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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.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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Where to Access Free Books for Kids During Covid-19

Depending on where you live, you and your family are likely well over a month into quarantine. Even the most prepared parent or caregiver is probably running low on new, fun books to read. Libraries and schools across the country are closed, most bookstores are closed (although many are offering curbside pickup or delivery, so do try to support them if you are financially able), and even Amazon deliveries are delayed understandably in order to focus on essential shipping needs. 

With many families facing very tight and sometimes dire financial circumstances right now, creative ways to get free books into the hands of children have never been more needed. 

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Fact vs. Fiction: Learning What’s Real and What’s Not Through Reading

I was a journalism major, graduating in 2002. Thousands of miles away, at the exact moment I was practicing how to craft compelling, accurate newspaper headlines and write engaging magazine articles, Mark Zuckerberg was inventing Facebook in his dorm room at Harvard and changing how we get our news forever. I often wonder how drastically different my journalism education would be if I was a student now and not pre-social media.

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Parents as Reading Role Models: Modeling Book Selection

One of the most eye-opening facts in Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report was that 91% of kids ages 6-17 said that their favorite books are the ones they’ve picked out for themselves and 90% said that they are more likely to finish a book that they have selected.

Here’s what we make of this: we, as parents and caregivers (along with educators) need to do a better job helping our kids learn to pick out books independently, so that they, in turn, will read, enjoy, and finish more books. How do we do this? Just like any valuable life lesson, the approach with the longest-lasting impact is modeling what we do as real readers ourselves. 

Would you send a young child out into the backyard with a baseball mitt and ball, and provide no explanation? Of course not. You’d show them how to put the mitt on, how to toss the ball, and you’d model throwing and catching.

Just like kids need to see you read, they also need to see how you decide what to read.

Easy Strategies for Modeling Book Selection to Your Kids

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Reading Strategies and Book Suggestions for Toddlers and Preschoolers Who Can’t Sit Still

When my oldest child was a toddler, I only needed to bring a tote bag of his favorite books to keep him happy and entertained for an hour or more. We nicknamed him The Professor. But then my youngest came along. Cue the Jaws music. His first nickname was The Destroyer… you know the type.

I suddenly had to rethink my strategies for making books a part of his very active, mobile (and developmentally normal!) life.

Toddler and preschool years are crucial in a child’s development as a reader. Even though they can’t yet read independently, they’re learning all the behaviors necessary to do so in the future.

As a point of comparison, clutching a crayon in their chubby, clenched fists and scribbling away is the first step toward being able to write. Soon their fingers get stronger, they start to grasp a pencil and exhibit more control as they draw. It works the same way with reading. 


But how to balance your child’s need to move with your desire to read to them in an enjoyable way? We’ve got some tips and book ideas to help.

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Where to Get Book Recommendations Your Child Will Love

Our most recent posts have encouraged families to allow their child to choose their own reading material and to reflect thoughtfully on how books impact childrens’ (and adults’) lives. But where to turn when you’ve read the last page of a recent favorite, or finally finished that series you started 6 months ago? (I call this having a book hangover and the only cure is a new favorite!) Or maybe you’re still searching for that one book that is sure to hook them to love reading long-term.

Here are some fool-proof resources for great children’s book recommendations… some for when you have loads of time to browse with your child and a few that take only a few seconds!

Helpful Sources for Children’s Book Recommendations

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