Saturday, 18 February 2017 19:16

Does Your Child Avoid Books? Try Magazines!

Books can be overwhelming to children, even downright scary. When a child hates to read, just the sight of books can turn him off and make him want to run for the video game console. Frustrating as this may be to parents, hope isn’t lost. After all, books are not the only reading materials around. In fact, many kids who are not comfortable with books (yet) open the door to to reading through magazines.

Magazines are an authentic reading resource!

Just think as an adult how many magazines a month you read and when you read them. If you’re like most adults, you pick up at least one magazine a month, and probably more. If you enjoy reading or have a hobby, you probably even have a subscription or three coming to your home to keep you up-to-date on your thing - whether that be the news, cooking, or how to DIY your home. There is a magazine out there today for every hobby, job, sport and interest invented, and for every age group. Magazines for the littlest set start at newborn (start ‘em early!) and seniors have their own editions to look forward to (hello AARP!).

So if you’re looking to hook your child on reading, consider her interests and then scout out a magazine to match. I bet you’ll find the perfect one! The following are examples of popular kids’ interests covered by at least one child-friendly magazine (and in some cases many):


  • Science and nature

  • World history and archeology

  • Space, stars and planets

  • Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts

  • Horses and riding

  • Cats and dogs; pets

  • Aquarium life

  • Girls’ general interests

  • Boys’ general interests

  • Military family life

  • Bible/Church groups/religious

  • Soccer

  • Cheerleading

  • Dance

  • books/stories/literary

  • Coding, computers

  • Crafts

Get my free download: Best High-Interest Children’s Magazines for Ages Two Through Teen now!

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Building an arsenal of reading materials is an important part of creating your reader-friendly home. One way to do that is to keep a basket of fresh magazines handy in an open spot for kids to find near a cozy chair with a pillow and blanket to curl up with. Subscribe to a few magazines in your child’s name and your child will receive his very own personalized reading materials delivered to the home. Kids LOVE this - even in today’s high-tech era children still love getting their own (snail) mail. So make a big deal of it when the magazine comes just for him and gather everyone ‘round in the living room for some good old family reading time after dinner.

One question that gets asked a lot:

Does reading magazines about video gaming count? Well, yes and no. While your child is reading in this case, he is reading so he can get better at the one interest we are trying to temper. So if your child already has a hard time self-monitoring his video game playing, or if you find yourself in a battle over screen time in the home, then play down or limit the magazines about gaming in favor of other healthier topics. After all, magazines are authentic reading materials about improving the quality of our lives - from cooking to outdoor sports - so if your child is reading about a pursuit that keeps him indoors on a sunny day and antisocial (and that is potentially addicting), this is not a healthy purpose for reading.

Get my free download: Best High-Interest Children’s Magazines for Ages Two Through Teen now!

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We know that technology can be helpful for promoting reading if we take advantage of all the options out there. For example, kids can read on Nooks and Kindles, and there are endless software programs and apps that promote reading and vocabulary development. While I believe there is a place and time for these resources, if we solely rely on technology to help children read, they will be missing out on a critical piece that helps their reading improve – social interaction (particularly with an adult). After all, apps, software programs and e-readers are meant to be used 1:1 for the most part. While this allows the child to focus on the task, it is also isolating, not allowing for skills to develop through conversation, team work or parent modeling.

Back in the day

Before there were all these screen gadgets, we had board and card games (Remember them?!). These non-tech sources of fun and learning offered hours of endless entertainment – as well as opportunities for learning while interacting socially with peers, family members and - importantly – adults who model vocabulary, voice inflection and comprehension skills. While most people view board games as just an outlet to pass time on a rainy day, they were (and can still be!) so much more than that if you choose the right ones and play them deliberately.

Since many of us haven’t played board games in so long, how do we know which ones are still around and which ones we should choose if our goal is to improve our child’s reading?

Download my free cheat sheet: Dr. Carroll’s Top 10 Board and Card Games that Promote Reading Skills – Plus, their Basic Components and the Specific Skills They Build!

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You might be wondering when you have time to play these games with your child. Try the following times to break up the monotony of screen usage in your home:

  • Friday night family hour – dinner, then at least one hour of board games before a fun family movie (if everyone is still up!)
  • Make Sunday afternoons tech-free and play board games
  • Any rainy/cold/super-hot day it’s no fun to be outside
  • Tech free vacations, such as a camping trip
  • Tech free car time – OK this one is a little tough for actual board games, but card games that ask questions are doable!
  • Use the “30 minute before or after rule”: 30 minutes before bed, or after a TV show, or 30 minutes before dinner or after dessert/snack is designated board game time.
  • Instead of a read aloud
  • Waiting in the doctor’s office with kids? See car time
  • Afraid the iPad will get ruined with sand on the beach? That’s usually not an issue with a board game (Bring a good sun umbrella!)
  • Suggest your kids play with friends on a play date and provide several fun options (kids can learn from each other as well)

Aside from the numerous benefits of reading, playing board games with your child will help build many other important qualities such as patience, sharing, taking turns, strategizing, concentration and memory skills, logic, cooperation and math. Doesn’t that sound like a load of good for a small time investment?

Download my free cheat sheet: Dr. Carroll’s Top 10 Board and Card Games that Promote Reading Skills – Plus, their Basic Components and the Specific Skills They Build!

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What are the board and card games your family loves? Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let me know!

Saturday, 14 January 2017 03:47

Should I Buy or Borrow Books for my Child?

This is a popular question that many parents wonder. Read on for the pros and cons of each and a list of reasons why and when you should choose one over the other.

You know that one of the secrets to getting your child to love reading is to introduce him to lots of great books. Some books are perfect for reading aloud by the parent or child, and other books are chosen for your child to read alone. Families who prioritize reading can easily go through hundreds of different titles a year! How do they choose to acquire these books? The question of whether to buy books for children or borrow them from the library is an important one to consider so you can make sure you keep the home bookshelves stocked in a way that works for you.

Why and when you should borrow books from the library:

Children can go through a lot of books over the course of their youth and book prices have steadily been on the rise. Kids grow out of books, and you may have spent money on books that your child doesn’t even like.  Do that a few times and it will either lead to bookshelves crammed with options that your child isn’t reading, or trips back to the bookstore to attempt a return before the “14 day return policy” window closes.

The time to borrow books from the library is when you are doing any of the following in building your child’s reading arsenal:

  • Trying out a new series to see if your child will want to read the rest
  • Stocking up with lots of books to read over a stay-cation
  • Guessing what type of books will interest your child
  • Looking for lots of books around a central theme that you will only read at a certain time of year, like Halloween
  • When you want to visit the library as a family outing and take advantage of the many opportunities they offer (especially on an extra hot/snowy/rainy day) such as read alouds and author visits
  • When you are looking for the help of a knowledgeable librarian to give you guidance on titles that will interest your child
  • Money is tight but you don’t want that to affect the choices your child has in reading material

Get my FREE cheat sheet here to share with friends and family - Dr. Carroll’s Top 10 List: Should I Buy or Borrow Books for my Child? 10 considerations before you decide. 

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Why and when you should buy books:

Owning books can be so wonderful though, right? That new book smell, rereading old favorites again and again, and the easy way Amazon delivers them right to your doorstep.  Plus, we all feel relieved about not having to worry if the cover gets creased or your child spills juice on the pages. Plus, borrowed books must be returned, on time or there will be late fees - and sometimes it’s just so hard to get back to the library before the due date.

Owning books can bring a certain pleasure that borrowing books doesn’t. When a child sees the books he has read on his bookshelf, it brings a sense of accomplishment and pride. He can go back to the ones he loves again and again (a good practice to improve fluency!) knowing they will always be there. There is also joy in collecting a series – finding that next title can be a fun hunt!

The time to buy books is when any of the following is true for your family:

  • You are collecting classic books that are timeless, and your child will want to read throughout the years
  • You have several children that the book may be appropriate for, and/or the book can be passed down to younger siblings
  • You want to stock up on books to fill your child’s shelves as you build a reader-friendly home
  • Your child is invested in a series and gets satisfaction out of collecting the new titles and seeing what he has read
  • You look forward to giving the books away to family members or other parents once your child has finished with them
  • Your child is reading chapter books and likes to write her thoughts, ideas or questions in the margins
  • You are unable to find the book title your child really wants to read at the library

There is one way you can have (some of) the best of both worlds – search for used books at libraries, garage sales, school fairs and flea markets. Usually you can get books for 25 cents to $2.00 – a fraction of what you would pay for them new. They may be a little torn, worn or marked up, but that just gives them character – You know they were well-loved before you brought them home.

Do you like to buy or borrow books? Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let me know how your family chooses to build your collection.

Get my FREE cheat sheet here to share with friends and family - Dr. Carroll’s Top 10 List: Should I Buy or Borrow Books for my Child? 10 considerations before you decide. 

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Monday, 19 December 2016 00:12

Kids Can Pay it Forward with Reading

One of the best ways to get children to do something positive is to tap into their natural desire to help others. There’s  a lot of research on this, starting with this article on how giving even makes toddlers happy. Maybe you’ve noticed that most of the time what kids won’t do for themselves they will do for others if they see the good in it. Consider these examples. Does your child get excited about any of the following?

  • Feeding, walking or brushing a cat or dog (usually someone else’s!)

  • Baking cookies for a charity bake sale

  • Taking part in a walk-a-thon

  • Participating in a clean-up day, or helping build a school or town playground

  • Feeding stray animals, or backyard birds

  • Donating food or time to a soup kitchen or church pantry

  • Writing letters to soldiers

  • Participating in school or youth group service projects

  • Creating holiday gift baskets for the elderly or poor

The list of ways kids can help others goes on and on! I’m sure you can think of several times your child has helped another person this past year and has been eager to do it.

So, how can we use this innate enjoyment of philanthropy when it comes to reading? There are lots of ways!

Free! Get my list of Books that Inspire Children to Give below.

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Who can your child read to that would bring them pleasure? That’s easy! Anyone in need of a friend or human contact. Let the following list be a starting point - add to it based on the needs of your family and community:

  • Seniors in nursing homes, senior centers or an elderly neighbor or grandparent

  • Animals in shelters (see my blog post on reading to animals here)

  • Newborn babies (especially if the new mommy needs a break!)

  • Terminally ill children in cancer wards

  • Veterans – start at the local VFW (It’s not just an old man’s club anymore!)

Why is reading aloud helpful to others? There are several reasons.

  • Listening to a story book is calming to people and animals

  • Creating a human connection through story is powerful, and sometimes the easiest way to interact with a new person (no conversation needed, let the book do the talking)

  • A good story opens minds and hearts

  • Stories help the listener generate new ideas of their own

  • Stories empower others to make good choices and try new things

  • Stories can help people form bonds of friendship across ages and cultures

  • Listening to a read aloud helps improve concentration and thinking skills

  • A read aloud allows the listener to experience the world right from their chair

Lean on your child’s natural tendency to give. Inspire them to act to help another in this world and reap the amazing benefits of feeling good by doing good, all while practicing reading. The best part is your child won’t even realize he is getting reading practice – what he will realize is how much he touches someone else’s life.

For a list of books of ways for your child to help others (and include reading in the process whenever possible!) get my quick guide to Books That Inspire Children to Give!

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Friday, 02 December 2016 19:55

Radio Show

Imagine this scene:

You come home from work tired, arms loaded with groceries, and run in the door to start dinner. In the living room you spot your son, playing Minecraft again, a backpack full of homework sits untouched on the floor. “Didn’t we just talk about this last weekend?” You ask yourself, disbelieving he’d go back so fast to old (and not good!) habits. “What do I need to do to get across to him he needs to stop playing video games until he’s done with everything else?”

You are fired up. You don’t need this challenge right now. The first words out of your mouth after mumbling hello are fully charged, “Get off the video games, NOW! I can see your homework isn’t done, I’m sure you haven’t read, and it’s already 6:30! If you don’t start right now, I’m taking those video games away.” Exhale.

He rolls his eyes, tosses the joystick aside and slowly makes his way to the backpack to begin…

You fixed the situation, again.

Homework and reading will most likely get done tonight after all. But what about tomorrow night? And the next? Are you just going to keep on like this? You know you can’t, and you are right. It’s just.not.healthy. But yelling and threatning (almost) always work! So, what else can you do?

Get my free guide on 15 Phrases to Say to Your Child to Get Him to Read Without Threatening, Nagging or Yelling!

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Yes, threats and yelling do work, most of the time, which is why so many parents often resort to using them. They don’t feel good, however, neither to you nor your child, and you know there must be a better way. So how can you get your child to do what he needs to without threatening him, yelling or nagging? You can do it by engaging with him (instead of directing threats and nags AT him) and being explicit about your request.

Ariadne Brill of Positive Parenting Connection shares the following ways you can get your child to comply readily without bribes or threats.

3        Ways to move beyond threats and yelling to get your child to cooperate:

  1. Avoid statements that are loaded and vague. Examples are:
  • “You are being so bad! Just wait and see what happens!”
  • “I’ve had it, get moving or else!”

These are not specific and are discouraging to children, making them fearful and may lead to retaliation. Instead, describe the behavior that is not acceptable, such as:

  • “You may not hit your sister.”
  • “Kicking my seat while I am driving is not OK.”

This will help children know exactly what they may not do, without question.

  1. Get children’s cooperation by making them feel encouraged and capable. Rather than threats, use statements that involve your child in a positive way, such as:
  • “Hitting the dog hurts him. Do you want to brush him? The dog would love some special attention from you!”
  • “Do you want to come over here and help me with dinner? Your sister would like some alone time right now but I could use your help and would love your company.”
  1. Use language that invites cooperation, such as:
  • “I’m looking for two assistants to set the table! Any takers?”
  •  “I am happy to keep you company while you sort your books.”

Remember to ask yourself, “What can I do to help my child cooperate in this moment?

How can these strategies be applied to a child who doesn’t want to read? Find out here:

Get my free guide on 15 Phrases to Say to Your Child to Get Him to Read Without Threatening, Nagging or Yelling!

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You’ve heard reading aloud is critical to your child’s success and you strive to get it in most nights when you can.  Sometimes, though, it’s just hard to put in the time. You work long hours, you’re tired, homework went on forever or after-school activities ended late and you just want to skip a read aloud tonight. For all the many reasons why that seems like a good idea, here are 5 solid reasons in favor of reading aloud consistently for (just 10 minutes!)  when you need a little motivation.

5 great reasons to read aloud to your child:

  1. Modeling fluency skills: Children need to hear adult, skilled readers model what good fluency sounds like when they read aloud so they can copy that sound. A reader is fluent when the words flow together well, and they are not choppy or slow. The more you can model how the words should flow well together when you read (as well as stopping at periods, pausing at commas, and obeying the other punctuation marks too) the better your child will pick up this skill.
  2. Modeling language and vocabulary: books are amazing for increasing children’s understanding of language and learning new vocabulary words. Even simple children’s books often have rich vocabulary that is not in our everyday conversation and therefore children do not hear it. In order to know a word, it needs to be used, in context (in the story) and so read alouds are the perfect way to share new words with children.
  3. Sharing quality time together: In the craziness that is life these days, we often don’t have more than 10 minutes a day of quality time to spend with family members. Reading books aloud together creates this time and allows us to be in the moment with our children, enjoying their company as well as a good story and it also builds memories that will last a long time.
  4. Make a statement: "We value reading." When we do it together every day, we are telling our children that reading is important in our home, and it’s a habit that is a part of our lives. When we skip days, or find too often that we allow other excuses to take the place of reading time, we are sending our children the message that reading takes a back seat to those distractions and that message is powerful.
  5. Relaxation: Reading is a relaxing activity. By choosing to read aloud at night before bed, we are winding down each day in a relaxing way in a way that screens such as cell phones and iPads don’t allow for.

"Where can I find time to read with my child?" If you are wondering this too, download my free resource, Finding Hidden Time for Reading, below. 

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Monica, mom to 11 year old Zane, says this about their read aloud practice, “It’s often very easy to slip into a million reasons why we can’t make time at night to read a book together. Once we started allowing ourselves to be distracted, it just got even easier. However, we knew that was not going to help Zane with reading so we promised each other that reading aloud would come first. Since we made it a top priority, we don’t let each other miss our nightly story and Zane’s teacher has told us that his reading has improved in school.”

If you’re finding it hard to get in the time, strive for just 10 minutes a night. This is enough time for a short picture book, or chapter in a simple chapter book, and will ensure you don’t let distractions get in the way of this time together. Then on nights that are less busy, work towards reading for 30 minutes together. I promise it will be one of the best ways you can spend time as a family. 

Download my free resource, Finding Hidden Time for Reading, now!

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For kids who don’t like to read, reading aloud can be stressful. Maybe they read slowly, or sound choppy, or just have trouble recognizing the words. When a child is anxious about reading and lacks confidence, it can lead to self-esteem issues. This can be compounded by having to read aloud in front of peers, which happens many times a week per child in the average classroom.

While children need strategy skills they can focus on to improve their reading comprehension and fluency, they also need practice, and lots of it. The more practice the better. This is why teachers assign reading for homework, and every school, library and blog about reading suggests you read aloud to your child (and have them read to you) every night.

While parents make very good listeners, let’s face it, you only have so much time to listen and sometimes your child may want to broaden his audience (no offense of course.) Enter…cats and dogs! They’re lovable, fluffy, sweet and have wet noses. What else could you want in a reading buddy? Plus, most will sit long enough to have a book read to them, especially if they get a tummy rub and treat.

Cats and dogs make exceptional read aloud partners for numerous other reasons. They calm anxious children, they are non-judgmental, they (usually) don’t interrupt and most kids love them, making our feline and canine friends very acceptable audiences to children who are nervous to read aloud.

There have been many successful programs launched around this idea; cats and dogs are getting read to in shelters, libraries, classrooms and homes around the world as teachers, parents and other caring adults are realizing the myriad benefits. For example, In Anita Stone’s article, “Reading” Dogs Help Children Learn,” she explains how trained dogs are used in schools to sit quietly as struggling readers excitedly read books they chose just for them.

Though the children believe they are teaching dogs to read, in fact, with the dog as a comfortable, attentive audience (and an occasional gentle assist from the dog’s adult volunteer partner), they are actually teaching themselves. As far as the child is concerned, however, reading is about the dog, not about the child. No pressure. No embarrassment. No humiliation.

Similarly, through the Book Buddies program, Humane Society dogs get help socializing from young readers who, after a short training program, helps dogs gain comfort with visitors who are prospective adopters. Dogs who are improved socially have a better chance of being adopted so if your child needs a very strong reason to read to a dog, this could be it. The children reading to shelter dogs are helping the dogs in the shelters as much as they help themselves.

Cats are getting in on the benefits too. At cat shelters everywhere, children are reading to them for the same reasons as shelter dogs. The children get to practice reading, and the cats get help with socialization. Plus, everyone has a darn good time. Take 7-year-old Colby of Berks County, Pa. His mom brought him to a local shelter running a Book Buddies for cats program in hopes it would help his tantrums and crying over reading. Now, “He goes right into the room with all the cats, opens the book, and they come running to lay down and listen,” she said, adding, “There’s no struggling anymore. He’s a joy to read with now, and he’s so confident.”


So how can parents use this idea at home? What if you don’t have a dog or cat for your child to read to? Fear not! Just download my FREE resource on 10 Ways Your Child Can Read with an Animal (even if you don’t have a pet at home!)

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This guide also includes eight websites that give you more information on this practice, how it benefits kids and several ways you can get involved.

So what about the rest of the pet population in homes? Do they make good reading partners too?

They definitely do. Why not have your child read to the family bunny, ferret, gerbil, guinea pig, fish or gecko? If you have any pet at home, it just needs to sit still long enough to be read at least a few pages (this is where a cage may come in handy for some of the squirmier species…)

Parents and teachers who take part in the reading-to-animals programs all over share that the results are amazing. Children are reading more often, and because of this, are reading better, more fluently, and most of all, are enjoying reading. This is great news!

Grab my FREE resource on 10 Ways Your Child Can Read with an Animal (even if you don’t have a pet at home!) plus get eight websites that give you more information on this practice, how it benefits kids and several ways you can get involved.  

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Thursday, 06 October 2016 11:32

Should You Bribe Your Child to Read?

As parents, we know how important it is that our kids read, and read often. We understand that reading plays a strong role in the development of numerous positive traits in youth, from academic skills to character development to relaxation strategies. When reading is difficult, so is almost everything else – particularly in school – so it’s critical for kids to read, and daily practice is the best way to go. 

For many parents, however, we would just love to see our child pick up a book on his own and read it. If that doesn’t happen, we ask our kids nicely to read and they head for the first iPad they can find to play Minecraft. We finally beg our kids to read and they just tune out, or leave the room. So it seems to make sense that when kids simply won’t read any other way, and choose every different distraction from Tuesday to avoid it, that maybe we consider a little bribery to sweeten the deal.

Rewards for Reading

Outside rewards can be very motivating, particularly money, and for many children it works in terms of getting them to read. One study out of the UK suggests that 60% of parents of 3-8 year olds reward their children for reading, and I suspect that number only increases as kids move into preteen years. Parents do this because it gets results! Offer money, kids read, mission accomplished. I’ve heard of a variety of payment plans, such as a penny a page, a dollar a chapter, or a cool new T-shirt at the end of the book. Of course the beloved screen time is a popular reward as well. So if these rewards work and kids are reading more, what could be the problem with it?

Well, for one, research. There are many studies (if you want me to bore you with the details, send me an email!) that suggest paying children to do what they once enjoyed leads to them stopping the activity once the reward disappears. I would add that in my own conversations with parents, this may also lead to children looking for bigger and better rewards as time goes on, and a loss of internal motivation without it. That is not a culture we want to build.

Plus - and this is a big one - if we pay kids to read, they may internalize the idea that reading is something we do for money, or reward, and not something we do for pleasure. Since our end goal is to develop life-long readers with an interest in reading on their own, the monetary reward-for-reading system is definitely one that can backfire long-term.

Left with a Conundrum?

So, how do we get children to read if they don’t have the internal motivation and we can’t externally motivate them? For children lacking confidence or foundational reading skills (like fluency and comprehension), it’s an even harder battle and rewards seem like the only way to win it. Well, we can offer rewards, I am just suggesting we do it in safer ways that don’t lead to the piggy bank. Instead, we need to find externally motivating activities that kids will enjoy in their own right, that can be attached to reading so they associate reading (the task) with pleasure (the reward). Follow me here…

A solution!

It turns out that non-material rewards may be seriously effective, and have the same (or better!) results than the material kind. Rewards such as an outing alone with dad (leave those brothers and sisters behind!), an opportunity to try a new activity or a trip to a local petting farm can be majorly motivating while healthy and lead to new interests. By the way, this can also lead to wanting to read more, in order to learn about the new pursuit, and a positive cycle begins.

Get my free cheat sheet on 15 Healthy Bribes to Get your Child to Read

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As it turns out, I am not alone in making these suggestions. Dr. Ryan and Dr. Deci, professors at the University of Rochester, suggest that we should emphasize the fact that we value the love of reading, not just the act of it. Therefore, the “bribe” should convey that message as well.  They write, “By setting aside time for reading with your child, or to discuss a book together, we are showing them we value reading, and we support them in developing this important skill.” When we read with our child, when we laugh, cry or get inspired by a book together and chat about that experience afterwards, we are sending powerful messages about the joy that can be found in books that money or treats just cannot duplicate.

Intrinsic motivation may need to be developed in some children, and that’s ok. When reading is tough for kids, it’s just not something they will want to do naturally. So while offering money is a quick fix that will most likely jump-start the reader to pick up a book, creating a home that values reading, with reader-friendly spaces, read-alouds before bedtime, book discussions around the dinner table, and trips to the library to check out the new releases will go a lot farther in both showing kids the value of reading and establishing habits long-term.

Get my free cheat sheet on 15 Healthy Bribes to Get Your Child to Read

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Video games can be entertaining (though addictive) but kids who choose to play video games over other healthy activities do so because they actually satisfy several needs. The following are a few examples of why many children, pre-teens and teens cannot put the controller down:

  1. Boredom (no one to play with, limited other options)
  2. Addiction (lots of gaming leads to dopamine rush, leads to addiction)
  3. It’s easy to access (video games are always out and available)
  4. It’s fulfilling (shoot things, collect points, win, gain status, repeat)
  5. Social reasons (such as being bullied, being an introvert)

Get Dr. Carroll’s Top 10 Book Recommendations for Bullying and Social Isolation here

Get the list now >>

But what if we could satisfy these needs with something as healthy and wholesome as books? What if instead of choosing video games, your child chose books instead? It IS possible, read on!

While breaking an addiction to video games can be extremely difficult, ensuring that your child never gets addicted can be a whole lot easier in comparison – and worth the effort when you hear the stories of parents who have been down that road.

I have collected the following ideas from parents just like you who have firmly decided that books are better than video games for their children’s brains. Try a few tips or try them all! I am sure you’ll find something here that will help cut back on your child’s screen time.

9 Effective Ways to Cut Back on Your Child's Screen Time:

  1. Create “no screen zones” at home. There should be a few places in the home that screens should not be allowed. Good suggestions to start are bedrooms and at meal time.  Blue light from smartphones and computers makes it hard to sleep anyway, and meal time should be for connecting with family members - so power off!
  2. Make your car a “no screen zone”. One mom from the UK described how when they are driving, no digital devices are allowed. Instead, on longer trips kids reach for books, magazines, dolls (plush puppets are fun) and small handheld games (think Rubik’s Cube). These items are stored in a basket in the back seat and are rotated every month to keep it interesting. They stay in the car so they don’t get lost.
  3. Pick a time each evening that all screens are turned off. Depending on the age of your child, maybe it’s 7 pm, or 8 pm, or maybe a different time works for you. Whatever time you choose, be sure you are consistent and you do it too. If you decide to check email on your phone after that time, you’ll lose credibility with your child.
  4. Set up a book nook in the home that is so dang cozy and attractive that it becomes your child’s favorite go-to place. Make it a “no-screen” zone and instead, stock it with his favorite items, art work he has created, and tons of books and fun reading material. Give him an option to read instead of play video games and he may just choose it.
  5. Put the video games away. Let’s face it, the easier they are to access, the more likely your child is to play them. If the video game console is hard to get out and set up, then it is probable your child will choose something else to do instead.
  6. Video games can feel sociable, because kids can play with other people in the house or outside it, however they actually promote social isolation. While books are typically read independently, they can encourage social activity if you take turns reading aloud to each other, listen to audio books together in the car or both parent and child read the same book and then discuss after each chapter (great for pre-teens with chapter books). Replace the isolating video games with family book discussions.
  7. Video games seem fulfilling in the moment but leave a hollow feeling long-term. A real sense of accomplishment instead can come from finishing a truly engaging, humorous or memorable book that shapes your child’s thinking. Find these kinds of books with help from your local librarian and create a deeper sense of well-being in your child far beyond what video games can offer.
  8. Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto are not babysitters, though they are often used to keep kids occupied. There are much better ways to engage children in stimulating activity that keeps them busy while you are cooking dinner or finally having a moment of peace. Art projects, craft activities and outdoor sports are all healthier activities that feed the brain and keep kids productively busy. Reading fun books such as graphic novels and choose your own adventures can be exciting ways to engage children with words when mom or dad needs a break.
  9. If a child is being bullied or having a hard time making friends, video games are often an easy way to cover up the shame, frustration and humiliation that comes from these experiences. There are dozens of books for every age group, reading level and gender to help address these issues instead and your child just needs someone to help guide her towards the titles. Librarians and book store clerks can be an amazing resource to find books where the main character is struggling with something similar to your child. Reading a story that your child can relate to can be a very important step in handling the feelings and the problem in a way that video games will never solve.

Get Dr. Carroll’s Top 10 Book Recommendations to Help with Bullying and Social Isolation – these books are relatable stories that your child will enjoy as he discovers that he is not alone and there are healthy ways to handle being bullied. 

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Although you may not believe it, your child may not want to be playing video games all the time. Video gamer children and teens often privately admit they wish they could stop, and that they had other productive outlets that satisfied the needs mentioned above. If you child is gaming for a few hours a day, Try a few of the tips suggested above and don’t take “no” for an answer. In the long run, you’ll be glad you stayed on it!

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