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Easy and Affordable Rewards that Encourage More Reading

For many parents now working from home, or struggling with safe childcare options, or just dealing with the aftermath of kids who have already been stuck at home for months before summer even started, this time period likely presents many new challenges that most of us have never faced. Encouraging your child to keep reading can feel like one more daunting task on the never-ending to do list. We get it. We feel that way, too, sometimes. Honestly.

Some libraries are stepping up to the plate with fantastic virtual or socially distant summer reading programs. If you haven’t yet checked that out, please do so. My library has done incredible work moving their program online, and it has actually made my work-parenting balance easier this summer. Uninterrupted time to respond to emails while they happily read or do simple activities? Yes, please.

But if your library has not, or it is structured in a way that doesn’t work for your family, there are still simple rewards you can offer your child to keep them reading this summer (and into the fall and winter!)

Simple Reading Rewards for Busy Parents

Watch the Movie

If ever there was a summer for plopping yourselves down as a family and watching a movie at home, this is it! My oldest is currently reading Wrinkle in Time, and we are so excited to watch the movie when he’s done. It was a really easy way to get him to consider switching from his typical genres of humor, sports, or historical fiction, to a classic science fiction novel.

Eat or Cook Something From the Book

This doesn’t have to be hard or complex. I once brought Tootsie Roll Pops to my book club meeting because the main character mentioned them as a favorite snack. Or, if the mood strikes, you can turn it into a big project, like made-from-scratch peach crumble after reading James and the Giant Peach. If food isn’t a natural fit, is there something else from the book that your child can try? Maybe a card game or a song or even another book mentioned within the pages?

Learn More About the Author

Most authors have their own websites, some more robust than others. More popular authors often have cool, interactive features on their sites that you can check out and expand the fun found from within the pages (like comic book templates on Dav Pilkey’s site). Or just learn about what they’re writing next (did you know book trailers exist, just like movie trailers?) Also, search out videos on YouTube, perhaps discovering more about the author’s writing or research process. It’ll give your child a back stage pass to the magic. Or send a letter to the author! Imagine the excitement if you get a response!

Read with a Friend

Reach out to your child’s circle of friends and see if they’d like to read together virtually (or listen to an audio book together socially distant-style in your yard or the park). The kids could all read the same book and then gather on Zoom to chat about it. You’re likely already spending a few minutes arranging mutual video game playing time, right? (Raises hand…) If a long book feels too clunky, maybe a short article on a mutual interest or hobby, or listen to a podcast and then discuss.

If the friend dynamic isn’t ripe for this, consider asking a grandparent, aunt, or uncle to read a book with your child. “Storytime sessions” reading a picture book over Facetime are such a great idea for younger children, and older children might love reading a classic that their grandparents read if they knew they could chat about it together. My dad read Hatchet when he learned my youngest was reading it, and they had an adorable conversation about it after.

Find Ways to Retell

With younger children, suggest they play school and teach their “students” about the book they just read. Or share their thoughts with stuffed animals at a tea party. Older children might love being the center of attention when you make their recent book the topic of dinner conversation one evening (my family of introverts is always looking for new conversation topics after the 3,000th family dinner in a row!) Artsy children could create a new and improved cover for the book and then explain their design to you. Kids who love a challenge would get a kick out of writing questions about the book for an online quiz (Kahoot is a good option) to stump family or friends. This is especially fun if they’ve read a nonfiction book.

Buy the Next Book

If your finances allow, treating your child to their next great read is always a fitting reward! Consider supporting your local bookstore or a black-owned bookstore with your purchase. If your budget is tight, we’ve provided a lot of virtual resources for getting free books right now. Many libraries are either re-opening or offering curbside pickup now as well.

You might notice that all of these ideas don’t involve buying junk. I know libraries and teachers and schools are often operating on shoestring budgets, and rewards sometimes look like a stale jolly rancher or plastic spider rings or any other cheap thrill to entice kids into good behavior, completing homework, etc. We sympathize with those circumstances, but we encourage parents and caregivers to look beyond those options with more book-related rewards, like those listed above. If you’re curious about this, the book No More Reading for Junk by Barbara Marinak and Linda Gambrell really expanded our thinking on this.

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