How to Motivate Young People to Read

Teenage boy reading a boy on a couch.
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It can be difficult to get children to set aside time for good old-fashioned reading. Electronic distractions abound, and many children equate reading with the monotony of schoolwork. To motivate youngsters to read, speak to their interests and encourage them to view it as a pleasurable activity, not a chore.

1 Start Early

Reading aloud to infants can help them to build language skills and stimulate their imagination, according to the children’s literacy nonprofit Reading is Fundamental. As they grow and develop, children who are read to on a regular basis learn that reading is an important, fun and worthwhile activity. By spending time reading to your child everyday when they’re very young, you can instill in them a lifelong love of the written word.

2 Model Behavior

Children often pattern their behavior after their parents, so if you want your children to read, then be a reading role model, states the National Education Association. Let your children see you reading novels, nonfiction books, magazines and newspapers. Keep books and other reading material in the house. Talk with excitement about the books and articles you’ve read. Take them to the library and let them explore the shelves or participate in story time. If your children are old enough, share what you’ve read with them and encourage discussion.

3 Give Support and Feedback

For teachers, motivating students to read can be a complicated challenge, especially if the child's parents don't model reading behaviors at home. According to Scholastic, to encourage students to read, teachers should offer a variety of skill-appropriate texts that speak to their students' individual interests. Then, through formal and informal monitoring and feedback, provide continuous support about the selections the students have made. Talk with excitement about the books they're reading, take turns reading aloud to enhance fluency, and, when possible, incorporate technology to stimulate interest.

4 Honor Their Interests

If your child prefers books about SpongeBob Squarepants over Harry Potter, don’t discourage him. As long as he’s working with age-appropriate materials, the important factor is that he's developing a love for books, states the NEA. One of the keys to his developing a lifelong love of reading is letting him read what he's interested in, even if it means he’s captivated by a certain yellow sponge who lives under the sea, or even if it's the same book over and over for a month straight. As your child matures and develops his reading skills, he’ll move on to more complex literature.

Jennifer Brozak earned her state teaching certificate in Secondary English and Communications from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., and her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Pittsburgh. A former high school English teacher, Jennifer enjoys writing articles about parenting and education and has contributed to Reader's Digest, Mamapedia, Shmoop and more.