Give Me the Simple Life: Encouraging Kids to Read


After spending Saturday at an Author & Illustrator school fair, I was so impressed with the excitement children felt about books and authors and illustrators. This school is doing something right—because these kids were passionate! Dragging parents by the hand to check out a new book, waiting patiently in a long line for an author to sign a book or a book bag. It was an “out-of-the-box” way for children to understand the world of books in a deeper, more meaningful way. And who knows? Maybe it sparked the flame for a future author.

My own four children, now young adults, love to read. But they weren’t always passionate readers as children. One, in particular, was a reluctant reader, but is now an avid reader. Here were a couple of things we did to help promote a life long love of books:

—Start reading aloud to your children as early as babyhood.

Well-loved books

Well-loved books

—Don’t stop reading to your kids! I used to sit in the hallway and read to my children while they were in their beds.

—Let your children and grandchildren see how much you love to read. Books, magazines, newspapers. Parents are teachers, too.

My current stack of reading material.

My current stack of reading material.

—Have lots of books in your home. We have bookshelves in every room. In the living room, there’s a corner of children’s books for the grandbabies. I used to have a big library box in the family room and would keep coming-and-going library books in it. (Helped to cut down on misplaced books and overdue fines!)

This is the children's book corner in our living room. Filled with my own children's favorites!

This is the children’s book corner in our living room. Filled with my own children’s favorites!

Even Tess loves to read in the book corner.

Even Tess loves to read in the book corner.

—Get your child a library card. And use it! Search for books that fit your child’s interests.


My well-worn, frequently used library card.

Can you think of some other crazy ideas that just might work or have worked in your home or school to encourage reluctant readers?

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About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.


  1. Donna Bayar Repsher says:

    I think the best way to encourage kids to read is to start reading to them almost from birth–I even have friends who read to their unborn children in utero. My parents both worked, and my grandmother, who raised me, didn’t read English–so she told me stories and sang to me. I taught myself to read at age 4 and still remember the day my mother took me to the library when I was 5 years old. My parents never complained if I spent money on books either, and I always preferred them to any other toys. When my friends brought their children to our house to visit, I always read to them too. I think that there is no greater gift you can give to a child than to instill in them a love of reading.

  2. Teresa Sheroke says:

    I have always loved to read! I tried to keep books in my kids rooms when they were growing up on shelves so they would be interested in reading. I also would take them to the library and book stores so they could pick out what they liked as they got older. My son loves comic book still and he is 22 now.

  3. Renee says:

    I began reading to my 3 kids when they were babies. We frequent the library, where we enjoy many activities: Lego League, family movie day, “crafternoon”, and reading to dogs.

  4. Connie Saunders says:

    You mentioned library visits but please let me add to that. My library offers programs and activities that will lure the reluctant reader in. Fun at the library makes that reluctant reader want to go back and hopefully, take books home to read!

  5. Melanie Backus says:

    My grands love books and have been read to since they were born. For a reluctant reader, go after books that have interests for that particular child. It may be aligators, snakes, dinosaurs……whatever it takes. Hank the Cowdog and the Boxcar Children are great series for children. Whether being read to or reading themselves, children get so much from books as well as we older folks.

    melback at cebridge dot net

  6. Jackie McNutt says:

    I have always been a reader. When I was younger I went to the library frequently and still do weekly. I always had books at home for my children and took them to the library weekly, I read to them daily when they were small and taught them that books are to be treasured , that they could explore the world from an armchair. Now that they are adults they all still love to read and have passed that down to their children. Also when they come here to grandmas there are always books for them to read and trips to the library. Children who are not encouraged to read are missing out on one of life’s greatest blessings.

  7. Amy Bateman says:

    I think you’ve covered the most important steps. I am blessed to have avid readers. I think parent example has helped. My husband and I both love to read, so the kids see us reading. I read to the kids when they were little and still read to my youngest two. I’ve loved introducing them to some of my favorite books and series. Some of my kids have enjoyed these more than others, but somewhere along the way they all learned to enjoy reading. We have lots of books and frequently-used library cards. I also volunteer at our elementary school to coordinate our twice a year book fairs. I love seeing how excited the students get to buy a new book as a reward for a good report card or for holiday gifts.

  8. Connie R. says:

    I have tried reading something of interest to my kids that might be beyond their ability, either reading to them or taking turns reading pages. Children can understand more than they are able to read, and most kids enjoy being read to.

  9. Kathy Jacob says:

    Everything you said, Suzanne. When my son was struggling with learning to read, I had him read a little bit every day from something that was at his level. Then, it clicked. BAM! And he hasn’t stopped since!

  10. What a sweet looking dog! Hoping I win. 🙂

  11. Shirley M. Franklin says:

    I taught each of my three children the alphabet and numbers at a very early age (my oldest daughter could recite the pledge to the flag at 2 years old), and taught them to write their names and addresses long before time to go to school. I read to them often and instilled a thirst for learning. They became excellent readers and did very well in school. My oldest daughter was an avid reader and writer, and she even wrote a novel several years ago.
    I have always enjoyed reading and since retiring (and obtaining a Kindle) I am reading more than ever.
    Thank you, Suzanne, for your wonderful books – I LOVE Lily Lapp!

  12. Carol says:

    thank you for this. I have some that are voracious readers. And some who struggle (even at 15) with reading. (though she prefers KJV and non fiction to fiction. she’s not fast. And one 9yo boy who knows how to read,but doesn’t just pick up a book/comic book/graphic novel for fun usually. My olders are a mix as well. One who was reading those Loeb classic /harvard ? classics in upper elementary /jr.high for fun. (reading Josephus and military strategies of Rome by a Roman general (this early A.D? doesn’t sound fun to me. lol)
    I don’t know how i encouraged the readers to read and still can’t encourage the strugglers. I too have books everywhere. And from when my 18month grandson was born started a basket of board books for him. Have added more to the collection (to the point that I will need to get a bookcase just for him. ) My 9yo has a spot that i keep books geared for him on , read alouds/chapter books for me to read, books he can read, his Bibles etc. )
    Thanks for this offer. I also realized I need to give myself permission to just sit and read again. thanks for the reminder.

  13. Sandie W says:

    I have been reading to my Grandkids every since they were born. I also buy them books and either read to them or have them read me a story. There is nothing better than seeing the little ones love books as much as I do!!

  14. Connie Roberts says:

    I always read to my kids when they were growing up, most importantly we encouraged them to read their Bible. My husband is a preacher & pastor & the Bible was & is very important in our home. They are grown now & on their own with kids of their own, I hope they remember the values they were taught & instill them in their own children. Now, when our grandkids come to visit, we usually make a trip to the library, they love to check out their own books & bring them home to read.

  15. Heather Olsen says:

    I think my kids love for reading started with listening to books on tape before bed. Now there nose is always in a book, just like their Momma.

  16. Linda Williams says:

    When my daughter was 11 a tragedy took place and she has post traumatic stress disorder, she lost all her reading, spelling, math …everything, it was hard starting her over in kindergarten but didn’t know where to start, we got a set of books from A Beca Books, a set of small readers, then the summer reading program, once ignited it took off like wild fire, all the subjects returned except math and after all these years (15 years) she is still making private studies trying to open that part of her memory. Today she enjoys reading to our Granddaughters ages 5 & 7, they love to listen and read along!

  17. Vicky D says:

    I love asking my grandkids to read to me. They love it no matter where they are in the process of learning to read.

  18. June Shirey says:

    Read to your child during your pregnancy. They will not only know your voice when they are born. You will have giving them a love to read. Most important is to continue to read to them from the time they are born. Teach them to read and read with them. As they get older they will enjoy reading on their own.

  19. Dawna Peters says:

    I have two great nieces and a great nephew that we got them library cards to two of our local library and to one they go to that is connected to our library. They sign up for reading contest, story times, play games, read books and watch movies (lending library). I also have two grandsons that both got their library cards when we went to the library so they could get books, go to the story time and many activities at their libraries. My two daughters and my son all have library cards and go there alot to get books and take their kids. When I was young my mother took me to the library and got me to read cause I had trouble reading. And I quickly got into reading books. My love of books has magnified through my family. Several of us have e-readers. And we are always telling each other what books are out there. My one grandson is getting an e-reader for Easter as he is always borrowing his mom’s to read his books. We skype alot of times and he reads me books. And sometimes we will email what books we want to read and we will both get the book and follow each other on a skype session together. It is a wonderful way to stay apart of my grandson’s life and share my love of books with him. We love our sessions.

  20. hope moyer says:

    I encourage my kids to read by reading to me then have them read it back to me ! its also more comfortable reading to them and have them read it back to me an hour before bed when they are settled down for the night!

  21. Angie Carroll says:

    If there was a way to display books so that kids can see the cover instead of just the binding they may pick it up faster and read it!

  22. Margaret Saberan says:

    My niece, the mom of a four month old, was just asking me today why my children (her cousins) started talking so early. I told her that my reading to them from infancy may be one factor.

  23. julie call says:

    I keep books in every room in the house and in the van. We also keep books on tape to listen too as well. I try and keep all kinds of text available. One daughter loves to read cookbooks while the other loves fiction. Our soon is into birds so anything about birds captures his interest. It’s all about finding out what they like.

  24. Wen Dee says:

    The number one way is for the parents to lead by example. Take yo ur child at a young age to the library and expose them to books as an infant.

    Both my hubby and I are avid readers and now our Autistic daughter is too.

    Library time is one of our favorite family activities.

    Also reading the Sunday paper, is a family tradition we have.

    Lead by example! Be a positive role model!

  25. Sonja says:

    I think to start them young is the key. Reading to them when they are tiny and looking at pictures in the books is a wonderful start. The time spent together is worth everything. My granddaughter and I have little “read-a-thons” and she has been reading the Lily books. She said her teacher had never seen them and was really interested because it showed a different lifestyle.

  26. Kathy Heare Watts says:

    I am an avid reader, mother of 3 adult children and grandmother of 10. I love to read, have always had books for the kids, we, as in my husband of 37 years and I have always read to our children and our grandchildren. We actually have a really nice bookcase loaded down with books. I shared my love of Beverly Cleary and E. B. White with my grandchildren. I love when they come to our house and either get a book themselves and sit down and read or have us read to them. We go to yard sales and pick up lots of books, sometimes even entire series for the kids to read.
    I find fun books that they love for Pappy to read, a favorite one is Never Too Little To Love! What a hit that books is. We give books to our grandchildren as gifts. 8 of the 10 grandchildren (ages 12 to 3 months) have Kindle Fire. I try to send links to books that are great deals to their Mom’s to load on them.
    One of the best ways to teach children to read, start when they are babies, read to them often, when they are learning to read, make it very important and interesting, and let them see you read too. One of our granddaughter’s had been sounding out words since she was 2 years old, could read words at 3 and is 9 now and excels in school.

  27. We read to them. We shared portions of what we read. We read in the car on long trips. We looked on a trip to three bookstore as a treat. ( our college student asked that we read out loud on our long car trip to college, the tradition continues.)

  28. Bonnie Traher says:

    From the time my three sons were old enough we read and we practically lived at the library. Now I have my first grandchild to pass the love of books on too.

  29. Kristi Morgan says:

    I am trying to encourage my 4 year old niece to love reading as much as I do. I take her to the library which is within walking distance of our houses. I let her pick out the books she wants and we sit and read them together. She is able to pick out some words on her own so she feels as if she is “reading” the book to me. We signed up for the summer reading program through our library last summer. Even though we got a late start we finished early! Now she asks every time I see her if we can go to the library!!! I’m hoping her love of reading will continue to grow as she does!

  30. In our home, we use all of the ways you mentioned, Suzanne, to help foster a love of reading, as well as several others. Finding books that are of interest is one of the most important ways to encourage reluctant readers! Also, engaging in activities that you read about is a lot of fun. For example, while reading the Little House books, enjoy an evening without electricity, cook over a fire, and read by candlelight. Also, reading books that have been made into movies is fun. We will read a book, such as Charlotte’s Web, and when we finish the book, we will have a movie night and watch the movie and discuss the differences between the two. Incentive programs are another great way to encourage reluctant readers. Rewarding children with a small prize based on the number of words or books read can help spark an interest.

  31. sharon says:

    Reading before bed, reading when the grandchildren visit. We always had an avid interest in reading and I imparted this to my children and now my grandchildren.

  32. Lisa Eichelberger says:

    My husband and I are bookworms, so our kids have grown up with reading as a part of family life. We are huge users of our local library. It’s like our second home! Every week, I put lots of books on hold for the kids (and myself!). I get ideas from children’s reading lists, Goodreads and Amazon recommendations, the books I remember enjoying as a kid, and the different awards lists like the Newbery and Caldecott Awards. I also try to look for books that are related to my kids’ interests, like my son’s love of dinosaurs or my daughter’s love of fairies. I read to them out loud before they go to sleep, and then they have a few minutes before “lights out” when they can read quietly in their rooms.

  33. Tonja S. says:

    We bought our k

  34. Tonja K. Saylor says:

    We bought our kids Kindles for Christmas. It really encouraged their reading. But what I think has influenced them more than anything is seeing me read and how much I enjoy books.

  35. Rachel says:

    Even though I read to my son incessantly when he was young, we struggled quite a bit with it all & were told he would never read on the same level as his peers.

    So I vowed to do whatever I could to help him. We bought hooked on phonics, meet the letters, numbers, shapes & sight words DVDs, countless beginning reader books and Word World! We tried “Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons”, sing and spell but nothing worked…nothing.

    Until I left him alone to do his own thing. When I let him do it on his own, he was reading before I knew what had happened. It was amazing and he is years ahead of his peers so I guess they were right after all.

    We still read together and he reads to his sister a lot too. He LOVES books and I’m not really sure I had a lot to do with it but he sees how much I read so I’m sure that helps inspire him.

    My daughter has discovered YA Amish and she’s thrilled. She’s only about 3 chapters through her first one but that’s amazing for her and I’m excited!

  36. Linda Landreth says:

    I began reading to my children when they were babies and continued for many years. Each child had a favorite book that we could recite by heart because we read it so often! They are all grown are are avid readers now!

  37. Lori Thomas says:

    I love to read, I read to the lil ones. We go to the library and during the summer we do the summer reading program. We also scout out the local goodwill store for books. I could start my own library room here at home w/all the books we have, loll. But like I say reading is knowledge.

  38. DarcieN says:

    Find a subject of interest for them and bring on the books. My daughter loves fairies so I found a fairy series for her, so loved it so I keep getting books for her. I think in one summer she read about 80 of them.

  39. Laura olmstead says:

    On sunday after church I would have the T.V. off and we would read. My son wasn’t a good reader, but I would let them read what they wanted to he would read a hunting magazine. We would go to the library every week when they were little. I always was reading, so I hope they have continued to read to their children now.

  40. I started reading to my children when they were infants, and as they grew I always made time to read to them a couple of times a day. I would point out easy words at first and help them to sound them out. They always had a bed time story as well. We would go to the Library and pick out easy readers for beginners so they could try to read on their own also. I just encouraged them to read, and learn. To this day as adults they all love to read. I say teach and encourage them at a young age.

  41. Deb says:

    I encouraged my kids and grandkids to read by starting at birth reading to them and then taking them to the library to pick out the books they wanyed. They always saw me reading and I think it all really clicked for them when I bought them their very own books to own. It was special.for them to have their own books and they all are avid readers just like I am. Never without a book any of us. I just made reading fun ajd an adventure.

  42. Brenda R. says:

    I started off by reading “Golden Books” to my children when they were infants. Then when they were toddlers I taught them how to “be nice” to books. Then when they were a little older (but before school age) I started taking them to the library and they were allowed to pick out (by their self)10 books. We would go back every weekend. That was Our Time together.

  43. Sharon Chase says:

    I have always loved reading…there is nothing like curling up with a good book and a grandchild on your lap just before bedtime. It is so comforting for them to ask for just one more story Grandma.

  44. mbwelch says:

    We did the weekly preschool story hour at our library (run by volunteer moms at that time), so we always had “fresh” books and ideas (songs, poems, crafts) to go along with our stories. When they got to be grade school age, most nights we would get bathed and “jammied,” after dinner and then it was story time. My husband usually took care of this while I did dishes. When he was coaching and it was my turn for stories, we would all pile into my bed and read as late as I thought we could before they would be crabby the next day! Choose stories that mom or dad would like too so that you are as eager for the next chapter as they are. Sachar’s ” Holes”, Erickson’s ” Hank the Cowdog” and Jacque’s “Redwall” are all great.