Yeah!

Jena said...

My children don't get an "allowance" so to speak, so I pay them a penny a page to read age appropriate books (I have 2 older boys that think if they read kindergarten books to their younger brothers, that should count - it doesn't). They are still encouraged to read to their younger brothers though.

Each child has a spiral notebook (that is their reading log). I glued an envelope face down to the inside cover of the reading log. They have to write the title of the book, author of the book and how many pages and date it was completed. When I check the log, I mark paid next to the book(s) and put the money in the envelope.

There is a catch. They have to complete the book. I will not pay $1 for 100 pages of a 200 page book.

My 3rd son is in kindergarten and brings home kindergarten readers (about 8 pages each), I pay him for those - but I wait until there is a little more than $0.08 before I pay him. If he reads other books to me, he will get paid for those too.

Anonymous said...

When my kids still loved the idea of reading, but the labor of it still felt like "torture", we would put $1 bills in the back of a book. Once the book was finished, and they could tell me what it was about, it was money in the pocket. Fortunately I only had one learning to read at a time. You could do the same with quarters or dimes. We never had a bunch of extra money, but this bribery was necessary at times for my mommy mental health.

beetree said...

Adorable marshmallow hats! I am so blessed, my kids all LOVE reading. And I know this may sound strange, but I have actually had to ground my son from reading his book (reading instead of doing his chores)! My mom loved to read, and I picked that up from her, and passed it down to the littles. I think if you read to them when they are young, they develop a love for it. Making books available in topics that interest them also helps! Love the Seuss reading party!

Kimi said...

My favorite method to get them to read is to allow them to stay up an extra half hour if they read quietly in their bedrooms. Of course their bedtime is already set a half-hour earlier than it needs to be!
A mom of 7 avid readers

Tanya Batrak said...

Thanks for sharing your strategy :) My daughter is 2 years old but I'll keep in mind for the future 8)

The Olive Tree Blog said...

I let my 4 year old "read" to me. She loves to look at the pictures and tell me the stories. Also our local library gives away free stuff for reading books.

dannyscotland said...

I just left a comment and got an "error performing your request" and then my comment was lost. I will try to recreate.

My daughter is 2 and loves books so I don't know what I'll do if that changes when she's older, but I do have some suggestions. I was a teacher before I was a mom, and parents of 2nd and 3rd graders often were looking for solutions to get their kids to read more.

First, they should see the adult(s) in the house (Mom, Dad, whoever) reading and enjoying it. They need to see that reading is not just a chore, but fun. Second, all reading counts, including comic books, cartoons, little sibs' books (in moderation), recipes, food labels, anything. It's all important. They are different types of reading material and they need to know how to read all of them. You can move into more typical books later as they learn to enjoy reading more.

I love the one minute of video solution.

Bonnie said...

I make my kids read 45 mins everyday and sometimes i just hear "whine, whine, whine" so last summer I had this grand plan . . . I made a deal with them . . . dont miss 1 day of reading all summer, and on the first day of school I will give you a 100 dollar bill. Made it there choice and it worked like a charm! So after they got that 100 bucks, I had to make a new bribe and made it longer term (to last the entire school year) . . . Proud to ay my kids have read 45 mins (and not complained) every single day since last June!

Faith Pray said...

I'm so excited you blogged about this topic. As a writer, I naturally love kids who are learning to read. I've blogged about my kids' reading parties here:
and here:

Faith Pray said...

We have a reward system. For every ten books my kids read, they earn one new book.

Deanna said...

(I hope this doesn't repeat - I got an error message, so I will recap...)

I am a firm believer that kids pick up no the values that they see stressed in their homes, so if they see that reading is important to their parents and that it is done a lot, they are more likely to enjoy it as well. Our kids see us reading ALL the time, and we often read together or at the same time as a family in the same room.

My husband actually grew up with a similar reading/video game exchange system and it worked wonders for him, so we have employed that strategy with our kids over the last couple years with great success. They usually know not to even come and ask us to play video games until they have spent time reading to "earn" it. It's the same with movies too. And I love that they usually end up reading for far longer than playing.

Some other strategies we have used are to encourage our kids to always have a book with them when we head to the car for anything. We spend a lot of time in the car, so it allows them all kinds of time to read and they have learned to love this. It's almost torture for them to endur being in the car without a good book to read :-)

We have also made reading part of our bedtime routine. After we are done wtih everything getting ready for bed, they are allowed to read in their rooms for a while before going to sleep. They are NOT allowed to play, etc. The deal is they can stay up and read or go to bed and they almost always choose to read (and like a previous commenter, we have an early bedtime to allow for this). It's a pretty pleasant thing to have to get after your child for trying to read next to the night light after bedtime :-)

And lastly, in the summertime where there is so much TIME on our hands and opportunity for boredom, we really try to get our kids into reading a TON. We sign them up for the summer reading programs at all 3 of our local libraries and then implement a marble jar where they earn so many marbles for each book they read and when they reach a certain number of marbles, they can trade them in for some kind of prize (an ice cream cone, cheap book, cheap toy, special priviledges, etc.) This combination makes for a lot of reading and a ton of trips to the library during the summer. We love it!

Andrea G said...

We do the same thing as Kimi (ealier commenter). Our kids get to stay up an extra 30 minutes if they're reading. They will do anything to stay up past their bed time. Our oldest is now an avid reader.

Amy said...

Thank you for sharing! I also torture my seven year old son with a strict homework, piano practice, quiet reading time after school! ;) Somedays are easier than others!


Elizabeth said...

...and then, for reading time, the children decided to read mommy's blog. the gig was up ... LOL

Seriously, though - fantastic idea. I love the Wii/DS incentive. Great job.

east said...

You have lots of ideas, Great moms! Can you suggest me books that your kids really love to read? I have my blog, It would be a great help. Thanks.

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