10 Ways to Cultivate a Reading Habit

Many of us want to see our kids reading more. But just like an Olympian who wants to win a competition, having a goal just isn’t enough. It’s the habits you create and stick to that lead to long-term success. If you want your kids to be life-long readers, do what you can to cultivate a reading habit now. In this post, we’ll share ten tips for doing just that.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Aristotle

reading habit: mini habits

1. Start with a mini reading habit that is almost effortless

If you ask a child to read for an hour every day, when she’s used to doing something she loves with that time, it will feel like a major sacrifice. Instead, follow the wise advice of Stephen Guise, author of “Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results”, who suggests you begin with a reading habit that is “too small to fail”.

Want to be able to do push-ups every day? Guise suggests you start with a single daily push-up. Then, after you’ve cemented the habit, gradually increase the number you do. Why not apply the same logic to reading? Get your child to read even five to ten minutes every day. In time, if you can find books your child will love, the daily reading time may naturally creep past your daily quota.

2. Increase your reading habit in small steps

Once you’ve established a mini reading habit, gradually aim to increase the time the child spends reading in each sitting. If, at first, your child finds it difficult to stay focused on reading for extended periods, try breaking his daily reading into multiple reading sessions.

reading habit: baby steps

3. Trigger the reading habit

Triggers can be a very helpful tool in the creation of a reading habit. For example, piggy-backing on another well-established habit can help keep children on track. If you establish that after dinner is reading time, after a few weeks your children won’t need reminding. The child will automatically think of reading after dinner.

4. Make reading enjoyable

It will be a lot easier to make reading a habit if your children take pleasure in their reading time. Do what you can to make their reading experience enjoyable, by setting up an inviting and comfortable environment with minimal distractions. You can also provide fun snacks to munch on, and turn reading into something you all do together as a family.

reading habit: make it enjoyable

5. Make reading social

Another way to cultivate a reading habit is to make it social. Start a book club for kids, so your child is encouraged to read regularly and is rewarded with fun gatherings to discuss the book.

6. Be prepared

To nurture your child’s reading habit, it’s a good idea to remove the unnecessary friction of indecision. You can do that by maintaining a list of great book recommendations, so that your child is never without a stimulating book to read.

It’s also smart to keep the book your child is reading on hand for lost times during the week – like when you’re waiting in line at the passport office or waiting to be seen for a doctor’s checkup. Producing a good book as an antidote to boredom can help create a positive association to reading.

reading habit: be prepared

7. Create a reward

In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg describes the habit loop as consisting of three steps: a cue, a routine, and a reward. The cue triggers a specific routine in order to earn a reward.

At Reading Rewards, we believe that the ultimate reward for reading…. is the reading itself. And many kids agree. But other, more reluctant readers, need a little extra encouragement to get started on the path to reading success. That’s why we built into Reading Rewards the ability to define custom rewards. Here are some creative and affordable reading incentive ideas to help you make reading a habit.

8. Don’t break the chain

In the early days of Jerry Seinfeld’s success, he cultivated a writing habit by using a yearly wall calendar and a red marker, to put an ‘X’ on every day that he managed to write. His motivation to maintain his habit came from not wanting to ‘break the chain’.
Use the same philosophy to cultivate your child’s reading habit. Have her log her reading every day and urge her not to ‘break the chain’. Before long, her log will become a source of pride.

reading habits the chain

9. When you slip, get back on track quickly

As much as we want to encourage your children to maintain a daily habit, it’s important to focus on consistency, rather than perfection. Your child’s routine will inevitably be disrupted at some point. What matters is not the disruption, but the commitment to get right back on track as soon as possible.

10. Set a long term goal

Finally, another way to nurture a reading habit is to set a long-term goal. Challenge your kids to read a set number of minutes or books over the next month. And consider throwing in an extra incentive, like a reward that your child can earn when the goal is met.

reading habit: long term goals

Over To You

We hope we’ve given you at least a few tips to help you cultivate a reading habit in your child. We’d love to hear if they’ve worked for you, or if you have any tips of your own that you’d like to share.

About the Author:

Reading Rewards
Reading Rewards is a comprehensive & interactive reading log & reading incentive program that is used worldwide by hundreds of thousands of children, parents, teachers and librarians.

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