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11 Ways to Trick Kids Into Becoming Readers

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I know the gold standard for parenting these days is raising readers, and there's no end to the excellent lists of tips on how to do it. Problem is, the tips often involve, you know, effort. For lazy parents, that's just really off-putting. (I should know.) Sure, we'll read to them as much as they want, since reading time is sitting time. But crafting their own book? Signing a reading log? Those things involve glue and management, so really? Probably not happening for the more hands-off varieties of mom.

But I'm telling you, there are ways to trick your kid into reading without crafting your way into it. You, too, can have a bookworm—no star sticker or effort—required. Here are 11 road-tested, low-impact strategies for getting your kid's nose in a book:

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1. Grab a book, sit where you'll be visible, and completely ignore everyone while you read. Irritably shush everyone in 15-minute intervals. Act huffy and declare things like, "I guess you don't care if mommy never reads again." Repeat daily. Double-down on weekends.

2. Declare overly strict and criminally early bedtimes. Enforce them. During the inevitable negotiations, agree to leave the light on for reading. If they choose toys over books, then lights out at their actual sleep time. If they're reading, agree to let them finish the page/chapter/book.

3. Aesthetics and home décor are for overachievers. Disorganized shelves and rooms piled with books, magazines and newsprint are for the rest of us. If room cleaning is a battle, focus on picking up toys and clothes. But give the books a pass. Leave books out of the power struggle.

4. Talk the kids' teachers out of reading logs. One, the lazy parent will forget to sign it and, two, nothing kills a reading buzz like a reading requirement.

Name your daughter after a childhood literary heroine.

5. Say "no" to all off-holiday purchase requests ... except books.

"$22 American Girl doll dress?"


"These $7 Legos?"


"Dollar Store yo-yo?"


"$40 in Scholastic book orders?"

"Mark what you want, I'll write the check."

6. Outsource read-alouds to older siblings and babysitters. Open a book to a random page, laugh hysterically, and refuse to read it until your child insists.

7. Name your daughter after a childhood literary heroine.

8. Prattle on about what you're reading. Push through the mocking hand-puppet "gab, gab, gab" gesture.

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9. Criticize bad, published writing in front of the kids. Be a word snob.

10. Shut off screens at the slightest transgression. "I think you need to calm down with a book."

11. Answer to "I'm bored" with "go read" and "go read" only. Really, what else is there?

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