Research shows that reading helps children do well in school, the workplace, and life. But many kids prefer to spend all their free time on PlayStation and social media. As parents, how can we get our kids to put down their screens and give books a chance?
Four Steps to Get Your Screen-Loving Kid to Enjoy Books
I spent a year investigating ways to get my own screen-loving kids excited about reading. The following steps, also known as the “Four Ms”, can get your (and my) screen-loving child reading again.
Meld books with your child’s current interests and passions
Build on the video games, movies, celebrities, and TV shows that your child loves. Here are examples of how this can work:
- An eleven-year-old video game addict agrees to try the fast-paced novel “Trapped in a Video Game.” After he finishes it, he asks for book two in the series.
- A twelve-year-old loves Taylor Swift’s music and videos. Her grandmother gets her a biography of Taylor Swift. She consumes it in one night.
- A ten-year-old Star Wars fan enjoys visual dictionaries of the Star Wars characters and planets. After reading these ten times, he checks out and loves Timothy Zahn’s novels like Star Wars: Thrawn.
Our kids watch us closely; they do what we do. Among the most powerful predictors of whether children will be frequent readers is whether their parents are frequent readers.
Besides books, consider reading engaging newspaper or magazine articles in front of your child. They can be on any topic such as a review of the latest X-Men movie, an article about your kid’s favorite celebrity, or even a catalog. (Parents report that the Harley Davidson motorcycle catalog is a hit with preteen boys.) Read two or three paragraphs out loud to your kid. Then talk about what you read. Try to do this every other day. Conversing about books connects us and encourages reading.
Make reading a book the most engaging and accessible activity in the room
You can do this by taking the following steps:
- Manage screen time. Some parents shut down the wi-fi at 7:30 or 8 P. M. in the summer. Others use a device like Circle by Disney, which limits the hours kids can use their phones and iPads. Many parents remove screens from their kids’ bedrooms.
- Place at least three engaging books and/or magazines in your kid’s bedroom, bathroom, and any other place they frequent that doesn’t have a screen.
- Make the reading process comfortable. Put a reading-wedge pillow and a reading lamp that can easily be turned off in your child’s room.
Mull over using reading rewards, if necessary
If your child falls in love with reading after you use the three previous steps, you don’t need extrinsic rewards. (The joy of reading another good book is the reward.)
But what if you tried the three steps and your son or daughter still says he or she hates reading? What if they refuse to open a book? Then it’s time to up the ante. You could consider offering reading rewards.
Here’s how parents use them:
Require your child to “buy” his or her screen time: an hour of Xbox One for an hour of reading an engaging book. Or how about a half hour of reading in order to watch an episode of The Voice?
Require that your kids earn—through reading multiple books of their choice —things they really want. This could include music downloads, staying up late, clothing, homemade dinner requests, sports gear, or tickets to the movie version of a book.
Author Bio: Author Kaye Newton loves to share valuable tips on how to get kids to put down their smartphones and pick up a book. Kaye spent over a year researching expert advice about promoting reading and road testing it on her three screen-loving children. Find out more about the result, How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure, and her other award-winning book at kayenewton.com.
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