There’s an excellent report published by Renaissance Learning who studied reading among school-age kids. The name of the report is What Kids Are Reading: The Book-Reading Habits of Students in American Schools. In the introduction, Roger Farr, Ed.D., Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus of Education at Indiana University states:
Motivation to read is the result of the interaction of three conditions:
(1) a student’s interests and experiences,
(2) a book or article that matches those needs and interests, and
(3) a student’s success in reading.
The goal is to bring those three conditions together. It is not an easy task to accomplish but it is not only possible, it is accomplished by successful teachers all the time as the reading lists in this report suggest.
A great thing I’ve found, if you have more than one child, is to get the older ones to share their favorite books with the younger ones. One way to remember what books were especially enjoyable is to keep a log of what has been read along with a brief — and I do mean brief — comment about what the reader liked or didn’t like. I’m not talking about book reports here. Those definitely do not motivate a child to read. Most of us have memories of the dreaded book report. Better to allow book recommendations to come in a more natural way since most of the time, having to analyze a book makes it much less enjoyable.
The goal here is to connect the three points listed above. One way to explore interests is to spend time at the library browsing the shelves. Sometimes we’ve come home with stacks of books in all different subjects just by finding things that sparked our interest at the moment. Once kids have books that interest them, they will be more motivated to pick them up. The more they read, the better readers they will become and the more they will want to read. If you can get this cycle moving it can build momentum all by itself.