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How To Raise a Kid Who Loves To Read | Develop Reading Skills

ages 5 years - 11 years ages 6 months - 5 years learning routines Feb 22, 2024



Imagine a world where your child eagerly reaches for a book instead of a screen, where the joy of reading fills their heart and mind.  Realistically, we’re shooting for a balance between screens and books.  As a parent, you have the power to cultivate this love for reading in your child, and it all starts with positive reinforcement.  In honor of the upcoming National Read Across America Day, this week’s tips will explore the incredible impact of praise and favorable outcomes on your child's reading journey.  We'll also delve into practical strategies to support early readers, navigate frustrations, and foster a positive reading experience that strengthens the parent-child bond.  I’ll be sure to touch on tips across different age groups, from beginning to advanced readers.  Let's dive in!


The Power of Positive Reinforcement

Supporting early readers is a crucial step in their reading journey.  Choose beginner books with very few words on each page and books that teach the alphabet.  Make time to read together, and focus on your child’s reading experience by pointing to words on the page or following along under a line of text with your finger.  Begin by identifying letters, letter sounds, and small words in the books you read together.  Celebrate each milestone, no matter how small, with praise and encouragement.  For example, when your child recognizes the letter "A," shower them with praise and let them know how proud you are of their progress.  You might say things like, “I love reading together with you” or “That’s right!  Wow, you’re doing such a good job.”  By starting small and building confidence, your child will develop a solid foundation for a lifelong love of reading.


A couple of our family’s favorite books during the early reader phase are Alphabet by Matthew Van Fleet ( and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (  Check them out at your local library, bookstore, or on Amazon to support your early readers.


Attentiveness and Lightness

Encouragement like, “You’re making huge progress” or “You’re working so hard and learning so much” helps to develop a growth mindset in your child (see Are You an Amazing Parent to learn more about growth mindset).  As you embark on this reading adventure, stay attentive to your child's cues.  Children may show signs of frustration or feeling overwhelmed when faced with new words or more complex sentences.  Take a step back and create a light and positive atmosphere.  Encourage your child to take breaks, take their time in sounding out words, and choose books at their reading level in addition to those that challenge them at the next level.  Reading should be a fun experience, not a source of stress.  


When your child first starts reading words, they may only be up for reading a few words before they’re ready to hand over the reading to you.  That’s perfectly fine.  Each time you read, you can encourage them to do a littel more, working their way up to reading full sentences and then full pages.  By adapting to your child’s needs, you’ll create an environment that encourages more enjoyable reading experiences and strengthens your parent-child bond.


One of our family’s favorite book series for this phase of raising readers was the Geronimo Stilton ( about an adventurous mouse who works for the Rodent’s Gazette, and the companion Thea Stilton Series ( about Geronimo’s journalist and detective sister.  These books are fun to read and appealing to most kids, but what I love most about them is the varied font patterns.  On each page, a number of words will stand out in different colors, font style, and sizes.  What parents can do is read all the standard font words and then hold their finger under the fun words for their early readers to say.  This gives kids a built-in break between words and is a very engaging, interactive experience for parents and children.


Supporting Older Readers

Positive reinforcement is a game-changer when it comes to nurturing your child's love for reading at all ages.  By acknowledging their efforts and accomplishments, you'll fuel their motivation to explore new books and expand their literary horizons.  Even as your kids get older and don’t need you to read to them anymore, you can still be involved in their reading experience.  As your child grows and tackles more challenging books, continue to use praise and express genuine interest in what they're reading.  Ask questions about the characters, plot, or their favorite parts of the story.  Show excitement and curiosity, and let them know that their reading journey is something worth celebrating. 


Don't forget to model reading behavior yourself, as children often imitate the actions of their parents.  Let them see you immersed in a book and share your own reading experiences with them.  You can also listen to audiobooks together when traveling by car - not just for big road trips but even around town.  We always have an audiobook going in our car on the way to school.  Reading a book together makes great fodder for family conversation - whether you’re reading independently and chatting about the book at dinner or whether you’re listening together in the car.


Carving Out Reading Time

In our busy lives, it's essential to prioritize reading by scheduling dedicated time for it.  Whether in the morning on the weekends, before homework on the weekdays, or after dinner every day, find a time that works best for your family.  Make it a special time when everyone gathers together to read.  Create a cozy reading nook with pillows and blankets, or venture outside for a picnic with books.  By making reading a regular part of your family's routine, you'll create a sense of anticipation and make it a cherished activity for everyone.  Encourage older children to read independently during this time while younger ones can enjoy storytime with you.


The Intricate Balance

Here’s a fun fact integrating psychology research.  While positive reinforcement is a powerful tool, it's important to be mindful of a psychology research finding having to do with rewarding behaviors like reading.  I’m talking about rewards beyond the good feeling kids get from positive reinforcement - for example, giving your kids extra screen time for spending time reading.  Intrinsically rewarding behaviors, like reading, can lose their positive effects when parents start to reward those behaviors externally (Bates, 1979).  Kids may start to feel like they should only read to get the reward of extra screen time, whereas they previously read for the pure joy of getting engrossed in a book.  


Instead of rewarding reading behavior, focus on fostering a genuine love for reading and using praise as a means of acknowledging and celebrating your child's efforts.  Let the joy of reading be its own reward, and your child will develop a deep appreciation for the magic that lies within the pages of a book.  Here’s a bonus perk of developing an early love of reading in your children.  When they are in elementary school, reading may be assigned as homework, but your little one won’t have to think of reading as homework because it’s already part of their daily routine.


Take-Home Message

Helping your child develop a love of reading is a gift that will last a lifetime.  By embracing positive reinforcement, supporting early readers, staying attentive to their needs, and carving out dedicated reading time, you'll create an environment where the magic of books flourishes.  Remember, it's not just about the act of reading itself but also about the joy, connection, and imagination that books bring into your child's life.  Think about how the tips discussed above might be applied to your unique family.  Perhaps a change to your bedtime routine or the addition of a weekly library trip can support your early readers.  To further support your parenting journey, we've created a free downloadable resource with tips on holding a Family Meeting to bring the family together to talk about prioritizing reading and incorporating screen-free times of day.  Let's embark on this reading adventure together and watch your child's love for reading soar! 📚👪💖


Using positive reinforcement to promote reading is part of the Consequences category of my 5 C’s parenting framework (click here to learn more).  That might seem odd at first, but consequences are reactions to the actions that your child takes.  Positive reinforcement is a foundational element in behavioral psychology.  At its core, positive reinforcement examines what happens after a child’s behavior and how that affects the likelihood of the same behavior occurring again.  Positive reinforcement, including verbal praise, increases the likelihood of a child repeating that behavior.


P.S.  Books make for amazing birthday gifts!  🎁  To find the Geronimo and Thea Stilton book series, as well as loads of other books treasured by our family of avid readers, check out my Treasures Books page and search for recommendations based on your child’s age.



Bates, J. A. (1979). Extrinsic Reward and Intrinsic Motivation: A Review with Implications for the Classroom. Review of Educational Research, 49(4), 557-576.


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