Reading to your baby every day is easy but what do you do when you have a tween on your hands who chooses to not open a book? Here are 14 ideas to keep your bigger kids interested in reading and to help you raise a happy reader.
Big Kids are Different Readers
Before my kids hit their pre-teen years and dived headfirst into the world of technology, they loved to read.
I thought I’d successfully checked off “raise a reader” in the parenting handbook. Then along came electronics, phones, middle school, and suddenly reading lost all its intrigue.
It turns out raising a reader is a skill that must be encouraged throughout your child’s life.
As you parent through the pre-teen years, here are 13 tips you can use to inspire reading in your big kids.
14 Ways to Keep Your Tween Interested in Reading
1. Read in the Car
Have periods where you don’t allow electronics in the car. Either make it a rule that your kids have to read instead for short trips around town for long trips out of town.
Not only do these breaks allow you time to talk to your kids, but it’s also a great time to sneak in reading. The older your children get the harder this will be to enforce but while they are in grade school and possible middle school you might be able to enforce this rule.
Keep books or magazines available in the car. When they complain about your music or boredom, invite them to read.
2. Family Book Club
When one of your kids is assigned a book to read for school, try encouraging others in your family to read it along with them. Reading the book as a family makes for great conversation and excites the child assigned the book.
Allow the child whose assignment it is at school to lead the rest of the family in conversations. By doing this, you can promote leadership skills in your child and prepare them (unknowingly) for any class book report.
3. Books Turned into Movies
Encourage your kids to read books that are now movies or even TV shows using the film as a reward.
You can find upcoming movies for the year by a simple google search of “upcoming movies from books,” or why not watch some older movies? Check out this list here.
My pre-teen son wanted to watch the Hunger Games movies for years. I continually told him no. Finally, I told him sure. Once you read the books, we can watch the movie. Not only did this get him to stop bothering me to watch the movie, but it encouraged him to pick up the books.
4. Devices off Before Bed
Turn off all devices before bed and gather in the same room, and everyone grabs a book.
It’s no secret by now that reading a paper book before bed with phones and tablets turned off improves sleep. If you need a little enforcement, turn off the WiFi in the house.
I was able to keep this nightly routine up with my kids until they hit High School. It’s some of the most incredible memories I have of us together.
5. Audiobooks While Driving
If you have a long car ride or a road trip as a family, find an audiobook you’ll all enjoy.
Many families decide to start with an audiobook from a movie they’ve all seen because the characters are recognizable, and the plot is relatively easy to follow along to for your first audiobook together.
If you’re not sure if you’ll like audiobooks, you can usually find free ones from your library using Hoopla, although the selection is often limited. Or Audible almost always has free audiobooks upon joining, and you can end your membership at any time and keep the audiobooks you downloaded.
6. Your Child’s Library Card
Not only can your child check out books from the library but make sure to download the audio and eBook readers your library has available on your child’s tablet or phone.
Their library membership will allow them to download books from there as well.
Some kids prefer digital books to print books. Try not to make a big out of this if you think they should be reading versus listening.
Hoopla and Libby are two awesome apps available at my public library for checking out audiobooks and eBooks and are likely available at your library as well.
7. More Than One
If your tween is easily distracted or constantly forgets their books, maybe they’d enjoy reading more than one book at a time.
They can leave one at school to read, have one to read at home at bedtime, and even one downloaded as an audiobook.
8. Listen While Doing Chores
If your child likes audiobooks, encourage them to listen to an audiobook while they do chores.
Explain it can be a fun way to make a dull chore more enticing. It can be used as a reward to listen while working out or walking the dog.
9. Reading Challenge
Encourage your child to join a reading challenge over the summer. Most public libraries have them as well as schools. Join the challenge yourself and anyone else in your family, even if they are “too” old or young.
Cheering each other on throughout the challenge will make it more exciting for your child.
You can also find (or create) lots of different “reading bingo” to complete during the summer months.
10. Earn Time
Instead of giving your kids free time on the computer, phone, or TV, have them earn it.
For each minute they spend reading, they earn a minute of TV time or phone time.
Exchanging technology time for reading time works exceptionally well during the summer or on weekends when you’re more likely to hear “I’m bored,” but when you suggest reading, you receive eye rolls.
Instead, start the day with reading, no questions asked.
11. Set Goals
Each family member should set their own daily reading goals based on their abilities.
It can be a page number (50 pages per day) or a time amount (20 minutes per day.)
When you gather in the evening, talk about if everyone has met their reading goal, you included, and who needs some quiet time to make their goal for the day.
Optionally, you can have a weekly celebration for those who make their daily goal every day of the week, such as ice cream on Sundays.
12. Be Caught Reading
We hear this bit of advice when our children are babies, but our children never stop watching us.
Our kids should see us reading every day and watch us as we pick reading books over electronics.
13. Unlikely Places
Go the extra mile to find books for your older child.
The best-seller list won’t always impress them.
Search online for best teenager books or fantasy books, or whatever genre they’re into at the time.
Ask the librarian for suggestions.
I’ve had great success at book fairs. My kids enjoy spending time picking out books for themselves, and as a result, they will read them when we arrive home.
Another place I’ve found different series of books I can’t find elsewhere is Usborne books. There’s usually someone inviting me to an Usborne party a couple of times per year, and I attend because I can’t find the same books even on Amazon.
If you find a book your child likes from a series, then all the better. Order or check out the whole series. Book series can keep kids excited about reading for months without trying to find a new book.
14. Let Them Read Their Way
Somehow kids are able to do their homework and read while listening to music and watching TV. Try to give the a quiet spot to read and they won’t absorb one word.
I’ve tried and tried to fight this and finally gave in and realized that kids learn differently than my generation. I know that makes us sound and feel old but Generation Z is called the iGen because they haven’t known a day without technology. Their birth announcements were on social media for goodness sake so to expect them to have complete silence and to do things “our way” isn’t always logical.
Laying the Foundation
Regardless of how hard you try to encourage reading, you’ll find it will ebb and flow. There will be seasons when you’re sure your child will never pick up a book again in their life, followed shortly by non-stop reading.
The best thing you can do is put nudges in all the right places and help lay the foundation.