My 6YO daughter has a major problem.

She likes to read.

The issue is, that she is so addicted to reading, she will do it when she really shouldn't. Like at night.

More specifically, she will wake up in early AM hours to pee (which is normal for her)... but frequently, instead of heading back to bed, she will turn on the light in her room and read instead.

  • This is NOT due to any sleeping disorder - she's not afraid to sleep, doesn't have any scary dreams, and if you catch her in time and take away the book and turn off the light, she will fall asleep in under 5 minutes.

  • This is specifically about reading in general - on one hand, it is not about a specific favorite book or some story she didn't finish. OTOH, 95%+ of the time this happens, it's reading, not playing or other activity.

  • She's been known frequently to read instead of other things (e.g. read instead of eating; read instead of doing homework; read instead of cleanup) during the waking hours as well. The difference here is that this is middle of the night and we aren't around to catch it and take the book away.

This is majorly problematic for 3 reasons:

  1. First, her vision is already deteriorating (she'll need glasses by age 7). She's genetically predisposed to poor eyesight from reading, too.

  2. It interferes with her rest, and next day she will NOT be as active/well behaved due to not having gotten enough sleep. Moreover, she is bound to oversleep in the morning on schooldays and delay departure to work/school for everyone.

  3. It forms a bad pattern of behavior in her (read instead of other things; and not sleeping at night). Having suffered all my life from exact same 2 patterns stemming from pretty much the same behavior at her age, I know first hand it's a dangerous path.

We tried the "No books in your room for the night" rule. She simply quietly goes downstairs to bookcases.

We tried various mild punishments. Nothing dissuades her.

Just to be clear - she fully acknowledges BEFORE going to bed that she knows it's a bad thing to do and says she won't do it.

What approaches can I try and solve this problem?

The only thing I haven't done so far is locking up all the books in the house for the night; or making an Arduino to sound the alarm if her room light is on for >5 minutes at certain hours. Both seem like a gross overkill.

  • 3
    What are those hashtags? Do they have any purpose? If not, please remove them. Commented May 21, 2014 at 8:26
  • What is her answer when you ask her why she reads at night?
    – piwi
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 12:10
  • 3
    While reading in the middle of the night instead of sleeping is definitely an issue, I will point out that Reading in the dark will not deteriorate vision, it's an old wive's tale, so you don't have to worry so much about deteriorating vision.
    – Doc
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 15:04
  • @Doc - good find! That leaves 2 other issue though so it's still not a behavior I'm willing to put up with.
    – user3143
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 15:24
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    Do you give her enough time during the day when reading is allowed and encouraged? Maybe setting aside a good chunk of time every day that you declare is 'reading time', when she's positively encouraged to read, would help? In any case, as problems go this sounds like quite a good one to have.
    – nekomatic
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 10:02

4 Answers 4


Gamification to the rescue! What if you set up a reward system where she earns new levels and rewards for only reading during appropriate times? She gets up to pee, resists opening that book and goes back to bed: new level. Does it five times in a row: another new level. At each level (N00b, Resister, Conqueror, Super-hero, etc.) she gets a new prize/reward that she and you together determine is appropriate.

In other words, reward the positive and give her reasons to restrict reading in the middle of the night; I know that logic is not terribly persuasive with my nearly 6-yr-old daughter, but rewards definitely are.

  • 1
    I like this idea, but how can they be sure she's actually doing it? One of the problems in the OP is that they don't always catch her and know she's doing it. So aside from trusting her to be honest (might work with some kinds but not others) how can they be sure when she's earned the reward? (Maybe they can tell by whether or not she's exhausted in the morning, but what if one day she's just sick? You don't want to tell her you don't believe her if she's telling the truth. Seems like a better method is required than just asking her.)
    – WendiKidd
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 21:55
  • @WendiKidd - well... the good news is, she simply falls asleep with the book most of the time this happens :) So that problem isn't really a problem. We know.
    – user3143
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 1:28

I wouldn't call this a major problem. Teenagers who drink Mountain Dew and eat hot pockets while playing video games until 4AM every night is a major problem. I would say this is mildly disruptive. She likes to read. That's awesome. I wish I could love to read like she apparently does. Maybe instead of discouraging it, you should encourage it.

What is she reading? What is her current reading level? Is she above her peers or right along with them?

Maybe she is searching for something that will challenge her. I often find that when I am challenged by a book/article/blog it makes me more tired. Mental fatigue, after all, leads to physical exhaustion. Maybe you can gradually increase the complexity of the content she is reading. When she masters that level, upgrade the level once more. Soon enough you'll have a very strong reader.

And to address the point about poor eyesight, reading in dim lighting and positioning the book too closely does not damage your eyes. This is a myth that has been dispelled time and time again, rating up there with crossing your eyes will cause them to get stuck and gum takes 7 years to digest. It is simply not true. My eyes started going bad at about 6 also and I didn't do much reading. This is just the age that you begin to notice that they could already be bad.


If she enjoys reading and recognizes that there are good times and less good times to do this, then invite her to help you build that aforementioned Arduino alarm.

Another option might be to put a lock on her light switch; http://www.amazon.com/Master-Lock-Universal-Switch-Lockout/dp/B001925P6W/ref=pd_cp_hi_3

The worst thing I can imagine happening here; If you stop trying to learn we'll give you candy.

  • Her father: (1) Read in the dark when there was no light and (2) made his own flashlight. At about the same age. :)
    – user3143
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 11:12

If she loves something so much that she will happily do it all night, and it's something that actually might benefit her in her future career, I would encourage it all the way.

Life is not all about balance. I used to read all day and all night long when I was younger. I got tired at times. It has stood me in extremely good stead. I would allow her to read as much as she likes, and ensure she has a plentiful supply of interesting and challenging books.

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