Any parent would have their heart warmed by their child nose deep in a pile of books. Your child’s interest and enjoyment around reading can make or break their school career. Reading is a critical component of education and is a necessary part of all subject areas…even math! So how can you ensure that you get your child off on the right foot and loving to read from a young age? It’s all about something called print motivation.

After reading this post, you will:

  • learn about what print motivation is
  • understand why print motivation matters
  • the best tips that parents use to get their children to LOVE reading
Young girl sitting in the grass and reading to boost her print motivation.

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Print Motivation: The Glue that Holds Reading Together

Print motivation is one of the 6 early literacy skills. It is often forgotten about or takes a back seat due to the pressures to teach your child to read. However, you will find that without print motivation, learning to read will be a struggle.

Print motivation is essentially your child’s interest and enjoyment of books, print, and other literacy materials. With a strong print motivation, your child will love reading with you, attempting to “read” on their own from a very young age, and love playing games that revolve around print (think the alphabet, rhymes, sound games, etc).

However, with a weak print motivation, you may notice your child lacking interest in books, not enjoying activities around print, and not enjoying read alouds with you.

The Importance of Laying a Strong Foundation in Print Motivation

What’s beautiful about print motivation is that this is something that you can nurture from a very young age. Actually, you can start working on this when your child is in the womb!

Research has shown that around 25 weeks of gestation, your child can start hearing your voice in the womb. Take advantage of this time to bond with your baby and start reading out loud. It doesn’t even have to be a children’s book. Just reading a book of your choice, magazine, or article can truly make a difference early on.

One of the easiest ways to lay a strong foundation with print motivation is to set a daily reading routine with your child as early on as you can. The earlier your child sees you engaging with reading and enjoying your reading and bonding time together, the more your child will see the value in reading and print.

This high motivation early on will support your child in developing a strong print motivation, leaving you less to worry about as Kindergarten approaches.

Charming mother showing images in a book to her cute little son at home

Parents Who Have Children with a High Print Motivation Do This

Building interest in reading is such an important skill your child needs to acquire. Here are some tips to get started!

1. They Start Their Reading Routine as Soon as Possible

Like I mentioned above, the earlier you start your reading routine, the better. Why?

First of all, it becomes something that they expect and look forward too. When you read to a newborn every night, nap, or other playful time, they come to expect it as they grow up. They enjoy the predictable routine of getting in their jammies and snuggling up to read their favorite book every night. It’s a comfort to them and a way to create a strong bond.

Secondly, a reading routine demonstrates how much you value reading. Your child is going to value what you find valuable. You are the role model. When you ensure that your reading routine is honored and not sacrificed for a lack of time or sanity, you’re saying, “Reading with you is really important to me.”

2. They Give Their Child Choice

When parents give their children choice, it makes them feel important and like they have a say. It’s a part of growing up. So just the same as when you go out to a restaurant and list off meal choices from the kid’s menu for your child to choose from, choosing their own books can make them feel like you value their opinion and choice.

Letting children choose what you read with them ensures that their motivation and engagement while reading stays high. They are more likely going to interact with you and the book, which supports their learning processes of reading.

Just remember that attention spans aren’t much longer than 10 minutes before Kindergarten, so don’t worry if your child only gets 50-75% through the book. They will love the time spent reading just as much as if they finished the whole thing.

Little boy looking at a sound book with animals to support print motivation

3. They Are Very Aware of Their Child’s Interests

You may already know your child’s likes and dislikes, but I implore you to really observe what lights them up. What goes beyond “like” and into “mildly obsessed”?

Using these interests to support reading is a fantastic way to get your child on board with books. Gather a bunch of books from Amazon or the library that feature their mild obsession. They’ll love exploring the pictures and learning even more about their interests in the process.

4. They Don’t Force Reading

It’s not uncommon for a toddler to sit down for one page of a book and run away grabbing another toy off of the shelf. The important thing to remember in this scenario is that you don’t go and pick them up to continue your reading session with child in lap.

But, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to read! Even if your child isn’t on your lap, you can still continue to read aloud to them as if they were.

Following your child’s lead is the most important part of this tip. Whether they are sitting on your lap or you’re just reading aloud, if reading is upsetting to them in any way…stop. Forcing only causes frustration. There’s always another opportunity for a reading experience right around the corner.

5. They Celebrate

Celebrations, for even the littlest of victories, are an amazing way to boost your child’s self-esteem and confidence. They will even inspire your child to keep reading and growing.

So whether it is turning a page, participating in reading, or just finally being able to sit through one story from beginning to the end, CELEBRATE!

Children with high print motivation sitting in row and reading books at the park

How Do You Motivate Children to Read Books?

Sometimes you might have a child who shows absolutely no interest in reading with you or even playing with books. Don’t worry! There are lots of things you can do to pique your child’s interest.

Make Playing with Books a Game

Sometimes all your little one needs to gain a little print motivation is for you to make a game out of it. Play I Spy with a book by asking your child to find different items either on a page or within the book. The key to this is choosing objects that your child already knows very well. This could backfire very easily if you’re choosing items that aren’t in their vocabulary causing frustration.

Spend no more than 5 minutes playing games like this. You want your child to keep wanting to play after you’re done. This ensures that they will want to play on multiple occasions.

Consider Their Interests

This one has to be repeated. You need to really think about things that your child is mildly obsessed with and gather books that feature those things. Your child will be more interested in looking at pictures featuring their obsession than actually realizing they are looking at a book.

Try Interactive Books

There are so many choices for interactive books out there ranging from touchy-feely books to sound books and more. All of these are great choices to get your child interacting with books in a positive way.

My favorite interactive book is actually a series from Usborne. They have a “Busy Books” series that have pull-back vehicles that actually travel across the pages of the books.

This is truly a perfect book to inspire some print motivation in your little if they really are resistant!

What Do You Do When Your Child Hates Reading?

stack of children's books

The most important thing to remember if your child hates reading is to not force reading and books on them. That’s only going to cause more trauma, reluctance, and frustration.

You can use all the tips mentioned above, but remember to practice patience and follow your child’s lead. If they do show interest in reading, keep it short. Don’t read a whole book. You can just casually flip through the pages and talk about what you notice on the pages.

If you notice your child starting to lose interest, stop and move onto something else. You can tank print motivation by waiting until your child is outwardly frustrated or lacking engagement.

Finally, be a reading role model. You want your child to see how much you love and enjoy reading yourself. Let your child see you reading recipes, emails, books, and more. The more your child sees reading in your life, the more likely they are going to see how important it is to theirs.

Print Motivation is the Key

Noticing your child’s motivation towards print is going to be a key indicator of how they are going to take to reading as they grow and develop. It is such an underrated skill, but one that could save a lot of frustration later on during the school-aged years. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to it now!

If you want to learn more about how to support your child in print motivation and all of the other critical areas of early literacy, I encourage you to check out my Grow Your Reader activity pack filled with the perfect way to simultaneously develop all areas of early literacy in only 10 minutes per day.