Top 10 Tips for Helping Kids Become Better Readers!

Whether it's a friend looking for advice or a random person at the bookstore, we get a lot of requests regarding kids' books and reading!

So, with school starting up, I thought it might be a good time to put some of those ideas out there for folks who are trying to help their kids move along on the road to reading success!

I've spent a fair amount of time with books and teaching. I've had some really good professors in college, been trained in a variety of reading programs, taught reading as well as managed a school wide reading program. Above and beyond all of that, I'm a parent!

With all of those experiences, I've learned a thing or two about kids and reading. I've also learned that everyone is different and what works for one kid may not fly with another!

So, here's a list of tips that may offer a bit of help if you're looking for it! Tips are like a buffet...take what works, and leave the rest for another time or someone else!

1. Go Where The Books Are!

Make it fun and part of your weekly routine! Once, twice, more if the mood strikes, take your reader to where the books are. Lose yourself in a library or wander among the stacks in a bookstore!

Story time, after-school and weekend programs, crafts, speakers, games and art lessons are just some of the many extras that public libraries offer!

2. Find out What They're Into!

Into fantasy? Bring on those alternate worlds and dystopian novels! Comic books? My brothers and I loved those as kids! Biographies, computers, space, art, animals? Just follow your kid's yellow brick road and encourage the journey!

Don't worry if it's on the 'right level' or not 'classic literature!' I guarantee that the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Harry Potter books have helped more kids read fluently than whatever is on the prescribed best literature lists!

3. Reader's Choice!

Just like clothes shopping, if you pick it out, maybe your kid will like it, but if he/she picks it out, the chance of success goes up exponentially!

When my daughter was into fairies, we got a hold of every fairy book in sight!

The same happened for bunnies, Nancy Drew and Percy Jackson and eventually became Jane Austen, Agatha Christie and other classic titles.

*If you have an older kid and are concerned about whether the book your kid is reading is halfway decent or has some topics/language, etc. that you'd rather they not read, there are some helpful resources to do a quick check. See the end of this post for some we consult.

4. Read Lots of Easy Stuff!

Yes, that's right! Want your reader to improve? Give them plenty of reading materials that are easy to read.

Think of it like running or some other sport. You can't go from a mile jog straight to a marathon! Reading's the same takes time, practice and consistency.

5. Go Places, Meet People, Do Things!

Want to really get kids into reading? Find things that go along with books!

Reading about pioneer life? Find a recipe from the time, go without electricity for a night or make your own butter. Reading spy stuff? Make some invisible ink, a periscope, play a game of observation or put together a disguise!

No energy? Get the movie! Hey, we've all been creative when you have the time, money and energy. Lean on the movie/TV choice when that's what you can do!

Above: We had a great time at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to view the exhibit and had the opportunity to meet R. W. Alley - the most recent illustrator for the Paddington picture books.

Th exhibit was great for all ages with plenty of interactive parts to enjoy for the younger set!

Check out the museum's website to see current and upcoming exhibits!

Some more ideas to bring books to life after reading the last page:

  • Go to a Book Signing -check for author events in your area at bookstores, children's museums, etc..

  • Take a Hike

  • Try a recipe/ new food

  • Dress Up

  • Find out more about the time or place you just read about!

  • Do an art project or craft

  • Visit a museum

  • Look up the author's website

6. Read Aloud!

Reading aloud is a great way to develop and improve fluency, expression and confidence and it can be pretty fun!

For some reason, as kids get older we tend to stop reading to them-myself included! Life gets busy, there's homework, after-school activities, exhaustion, whatever the reason, it happens!

No need to feel bad, there's only so much time and energy to go around.

Here are some ideas to help:

  • I used to read to my daughter after finishing a meal. I was always done first and it stopped me from having too many muffins!

  • Have an older kid read to a younger one. It's a win-win! Sibling time, good memories, helps with fluency and makes great photos for the scrapbook!

  • Read to a pet...yes I'm serious! Pets are pretty good audiences as long as they stay put!

  • Kids can read to the parent when they're folding laundry or preparing dinner.

  • Let's not forget books on 'tape' or CD, iPod, phone, whatever device you have. For those long car drives, that can be pretty terrific!

7. Don't Clean Up the Coffee Table!

Believe it or not, having clutter on the table encourages kids to read. Yup, it's true!

Rather than putting all the books and magazines away, leave some out along with flyers and some other random reading materials.

I'm pretty sure this really helped my daughter become a good reader because my coffee table is typically covered with too much stuff!

8. Reading is Reading!

Not everyone loves sitting down with an actual novel. A book is a commitment and some kids are movers and doers and reading books just doesn't align with who they are.

I know kids that don't love books but do like magazines, comic books, graphic novels, cookbooks, how-to guides, scores and stats for sports, etc.!

If that's what gets your kid into words and pages, then that's the path that works!

9. What's Popular?

Just like fashion trends, books go through times of popularity and if it interests their friends, there's a good chance it may appeal to your kid as well!

*If you have an older kid and are concerned about whether the book your kid is reading is halfway decent or has some topics/language, etc. that you'd rather they not read, there are some helpful resources to do a quick check. See the end of this post for some we consult.

10. Turn Off the Tech!

Well, this one's a biggie. Now, some people may say, "But, they're reading on their phones." Well, I'd have to step in and point out that there's a couple of things wrong with that.

When you look things up, are you reading word for word, or are you skimming? Research shows that when people read articles online, they skim, they don't read word for word.

It's a different interaction. Screens are not only bad for kids' eyes and attention spans, it takes time away from other things and limits their imaginations. Hand your kid a book or magazine, let them cozy up on the couch and enjoy NOT being connected for a while!

Best of luck with your reader and comment below if you have a good idea you'd like to share!



There are plenty of sites out there to consult regarding age appropriateness of books; here are two we frequent :

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