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One Simple Trick To Encourage Kids to Finish Reading Books

Do your kids start a book and lose steam before finishing? Try this one simple trick to encourage your kids to read a book all the way through to the end.

Lately, T has been spending hours with his nose tucked in a book. This makes me so happy! However, he hasn’t been all that interested in finishing books. About halfway through a book, he puts it down and picks up something else.

I don’t want to force him to finish a book and risk squashing his burgeoning love of books, but I also wish he would finish books more often. At least for me, finishing a good book and racing through the captivating ending is such a satisfying feeling. I don’t want him to miss out on that!

I’m probably partly to blame for the book-hopping. I’ve ordered several books for him from Better World Books, and I’ve brought home lots of new options for him from the library. He seems to pick up whatever is new, so I’m probably giving him too many options. I’ve been more conscientious lately about offering him fewer new books before he really dives into his current read.

Nonetheless, I wasn’t sure what to do. Do I push him to finish? Or should I just let him be and appreciate that he’s reading?

Book Club and Dessert Date

Then I heard Sarah Mackenzie from Read-Aloud Revival address the exact same question from a listener on her podcast. I think her answer is gold. 

Sarah suggested a two part solution. First, don’t force any changes on the child. If they are enjoying reading for the pleasure of the pastime, embrace that and let them foster their own love of books. Second (and here’s where the ‘parenting’ kicks in), offer a small incentive when the child finishes a book. Give yourself bonus points if the reward relates to reading

She suggested a book club date to discuss the book with the child only once they finish. Maybe take your child out for ice cream or bagels? Consider making hot chocolate at home. No matter where you spend a few minutes together, discuss the book and show your child you’re interested in what they are reading. You can listen to the Read-Aloud Revival podcast episode for some ideas she has about specific questions to ask if you’re unsure (particularly if you haven’t read the book). 

I tried this, and I’m here to testify that it totally works. I suggested T read a book that I knew he would like and was right at his reading level. I expected it would take him about a week to finish. I offered him a chance to make brownies and talk about the book when he finished… all the way to the end. In the first 24 hours, I think he told a half dozen people about our deal, including his school librarian and his babysitter.

T loves brownies (I mean… loves brownies) so I might have taken slight advantage of inherent weakness. Nonetheless, he got brownies and a good book. I got the satisfaction of watching him finish a book that he enjoys reading. And… let’s be honest… I also got the brownies, so this is a win-win-win all around.

The only hiccup happened when J caught wind of the deal and decided he needed to read a chapter book to earn a hot chocolate book discussion date with me. I tried to renegotiate a more age-appropriate alternative as he’s just in the very early stages of reading and about to turn five.

No dice… so he’s “reading to me” one of the Freddie Ramos books from this early chapter book series post that has a slew of great chapter books recommendations for kiddos. When he’s done, we’ll make hot chocolate while he tells me all about the made-up version of the story he shared to earn his special treat.

Incentives & Nudge Parenting

Often times, I think the best parenting consists of small nudges that lead or encourage our children in a desired direction without actually forcing them anywhere. They can choose not to take my deal, but it behooves them to accept (and I help them learn to love reading for pleasure while also spending a bit of one-on-one time with them as a reward, all without leaving our house or spending more than about $5). 

Some might argue that this is bribery, and they’re probably right to some extent. But we all live most of our lives in response to incentives. I see no issue with offering my child a meaningful incentive to encourage him to take positive action. 

Further, children aren’t born with an innate love of reading. Most children love books and listening to stories, but learning to read is hard work. Before they come to appreciate reading for pleasure as the reward itself, there’s no harm in encouraging them to do the hard work of honing the skill with a few small incentives. 

No matter how much or how little your child loves to read, I highly recommend trying this trick. A struggling reader and an avid bookworm will appreciate the special time together just the same. 

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