How to Use Positive Reinforcement to Improve Your Child’s Reading


When it comes to helping your child become an avid and careful reader, it is better to motivate, inspire and reward than to mandate, threaten and punish.

Reinforcement is all about supporting a certain behavior so it is more likely to be repeated and become internalized or habitual. To help improve your child’s reading, here are some positive reinforcement suggestions:

Reward Positive Behavior Right Away

You want your child to link any positive reading behavior with your praise or reward, give it immediately and do not wait until later. If you notice your child, for example, reading on their own after school, don’t wait until finishing dinner to praise them or give them a reward. To connect the activity and its reinforcement in his or her mind, they need to be pulled together right away.

A Lucky Draw

Here’s a variation on the job jar. Rather than having tasks to do on slips in a jar, have books to be read, or even genres and specific writers. The thrill of the unknown as kids do their blind draw there will help make the possibility of reading thrilling. To make the reading jar even more kid friendly, fill it with different colored Ping-Pong balls, each inscribed with a different reading assignment.

Go Deeper with Your Comments

Generic praise for reading a book or doing an assignment well is good, but dig deeper to show you are really interested in what your child has accomplished. Ask them about the story, their understanding of what it’s about, what they liked and if any parts gave them trouble. The more interactive and interested you are, the more supported and encouraged your child will feel.

Develop a Punch Card System

Most of us love punch cards – getting a free coffee or carwash when the card is filled up. So, set up a reading punch card for your child. With each reading task done, they get closer to the end of the card and the reward you set.

LEGO Entitlement

Kids love to play with LEGO. So as a little boost when they finish a book, let them spell out the title in LEGO. Or on a blackboard, let them write out the book title on a growing list of their reading accomplishments.

But Don’t Use Too Many Rewards

Yes, it’s a good idea to use some rewards for your child’s good reading behavior. But you don’t want to make it all about the rewards, having them expect one at every turn; you eventually want to make reading its own reward. So, for example, if you are doing reading and comprehension work to support a learning unit in school, save your reward until your child has successfully completed all the work in the unit.

Contact us at Read Smart today to schedule your child’s FREE reading evaluation. It will help pinpoint your child’s reading abilities and reveal any specific areas that may be problematic.

Read Smart is the reading tutor center in Tulsa that specializes in helping kids who are behind in their reading skills or who simply want to get ahead with reading.

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