Bribes for Reading?

When my kids were little, they loved to read. Well…when they were very little they loved to be read to. And, later they loved reading on their own. But one daughter went through a struggle in the transition. The process of learning to read was hard work. During that period, the fun of reading waned and she shied away from it.

So what do you do if your child avoids reading?

Are bribes helpful?

An article in last week’s New York Times poses this question. In particular, it looks at the pros and cons of bribing your kid to read. On the plus side, if you ply your child with money, new toys or some other material item on their wish list, they will have incentive to read. Research shows that, in the short term, this can be effective. But on the negative side, research also shows that as soon as the incentive stops, the reading stops. And because reading is now tied in your child’s mind with “payment” it is seen as work, not fun.

Another Approach

There is another path. This is what some call non-material incentives. Such as…?

Well, one is to tie reading into special family time. Maybe a weekly trip to the library with a parent or special caregiver. Or, for those who have siblings, a special one-on-one time with a parent cozied up around a book. For those who are at the learning-to-read stage, this loving support can get them over the hump. And celebrate big time when they finally make it through that first book on their own!

Another idea is to make reading part of a group social activity. Maybe help your child form a book club, complete with cookies and milk. Or start a family contest to read the most books – the winner gets admiration, no material reward needed.

Encouraging Reading for Life

When my kids became teenagers, the number of demands on their time increased dramatically. High school homework, extracurricular activities, social events, and the demands of social media. At this point, I did add a material incentive — something I continue to give them to this day, even though they are grown. Every Christmas, I choose a new book for each of them, carefully picking out stories tailored to their individual interests and styles. This summer, I took a short vacation trip with my daughter – the one who had to work at learning to read so many years ago. We sat around the pool reading and discussing our books together. The joy of reading!

Share your thoughts on encouraging kids to read.

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