I have 2 children. They're still a little young to be able to read, but I see that they enjoy watching cartoons a lot (like any kid). The problem is, I don't want my kids to grow up in front of a screen all the time, watching trash shows like the Kardashians, or just lazing on social media.

I want to gradually introduce my kids to reading books and for them to find it enjoyable. I was thinking that perhaps comic books can help, and also turning off or getting rid of the TV.

First of all, is this a good approach?

What else should I do to make my children love reading books?


20 Answers 20


First off, I'd recommend you change your language some. "How do I make my kids..." never ends well. Your kids are their own people, and they'll choose to like, or not like, things; trying to "make them" like things is a fool's errand that will more often than not make them dislike that thing.

However, I've been where you are. I wanted to figure out how to help my kids learn to love reading. What helped me:

  • Don't decide what counts as reading. Comics, graphic novels, books that are "below their reading level" - it is all reading. Never put them down for their choice in reading material! Reading something you love begets loving reading.
  • Make reading easy. Make sure to have plenty of material they like available to them. For some that is a library; for others, e-books, and for others, trips to the bookstore. No matter how you do it, make sure they can always find a book they want.
  • Talk to them about their books - when they want to. Don't do it with an agenda, though, beyond just talking to your child. Make it a conversation starter, and show interest in what they read - even if it's not interesting to you, find out why it's interesting to them.
  • Be patient. For me, my older son didn't start reading a lot right away; but once he discovered what he liked, he read everything he could find. My younger son picked up the love of reading quicker, and perhaps in part because I'd learned some of these lessons with the older child, or perhaps for his own reasons.

The main thing, though, is to keep your ego out of it, and let them be the children they want to be. Make it easy for them to learn to love reading, and maybe they will! Or maybe they won't, and they'll end up doing something totally different, and that's okay, too.

  • 3
    +1 for "How do I make my kids..." never ends well
    – Aleks G
    Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 17:20

A Tale of Two Children

I have two boys, both grown now, but they were very different. We read to them every night, multiple books, and they both loved being read to.

However, when the older one came to reading age he simply wasn't interested at all. We sat with him incessantly, reading with him, taking him to the library, doing everything we could. In desperation, I even tried bribery, saying I would give him $100 reward the first time he finished a chapter book on his own. He turned me down flat. He preferred to play with Lego blocks instead of reading and that was that.

His brother, on the other hand, couldn't wait to learn to read. By the time he was through kindergarten he was already reading at a 2nd-grade level, and by the time he was through 1st grade he was checking out chapter books from the library half a dozen at a time.

Despite all our efforts we couldn't instill a love of reading in our older son. And with hardly any effort at all our younger son became an avid reader and still reads prolifically to this day. However, both are successful in their fields.

My advice is to do what you can, but don't despair if your child simply doesn't want to be a bookworm. I don't think you can make your children do anything they don't really care to do. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Sometimes your best efforts are going to come up empty, and that is one of the most important lessons you will learn as a parent.

  • 2
    I think this is the most important answer here - my parents did every recommendation in each of these answers, and while I read a lot, I hate books/fiction. While you can force your kids to do something, you can't force them to enjoy it. If you find your kid doesn't enjoy reading, you might consider some biological factors like aphantasia.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 2:45
  • 1
    I was about to give the same answer (+1), also two boys, also now teens and also one of them reads when the other one does not. The only thing I would add is that mobile phones are a true nightmare, they are addictive and push them away from books.
    – WoJ
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 18:37

Children see, children do.

When they hang out with you, or even nearby you, read a lot of books. When they look interested, show them what you're reading and talk to them about it.

Make silly faces and voices as you read the books out loud. Name one of the characters after your children or anyone they know well.

Then, to capture their interest even without you around, leave a lot of big picture books at their eye level. Extra points for the books being about something that already interests them.

AAP's guideline is an hour or less of screen time for 2 year old kids. So you can still accommodate both tv and books if tv time doesn't exceed an hour a day.

  • 1
    When my daughter was tiny I read her "Mrs Tiggywinkle" about 10 000 times, and always substituted her name for "Lucy". One day I forgot and said "Lucy". Oh dear...that got me told off.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 12:37
  • another instance of teaching by example... i see.
    – syn1kk
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 20:03

I can't beat the existing best answer! But to add a few more points...

Don't underestimate the value of pictures

If your children are too young to read, the pictures help the child stay with the story, whilst you read the words. The really good ones, like Axel Scheffler for Julia Donaldson's books, add extra depth to the story. And you can involve the child more with "can you see the squirrel?" or things like that, to make it more interactive and less "sit down and be read at".

Read it yourself, and choose for quality

It's impossible to overstate how many rubbish children's books there are. Julia Donaldson has demonstrated that you can get a plot, humour, clever language and still keep the kids' attention. "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" seems simple, but think about it a little and you start to understand just how clever it is.

Of course there are a lot of books repeating old fairy stories too - but even they can vary in quality. My parents had Jack Kent's books when I was a kid, and they worked just as well for my son. I can't say the old Ladybird books held up well when I came back to them.

The more you appreciate the story yourself, the more your children will. They may not be able to tell you why they like it, but they'll respond to it all the same.

Do the voices

Nothing is more guaranteed to get your kids appreciating Goldilocks than if you can do a Big Growly Daddy Bear Voice, a softer calmer mummy bear growl, and a high-pitched-squeaky-baby-bear. Foxes sound like a dodgy used-car salesman (and if you smile so it shows your teeth, even more so). Snakes exssstend everyyyyy ssssyllable ssssibilantly. Trolls, gruffalos, giants and other big monsters who exist to be outwitted Speak Slooowly Because They Think Slooowly (and if you push your jaw out so your bottom teeth are in front of your top lip, you'll get a good monster voice).

This does become more challenging when your child is 9, and you're reading "Artemis Fowl" to him, and you realize you need unique voices for roughly a dozen characters, and you have to remember which voice you used for each one. Although after 9 years you'll have had plenty of practise...

Even if you don't do the full-on voices though, at least make sure you're doing more than just reading a word at a time like reciting a shopping list. Make it sound exciting. It's so sad hearing a parent who's clearly just going through the motions of reading the words, and not actually getting into the story.


To answer your first question, comic books are fine to introduce your children to reading. Our approach was "whatever works best" and we used a variety of book types and reading-related games. In general:

  • Reduce screen time to a minimum. This will free up some time for more productive activities, such as reading and free play. See also recommendations below (AACAP, 2020).
  • Read aloud to your children as part of the daily routine. Reading to them, buying books and going together to the library to borrow books are all great ways to help develop reading skills. Just be patient. Make reading part of the daily routine, for example part of the bedtime ritual. See also Ece Demir-Lira et al (2019).
  • Follow the interests of your children. Are they interested in pirates, cars, space exploration, adventures? Find books about that.
  • To find books that the children love, cast a wider net until you find something that hooks them on. Ask other children and parents for recommendations. Use lists of "best children's books" and award winning books (for a few examples, see below).
  • Seemingly "crap" books are fine too! Whatever works. How best to select the seemingly "crap" books that might be interesting? I found a few methods in my experience: ask other children of their age or slightly older, ask the teachers, or ask other parents. To quote a comment from Stephie:

We did a combination of (on-site) "let them loose" in bookstores and libraries and preselection by us, but the latter more checking the writer's style and humor over the story. (You learn quickly what appeals to your kids.) Then came the phase of "I read what my best friend reads" [...]. After that, the worst is over and you can start rearranging your own bookshelf so that you can just point to "the second and third row on the right" and look forward to your child quoting from your own favorites. In other words, the parenting mantra of "it's just a phase" applies also to crappy literature.

  • Use board games to teach letters and introduce the child to reading. For example, we had good luck with a version of this game: The Brainy Band Zoolphabet (English): https://www.amazon.com/The-Brainy-Band-TBB008-Zoolphabet/dp/B071D71PM3/
  • Play reading-related games at the dinner table. Needless to say, there was no screen time at meal times. Instead, we alternated different games on different days. One of the favorite games was "Guess the book" game. We used books that everyone was familiar with, and asked questions that required one to guess the book or story title from a slightly more abstract description of something from the book. For example: "Which book tells about a little bear who was found at a railway station?" ("A Bear Called Paddington") "Which story is about three animals that built houses?" ("The Three Little Pigs")


We find that the quantity of parent-child book reading interactions predicts children's later receptive vocabulary, reading comprehension, and internal motivation to read (but not decoding, external motivation to read, or math skill), controlling for these other factors.

Ece Demir-Lira Ö, Applebaum LR, Goldin-Meadow S, Levine SC. Parents' early book reading to children: Relation to children's later language and literacy outcomes controlling for other parent language input. Dev Sci. 2019 May;22(3):e12764. doi: 10.1111/desc.12764. Epub 2019 Jan 15. PMID: 30325107; PMCID: PMC6927670: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30325107/

Managing a child’s screen time is challenging for families. Your child is never too young for a screen-time plan. Consider the following as a guideline:

  • Until 18 months of age limit screen use to video chatting along with an adult (for example, with a parent who is out of town).
  • Between 18 and 24 months screen time should be limited to watching educational programming with a caregiver.
  • For children 2-5, limit non-educational screen time to about 1 hour per weekday and 3 hours on the weekend days.
  • For ages 6 and older, encourage healthy habits and limit activities that include screens.
  • Turn off all screens during family meals and outings.
  • Learn about and use parental controls.
  • Avoid using screens as pacifiers, babysitters, or to stop tantrums.
  • Turn off screens and remove them from bedrooms 30-60 minutes before bedtime.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP): Screen Time and Children, No. 54; Updated February 2020: https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Children-And-Watching-TV-054.aspx

Recommended books and award-winning books:

  • 1
    Following up on the “point them to the second and third row on the right” bit now included in the answer: Minor 2 is currently reading the second novel of this trilogy in five parts. Maybe not the standard literature a bookstore would recommend for an 11yo, but why not?
    – Stephie
    Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 22:10

I'm a librarian. I think it should revolve around "fun". There is so many books with so many diffrent contents. There is better chance that children like reading if they find something they like in a book. So, the first thing should be find out what kinds of books children can love. MY suggestion is, to bring them to a public library, let them just walk around the bookshelves, let them find what kind of books are interesting.

Once it is more clear that what kinds of books they can love, starting from an audiobook or reading abook to them is good start point.


I am not a parent, but I was a child who loved to read. Below are the factors that led to my love of reading:

Limits on Other Forms of Escapism

Video games were banned and television and movies were allowed within reason, but limited. I was allowed to read as much as I wanted. This helped me preserve my attention span for reading. Now that I'm an adult and watch more TV and play games as well as having unlimited time online, my attention span has shrunk and I don't read very much anymore.

Peers who Love Reading

I was home schooled, so all of my friends were rather precocious readers. My friends constantly recommended books to me, and I to them. We lent books to each other. We spent time reading together on playdates. If you don't home school your children, it's a little trickier to foster this environment, but if you can find likeminded parents and introduce your kids when they're young, organic friendships might blossom that could lead to a lifelong love of literature.

Frequent Trips to the Library

My mom took me to the library quite frequently. I was allowed to pick out and read almost anything I wanted to (although there were some limits on books if my mom thought something wasn't appropriate). This kind of freedom and decision-making, as well as the sensation of having purchased something without spending any money, was exhilarating and incentivized reading. I often couldn't wait to get home to start reading and made myself carsick during the trip back!

Parents who Love Reading

My mom loves books. She likes a lot of intellectual genres that I've never gotten into, such as biographies, but she also loved the Harry Potter and Twilight series. She shared those books with me, as well as many of her childhood favorites, and it was like a gift or a special bond between us. Reading books my mom loved as a child made me feel closer to her.


I had a hard time learning to read at first. Here's what my mom, dirt-poor but college-educated, did for us:

  • She read to us every night when she put us to bed. Not just kids' books; she read some Stephen King and other pop fiction (skipping parts we weren't ready for).
  • She found a place that printed customized books with our names in them, and we got a couple as gifts when we were young. I still have mine.
  • She had a huge bookshelf in her bedroom filled with what I later learned was young-adult fiction. Not just random books, but complete series. She very conspicuously made her own reading selections from this shelf, and it was clear that being able to pick from the shelf was a privilege we'd earn as we got older. (I'm pretty sure she'd sneak her own choices onto the shelf just to maintain the illusion while still reading whatever she wanted.)
  • Later, when she met my step-dad, he put all his books on the shelf, too. We had a pretty big collection of some of the best fantasy (hers) and sci-fi (his). All cheapo paperbacks.
  • Our farming town had a decent library, and she took us there regularly. We never just returned books, we always got more. We got to pick our own books, subject to her approval, but she really only ever intervened if the content was too adult-themed. Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books were fine, too. She never stopped us from taking out books just because the reading-level seemed too advanced, but one time she did have to stop me from taking out books that were too easy. I just wanted to finish the series, but they were the cardboard-page books and I think she judged that satisfying the completionist impulse was unimportant. I forgot the whole thing a week later, so I think she was probably right.
  • She never forced us to read, or punished us for failing to finish a book before returning it. There was never any negative feedback associated with reading.

I should also mention that in the very early days -- kindergarten and first grade -- I was struggling with reading. It seemed hard, and I had privately given up. I was already looking around for examples of illiterate adults who were living lives I considered acceptable. Even in the '80s, when I think illiteracy was more common, it was very hard to find. That didn't motivate me to read, but it helped rule out the path of making peace with never learning to read. I don't know if she was aware of this, but it was a very conscious thing for me.

I also remember that when I was learning to spell, she sometimes made a show of being impressed. I remember I had just learned to spell "car," and so when we stopped for gas on the way home she had me spell it for the gas station attendant. I got it wrong (nerves?), but she didn't act embarrassed or chastise me or anything. I'm pretty sure she gave me a piece of chocolate.

Finally, she's a good storyteller in her own right, and one thing she would sometimes do was tell us everything about a book she had just read, the way you'd summarize an event in your own life. I knew the plot of The Count of Monte Cristo -- and that I would love the book -- long before I ever read it myself, because she had told me the story. Her retellings made the books seem more exciting, something you wanted to go and experience for yourself.

I guess I don't know how much of this was a deliberate, calculated plan. She's just always loved reading, and it came out in everything she did.


Just to answer the comic book question:

Yes, embrace comics! Comics are such a rewarding low-threshold introduction to reading. One can start "reading" comics without being able to read text but I remember that as a little child I wanted to understand the story better and understand what the characters said. This desire is a strong incentive to read the text as well and not stay in "picture-only" mode.

From my own experience as a child and with my son I can say: Yes, comic books are a great start. They may not seem "classy" enough but let that not deter you. Read what's fun: Captain Underpants, Donald Duck, xkcd. Sometimes comics also offer access to more serious topics which one would perhaps not have explored in other media: Feynman's life or even Maus.

That is also an advice for all other books, and life: Explore and enjoy what seems fun.


Well, what Joe said is almost my point of view but more organized. First, how could reading be less "lazy" than social media or TV? The thing is what the content is, and when the kid gets his autonomy he will watch or read whatever pleases him... I personally think that a way to combat lazyness and keep kids/people healthy and interested in productive things is by encouraging them doing the things they like. You see, I'm a full grown ass man, 22 years and my dad keeps sugesting shit that I don't wanna do, I study a lot of things, journalism, graphic design and 3d too. I really love publicity/animations and want to work with it or with games. My dad is talking me into marketing, like what? I'm going to the gym exercising to loose wheight he says I should train quick boxing. That cheers me down every time and makes me more anxyous. If you want your kids to read, try to find what they like to do. Do they like computers? Find a book that talks about them in a creative way. Do they like painting, find some arts book. If they like reading they will continue, don't try to impose the need to do so.

  • only for completeness: human bodies grow until the ~25th year of life brains even longer ;) But I assume, all know what you want to say :) Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 19:23

When you extend a child's bedtime you can specify that the additional time must be spent reading.

For example, if your child currently goes to bed at 19:30 and you think they are old enough to move their bedtime to 20:00 then you can offer to let them stay up the additional half an hour if, and only if, they spend the time reading. Call this "reading time". An hour of reading time is ideal, but it might be better to get there in small steps, perhaps introduce half an hour now and another half an hour in a year or three, once the child is better equipped to spend a long time reading.

The key is to present this as a choice: either they can go to bed at the usual time, or they can stay awake for 30 minutes longer if they use this time for reading. Very few children will opt to go to bed, although it is likely that they will choose this once or twice to see what happens. You must be prepared to enforce the rule, or it won't work.

  • As a small extension to this, I have encouraged reading marathons in the past. Saturday evenings where kids could stay up as long as they wanted as long as they were reading.
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 13:27

The other answers are very good, I would like to make the screen-time/reading contrast even clearer.

A printed page is never going to be able to compete with a glowing rectangle. Screens are just too attention-grabbing. (If you would like to test this, find the most boring YouTube video you can, set it up in the room, and see whether your children choose to watch that boring video, or to do something else.)

If screens are always available (like in the living room, or with tablets or phones), it's like having a box of candy bars always available on the counter. Of course the kids aren't going to eat vegetables if they can have candy instead.

So I would suggest that the most basic thing you can do is to prevent them from seeking entertainment from screens. Then books will be the most interesting thing around.

  • I agree with you in principle. Now my own daughter who was not often reading, started to read heavily when a friend of hers introduced wattpad.com to her. The fact that it was on a phone, that it was coming from a peer and not parents made a difference. She doesn't stop reading now. I put a time limit on the app (like any other), but I am happy that she enjoys it. Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 15:32

You can make your kids read if

  1. You can read them books
  2. let them try graphic novels if they want
  3. tell them if they read a 'hard' chapter book, they can get a prize. (Toys, games, etc.)
  4. lastly you can get them to the library, let them chose a book they want.

Hopefully this works!


I'm assuming your children are 6 and younger, but even if they are older, these tips still apply (though it might be harder to get their attention at first).

  1. No matter what age they are, read to them. Because they may find reading difficult (especially if they are very young), reading to them helps introduce them to the worlds they can find in books, with out the struggle. Make sure you ask them questions (like "do you like this character" and "what was your favorite part") so that they know that you want them to be engaged, help them develop their own thought process, and so you can teach them life lessons (if you feel like it). You can ask them to read a few words, or a sentence, if they are young. Make sure you try to read to them at a certain time that rarely has any conflicts (like, maybe, an hour after you get off of work), so that it becomes a habit for them to read/be read to.

  2. Play audiobooks if you can't read to them (like if you are driving somewhere, or you are just tired).

  3. If they like a certain movie (like Harry Potter or Bridge to Terebithia), read the book with them.

  4. Buy your child a Kindle (paperback, as it's made for reading). It's nice to have a paperback book, but while going places, it is inconvenient. Only get them one when they are older as they might not be interested in using it when they are young.

  5. Cater to their interests and to yours. If your child likes adventure books, and you like fantasy books, see if you can get a book that fits both.

  6. I also found that having debates about books (when they are older -- probably in their tweens or something) helps continue their interest in books and also build skills that are helpful in life (debating and reasoning)


Just going to contribute my personal experience.

I'm a heavy reader and started as a kid in primary school. Like others said, some kids might be more disposed to reading than others, but here's what jumpstarted it for me: Our local library had a program where kids would earn prizes for reading certain amounts of books. Everytime you would borrow a book (or many) from the library, come back when you're finished and you would have to answer a few questions from that book to prove you really did, then you would get one sticker next to your name or something. At different numbers of stickers, you would get a prize. (it could be different things like a keyring, a ball, some toy, a backpack, a shirt, etc) That really worked for me and I read 75 books (children books but still, without pictures mind you) in that first summer. Reading is like skiing, it gets more fun when you've had practice. As I grew up I found a lot of interest in reading (introvert kid, likes to escape from reality or social situations, at school they let us read when we finished our homework or exam so I usually had a book with me)

So in summary, if I wanted a child to start praticing reading, I would gamify it. Gamification is a great motivator to learning, take for example the language learning app Duolingo that lets you "level up" in different categories, gives you exp for completing classes and offers a leaderboard.


You can put a lock or a timer or a scheduler on the TV to make sure it's only on for a few hours per day, say 1. Make a game of it, call the cupboard the goggle box and put a lock on the cupboard. House rules are house rules and kids respect that as long as they are told why cartoons lower attention when watched more than 5 hours per week or perhaps even less! The eariler and mroe gradually the rule comes in the better!

The other thing is to invest in a really good children's library, using old books from thrift stores and carboot sales. Books on rocks, volcanos, bodies, animals, fairy tales, robots, history, all ages, all themes. Picture books are very good for kids and a moment of magic will hopefully happen when they pick up an unfamiliar book with a few pictures, and spend one hour in bed one morning or evening turning the pages and following the story.

Kids really enjoy being read to on the parent's lap. You can try one MnM's for every page turned of a series of books which teaches the kid how to read, although i only needed the pictures and the story to stay focused, i don't think sweeties are necessary.


There's more to reading than 'fun'. It is a social (in the early stages) and cognitive journey. Words in written form are likely to come to your children well after TV cartoons and audio.

  1. Turn off the TV
  2. Turn off the TV
  3. Don't turn the TV on.
  4. Get excited about turning ABC into dragons and princesses and space rockets and things that lurk behind the fridge.

Guessing at words is the best game on the planet. Out adult brains read ahead and are always guessing at the words we haven't quite reached. We don't do C-A-T...um...cat! we just go straight to cat. C-O-M-B then ineharvester.

The game is word-guessing. And it has to be satisfying. You have to make it fun which is down to you. You might groan at princesses and unicorns but for today you're stuck with it.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Try to banish pictures while you're playing learning to read. 99.99% of reading books are lavishly illustrated with pictures. So what children do is play 'guess the correct picture'. Eh? No. The real game is guess the word. After repetition, I expect you've seen that, the child will get better at guessing and then it's 'just in there' Cat is cat. Job done. If you have a reading book with words on one side of the page and pictures on the other then cover up the picture side with a sheet of paper then do the reveal and share the fun and especially achievement.

Sounds are good fun. Children love weird and repetitive sounds. (Burn phonics in a fire. Just look at the O in Hot and Cold to see why.) Sneak in interesting words you can have fun with like VORTEX or the bonk-bonk-bonk noise tramping upstairs makes. When you get to "Once upon a time" you'll need a special voice and grin and perhaps social situation (eg in PJs one on each side ready to listen with no TV/snack distractions) so 'the special story sharing time' can begin.

Your children will enjoy playing your game with you because you are engaging with them, praising them for what (little) they get right and how they get better and etcetera and being part of your 'special' sharing/loving/caring/imagining time.

Later you may see child A 'teaching' child B how to read. That's a social thing. Also very lovely.


A lot of good answers here! In my experience, if a house if full of books and the children see that their parents enjoy reading, chances are, they will pick it up themselves. Just make sure that they are offered books they enjoy.

If one child hates reading in a family where everyone else is a reader, I would book a visit to the optometrist for a vision check. Also consider a learning disability. If everything seems normal, then the kid may just have other interests.


There are so many options you can explore! Of course continue to read to your child. I often read while my child eats, paints/colors, etc. They do not need to be paying full attention to still experience books and listen. I am unsure of the exact age of your children, but books that engage my child the most are ones that are interactive- tabs to pull open, peekaboo type books, touch and feel books, books with sounds (animals, etc.). As they get older, audio books can also be a great option! As a teacher, we often recommend to parents who have trouble getting their children to read to use audiobooks. Sites like Epic! have a lot of options and read out loud as children can view the pages.


Ok, So I am 16, I grew up watching TV and reading books and I can tell you from past experience with having a 6 year old sister that try and allow them to read, (or hide their electronics and tell them that the book pet hid them and wont give them back until they have read a certain amount of books). But usually if you act like you cant read it, then they will try to help you read it.

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