Simple Fix for Reluctant Readers

mary-poppins-spoonful-of-sugarBribery works – almost as magically as Mary Poppins. When my kids dreaded reading I bribed them so they’d read. Not with a spoonful of sugar (or candy, or money) I bribed them with time. Nothing fancy, just plain old time and it worked. Beautifully.

My oldest two are now teenagers who love to read. If you had told me seven years ago they’d be readers I would have laughed -no – I would have thrown my head back and cackled. These two? You kidding? 

Both struggled, week after week to get their required reading done. We read together, sure, but they were old enough I felt like they should be reading on their own more but to them (and to me) the number of minutes they had to read each week felt like Mt. Everest.  So, I did what any rational mother would do in a moment of crisis, I turned to google for help. I found a few articles, pieced some ideas together creating this magical idea – let them stay up later to read.

I need to interject here. I wasn’t in love with this idea at first. Bedtime is sacred at my house. I need my two hours after my kids go to bed to regain my composure from the frazzle of the day. I sometimes wish I was one of those fun, carefree moms that lets there kids stay up and play  – but nope. I’m not. Bedtime hits and it’s hugs, kisses, and SEE YA! You can understand why I was hesitant to give this a try?

Here’s my twist on the idea:  Let your kids stay up for an extra thirty minutes after their normal bedtime to read in bed.

Brillantly simple, huh?

Too simple, I thought. All I could see was more minutes of “I need a drink” and “I have to go to the bathroom.” I also envisioned my son filling his bed with action figures instead of books. My husband and I were desperate so we tried it anyway.

We just adjusted their bedtime back 30 minutes and then let them read for 30 minutes. SO… they really were going to bed at the exact same time (shhh.. don’t tell). Luckily they were young and naive and never called us out on our trickery. The most beautiful thing was that it worked. They read and liked doing it.

We did have to make it a strict 30 minutes of reading. More than one night their lamps got turned off early when we caught them playing with action figures or  coloring books instead of a reading but they learned the rule quickly and we had few issues after that (except them wanting to finish just one more chapter… please!).

Not only did their reading chart fill to overflowing each week, but their night time reading spilled over in to day time reading. To this day they still do their thirty minutes (or more) of reading each night, without fail. Our younger children have started the tradition too – a tradition I hope will be passed on and on.

What about you? Any reluctant reader tips or fun reading traditions?

Teachers, in your opinion, can giving dedicated reading time improve a students desire or ability to read?

Please share below!

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15 thoughts on “Simple Fix for Reluctant Readers

  1. It’s so simple, yet I bet a lot of people haven’t thought of tackling their kids’ reading reluctance the way you did. Way to go! It’s awesome that you grew two readers.


  2. Great idea, great solution, great results!! I really appreciate your “behavior management clarity” here: ‘We did have to make it a strict 30 minutes of reading. More than one night their lamps got turned off early when we caught them playing with action figures or coloring books instead of a reading. ‘ You made reading seductive! Love it.


  3. That is a brilliant idea! I once taught a girl who was a fabulous reader. Her parents said that when she had a time-out she had to sit on a chair and either do nothing, or read. She figured out reading was a good way to pass the time. 🙂


  4. Fortunately our son isn’t a reluctant reader…of non-fiction anyway. We have to make him stop reading to get him to go to bed. We’re trying to get him to read fiction books, but he had zero desire as they don’t contain facts, he says. He’d rather read college level books on physics. I suppose I can’t really complain.


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