Motivating Your Child to Unleash Their Inner Bookworm
Mon, November 29, 2021

Motivating Your Child to Unleash Their Inner Bookworm


Erin Zammett Ruddy of Parents, a magazine on parenting, envisioned her children being well-mannered and bookworms. Her son would “tear through” the Hardy Boys and Harry Potter and her daughters would love reading Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and The Baby-Sitters Club series. But Ruddy noted that this particular parenting fantasy has not become a reality yet.

This is not uncommon. Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Ed.D., a professor emerita at Lesley University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the author of Taking Back Childhood, said, “We want to get kids reading, but they are under increasing pressure to do so, and it can overshadow the joy of this wonderful shared activity.” Books should be fun and treated as if they are magical, said Ruddy and Shanna Shwartz, the Columbia University Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s lead senior staff developer.  

Children and Young People’s Reading In 2019

Christina Clark and Anne Teravainen–Goff of the National Literacy Trust, an independent charity, gathered 59,906 children and young people aged 9-18 in the UK for their survey between January and March 2019. They also had information from 3,748 children aged five to eight who answered a similar survey targeted for younger kids.

The authors found that 22% of children enjoyed reading “very much," while 31% said “quite a lot” and 34.9% said “a bit.” Only 12.2% reported “not at all.” In 2019, there were only 53% of children and young people who enjoyed reading either very much or quite a lot, down from 2018/2018’s 56.6% and 2016’s 58.6%. In 2013, only 53.3% of children and young people enjoyed the hobby either very much or quite a lot compared with 2014 and 2015’s 54.4% and 54.8%, respectively.

In 2019, more girls (60.3%) enjoyed reading than boys (46.5%). Among age groups, 76.3% of children aged five to eight enjoyed reading the most, followed by kids aged nine to 11 (71.9%) and young people aged 16 to 18 (56.5%). Apparently, only 49.5% of kids aged 11 to 14 and 40.2% of those aged 14 to 16 enjoyed reading. The figures shed light on the gradual decline of reading enjoyment among age groups, though enjoyment levels rose for older children.

Regarding levels of frequency with which children and young people read outside class, 25.8% of children said they read daily, 31.5% read a few times a week, and 13.6% said rarely. 9.9% read about once a week, 7.9% said they never read, 7.2% read a few times a month, and 4% read about once a month.

As for formats, 54.6% of children read fiction on paper versus those (20.4%) who read on screen. More children and young people (45%) read non-fiction on paper than on screen (15.1%). 31.3% preferred to read magazines on paper compared with those (11.8%) who read on screen. Interestingly, 32.1% of children and young preferred to read news on screen than on paper (20%).  

The percentage (25.8%) of children who read daily was down from 2017/2018’s 30.8% and 2016’s 32%. 43% of children read daily in 2015 and 41.4% read each day in 2014. In 2013, the figure was 32.2%.  This showed that the percentage of kids and young people who read outside class on a daily basis declined over the past years.

When asked whether the participants agree or disagree with several statements that explored their attitudes on reading, 62.9% agreed that “There are a lot of things I want to read” and 55.5% affirmed that “I continue reading even when I find it difficult.”

55.1% agreed they will get a better job when they grow up if they are good readers. 52.3% would be happy to receive a book as a gift and 40.7% agreed that reading is cool. Only 34% agreed that they cannot find things to read that pique their interest and 30.8% only read when they have to.

How to Instill Love for Reading

1. Find Out Your Child’s Interests

What does your child like to read? Take and a step back and know the types of texts they enjoy reading the most, recommended Amy Mascott of PBS’s for Parents, a website containing parenting resources.

2.     Model Your Love for Reading

Schwartz stated that kids take cues from adults. “When you grow up surrounded by junk food, you like junk food. When you grow up surrounded by books, you like books,” she added.

Mom of two reluctant readers Annette Uvena said she ensures that her kids see her reading. She even talks about the book with them. She explained, “I’ll excitedly point out something that reminds me of the story, because I want them to see that books bring me joy and will bring them joy too.”

3.    Ask Questions

This is about checking in, not grilling them about the book your child reads, said Dr. Carlsson-Paige. Ask about their favorite characters, what they think will happen next, or what they would do in that situation.

Overly focusing on the letters and sounds at the expense of the story will not make your child a good reader. A good reader is someone who reads fast and not someone looking at every letter. It is someone who reads for meaning to fuel the reading process, Dr. Carlsson-Paige explained.

4.     Make Trips to the Library Magical and Adventurous

Librarians are paid to make reading magical to children. Consult the librarian at the front desk before checking the shelves to see what kind of activities are going on. You can also bookmark the library’s official website to stay tuned on upcoming events.

“Even if you take your kid there for, say, a building project, he’s going to associate the library with fun, and that’s a good thing,” argued Christina Droskoski, a grade-school reading specialist and mother of three.

Be sure to get your child their own library card, enabling them to take responsibility for their own reading experience, she said.  

5.     Speak to Your Child’s Teacher

What if your child hates reading? Have a conversation with your child’s teacher to know what causes them to be reluctant readers, suggested Melissa Taylor, author of “Book Love: Help Your Child Grow from Reluctant to Enthusiastic Reader,” quoted, a school ratings and reviews platform.

Undiagnosed learning differences can possibly manifest as reluctance and teachers can help determine whether your child needs specialized assessment and support. Additionally, you might also need to choose a book that caters to your child’s reading level or have more tech-free time in their schedule, fostering more “low-pressure opportunities” to read.

Technology distracts children from picking up a book and transporting themselves to magical places. Ensure tech-free times and model your love for reading to your kids. When they see you read, they are most likely to do the same. Yes, it’s harder for kids to become bookworms nowadays but it is still doable. Don’t lose hope!