Breaking Bad Reading Habits

Nip them in the bud without discouraging your child's love of books.




What if you notice your little bookworm is developing bad reading habits? Can you reverse a bad routine while still showing your child that reading is a terrific hobby? Consider these scenarios. If your child:

  • Reads with little or no light
    Maybe the room was well lit during daylight hours, but the sun has since set and the room is now dark. Or maybe your child simply forgot to flip on the light when she entered the room. To resolve this, create a book nook for your child in her bedroom or a cozy corner of the den or kitchen with a special reading light to keep in the corner.
  • Won't put down her book during family time
    How wonderful it is to see your child engrossed in a story — with every turn of the page, you know that his imagination is flying high! But when it's time to put the book down in order to be with the family, he just won't. To curb this habit, give him a 15-minute warning before dinner, reminding him to finish up the page, paragraph, or chapter. Then tell him that you want to hear all about what he's reading. That way, he's not completely leaving the story and he gets to share the characters, plot, and what makes the book so good.
  • Reads the same book over and over again
    It's certainly okay to return to a favorite book. This patience for the same story will become valuable in later grades when attention to plot details calls for repeated read-throughs of text. Still, you'd like her to expand her reading horizons too. Start by trying to figure out what aspects of the favorite book keep her coming back. Is it the author's writing style? The funny characters? The genre? Do a bit of research, ask for help from your child's teacher or a librarian, and find some new books.
  • Forgets to return books to the library
    He may need a visual reminder. Have him make a library book keeper and store it in the front hall or somewhere close to the door. As he finishes each book, he can drop it in the cubby until it's due back. It's also a good idea to schedule library visits on your calendar, either weekly or biweekly. This provides a book-related outing, a reminder to swap old books for new ones, and an opportunity for your child to learn to plan recurring "meetings."
  • Sneaks in reading after bedtime
    Reading in bed may have a relaxing effect that helps your child fall asleep. But you don't want her staying up too late. Factor in reading time when setting bedtime. Lights-out is 9 p.m. If she wants to read in bed, she needs to start at 8:30 instead of watching a television program. You can also give one special late bedtime per week, when she gets to stay up a half-hour later as long as she's reading.
  • Reads instead of doing homework
    If your child plows through books but his math homework suffers, be firm: reading a non-school book comes after homework is complete. You may even have to take the book away and keep it until he has finished his assignment. Enforce a "school comes first" policy or allow study breaks that so your child can read a chapter or two of his current non-school book.
Developing Reading Skills
Attention and Focus
Decision Making
Self Control
Age 10
Age 9
Age 8
Independent Reading
Reading for Pleasure
Bad Habits