Motivating Him to Keep Reading


The minute I say, “Have you done your reading yet today?” I have instantly switched off that creative spark that makes him crave to read those encoded messages on the page, and turned reading into a chore. He will do whatever his little, yet powerful mind, sets itself too.

Yet, reading practice is critical at this tender stage of level 2-3. The next big leap, level 4, is a big one, his teacher says. He’s ready, she says, as long as his level of interests stays high. Or, as long as it stays his idea.

I’ve learned from educators that the best way to push your child to a higher reading level is to let them practice at the level they’ve currently mastered. You would think that it makes more sense to push the “higher” levels, believing that you are challenging them. That was the mistake I made with my first son — it was a brief, frustrating period for both of us.

This time, I pulled piles of level 2 and 3 books into our library bag. Once I had them home, I set them into a tray by the nutcrackers and said, “Nutcrackers need story-time.”


The Nutcrackers. This too, is a story within itself. Before Christmas, he was mesmerized with the nutcracker picture book and its fanciful pictures, the story CD that we played each night at bedtime, the nutcracker advent calender that told one line of the story each night. With the opened box of decorations, nutcrackers filled our house: nutcracker place-cards from last Christmas, nutcrackers as gifts from Christmases years before, and ornaments. Just ask him, and this kindergartner will tell you the whole story of The Nutcracker Prince, its subplots and main characters.

Instead of toy soldiers and green army men, we have nutcrackers as toys. Some would say they’re too pretty and special to be played with like toys. I might add, they are not designed for play either… arms easily break off,


heads fall off, but this doesn’t seem to bother him. Nor me. If they weren’t here reading all these stories, they’d be piled into a box somewhere, unloved and forgotten. I’m happy to see them get some use, other than collecting dust.


He fully expected to receive a “full-sized Buzz Lightyear” for Christmas, because “Santa can make anything.” His kindergarten teacher even pulled me aside once, and said, “I’m just giving you a heads up… he’s REALLY going to be disappointed Christmas morning if there is no live-sized Buzz.”

No, he didn’t receive life-sized Buzz. But, he did receive this full-sized Nutcracker from a kind nephew and niece instead.


So now, we have story-time for the Nutcrackers, while he quietly moves on to Level 4.


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29 comments to “Motivating Him to Keep Reading”
  1. I’ll just bet my son will be like yours…he already wants to do everything his way! (He doesn’t always get to, of course. Am I a Mama or a Mouse?!)

    That huge nutcracker is awesome.

    And kudos to you for working with him and his nutcracker/reading love and not against him.

  2. I love this! Such a wonderful way to gently encourage him and keep his love of reading alive. I’m sure the nutcrakers are glad to be so loved, broken arms and all. Already at the tender age of two, I am finding how much better mey daughter does when she thinks things are her idea!

  3. i had the hardest time with my children when they were learning to read. to the point that the school they were enrolled in had to put them, both, in a reading recovery program. now…quite a few years later, my son has become an avid reader…thankfully! and, my daughter is still struggling, even in the 4th grade! for my oldest son, it was an emotional block. i wish that i had thought of something like what you posted, to help him, back then!
    when it is time for my youngest…i’m going to try this! it’s brilliant!!!! thanks so much for sharing this!

  4. What a creative way to get him reading.

    I don’t think his love of nutcrackers is strange at all. I have one, myself. My four year old had to have a nutcracker just like Clara after seeing Barbie and the Nutcracker after Christmas 2006! It’s all she talked about for a year and she finally got her nutcracker this past Christmas. It holds a place of honor in her bedroom.

  5. I was obsessed with nutcrackers too. My parents only enduldged me with three, one which I broke. Then they took me to see the nutcracker on ice, and for some reason I suddenly was terrified of the things. Go figure.

  6. The teacher in me is SO proud of you!! I’ve just had a humbling moment myself this week–trying to push my students too hard and not remembering to let the PRACTICE where they are.

    This is a super sweet story and I LOVE your perspective with the nutcrackers. Beautiful…beautiful.

  7. My girl collects nutcrackers. The ballerina in her thinks about the ballet every single time she looks at them. She’s told me this. When she sees a new one, she literally gets hyper!
    It’s very admirable that you learn from the learning styles of each child-I once heard that as long as a child is reading of their own accord, even if its comic books, it’s to be encouraged!
    By the way, where would you get a life sized Buzz anyway?

  8. What a creative way to inspire him! As a parent, I often find myself pushing Julia toward a challenge, which is usually followed by her digging her heels in and letting me know that’s exactly what she doesn’t need. You’re a smart and intuitive Mom!

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