How to Motivate Reluctant Readers

Today’s post was written by MARTHA RODRIGUEZ,  teacher, presenter and expert on bringing the fun back to learning.  She runs the blog:  where she posts about children’s  books.  You can also find out more about Martha and her publishing company at:

Motivating Factor:  FUN!

It’s not rocket science.  Or is it?  Well, if your kiddo likes rockets and science, then, yes, it is rocket science.  But what if they don’t?  How do you motivate your children or students to learn?

I’m a mom to three, now grown, children.  I don’t know everything there is to know about parenting or about being their first teacher, but this I do know.  They each had different study habits and learning styles, and when we added the element of fun to homework, projects, and studying, they learned their lessons faster, were more engaged in their projects, and whatever they learned stuck in their spongy brains.

Sometimes they were even lucky enough to have teachers who knew how to have fun, too.  To this day, whenever we do a crossword puzzle or play a trivia game and the question is, Who was the (pick a number) President of the United States?, my daughter sings the Presidents Song her middle school teacher taught her.  And, she always gets the answer right!  Chances are that you learned your ABCs as a very young child by singing them.  Why stop when you’re three, or four, or five.  Singing is fun no matter how old you are and if it helps you learn, what’s better than that?  And who cares if you sing off key?

When the kids were studying their states and capitals we made up funny sayings or silly clues to help us remember.  Hartford, Connecticut was “Connect the cut so your Hartford won’t bleed.”  Juneau, Alaska was “Do Juneau (you know) Alaska?”  Cheyenne, Wyoming was “Where does shy Anne live?”  I know, it’s corny, but it worked.  That’s what it’s all about.                                    Martha photo

Trust me, science and history projects can be fun.  Yes, I said, “can.”  If you’re new at this you usually go for the safe approach; the tri-fold backboard.  You glue pie charts and facts on the thing and hope for the best.  Is it informative?  Perhaps.  Did the kids really learn something?  Maybe.  Was it interesting?  It depends on the child.  We usually took a different approach… lights, camera, cue music, aaaaaand…. ACTION!

A power point presentation of the Brooklyn Bridge using pictures you took yourself and a recording of the interview of your dad, who just happens to be a bridge engineer, brings a new dimension to learning and is a fun History Fair project.  Technology is King!  Your child can do a similar project using resources in your town or one nearby.  Take a day trip to a landmark and make it a family affair.  Encourage the kids to call a local expert on the subject matter to request an interview.  These days you can even Skype with an expert (check out Skype in the Classroom) and don’t forget he or she may be a family member, teacher, friend or neighbor.

Filming your brothers and their friends playing videogames while you take their pulse and blood pressure is a fun way to prove your hypothesis that pulse will increase and blood pressure will rise depending on the type of videogame you play.  Or, maybe you’ll disprove it.  I won’t give away the results.  With all the technology we have at our fingertips, kids can make a video science project on a phone or tablet.  Everyone will think science is cool with a project like that!

We’ve touched upon things we can do during the school year to help make school assignments and studying a bit more fun, but what about keeping up during summer vacation?  Well, there’s the dreaded assigned summer reading list!  (Insert scary music and blood-curdling screams here!)  Even for kids who love to read, this can be a chore.  It is homework, after all.  It’s what we do in-between that can be really fun.  Alternate the assigned books with reading material the kids chose on their own.  If you have a reluctant reader the in house, these tips may help to get them motivated.  Remember, reading it’s just about sitting down with a book, it’s also about exploring, crafting, cooking, and even acting and joking!

And what teacher doesn’t love to torture us… um, I mean, “encourage us to write” by assigning an essay over summer vacation.  Sure, it keeps writing skills from sinking to the depths of the ocean floor during your beach outing, but it’s probably not the first thing on the kids’ list of fun things to do during summer.  It may help to start the kids out by doing some creative writing using fun prompts like these.  They can write stories on their own, with their friends during sleepovers, or you can write together on long car or plane trips.

As parents, we always want the best for our kiddos.  Creating a fun learning environment at home after a long, hard day at school or during the summer break is one way we can motivate them to learn and encourage them to build strong study habits to fit their personalities and needs.  For us, it was fun and games, but no one knows your child like you do.  Please share your tips with us!

11 thoughts on “How to Motivate Reluctant Readers

  1. Terrific tips! My son is just on the cusp of being a real reader. When we read at bedtime, we usually do a page each or he’ll be one character and I’ll be the other. So far this has worked very well with Piggie & Gerald and George and Martha.

    • Thanks! I’m glad you liked my tips.

      Sounds like you and your son are having tons of fun! I like to remind parents that if the kiddos don’t like reading, maybe they will like acting (it’s sneaking because acting is reading!). Sounds like you guys are good actors… and readers.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with the singing thing! I have a ridiculously large, ever-growing collection of CDs full of learning songs for everything from biology to history timelines to Bible verses. Thanks for linking up with Booknificent Thursday! Looking forward to seeing what you’ve got this week!

    • Hi Katie! I’m so glad you stopped by Darlene’s blog to read my post. We were always happy for teachers who made learning fun for our kids. It made it easier to help them with their homework when they were excited about what they were learning in class.

  3. Great post! I think you nailed it with your observation of your own children each having different learning and studying styles. I think it’s so important to think outside the box and I agree that with technology at the ready, the potential to do very creative things is endless. Thanks for sharing your post in the Kid Lit Blog Hop. 🙂

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