How to Motivate Young Readers to Keep Them Reading

How do you motivate young readers? In this post, I share information about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and ways to help classroom teachers.

How do you motivate young readers to keep them reading? Big question I think. Motivation is a huge contributor to student success, and it is easy to tell when students are and are not motivated.  As educators, it is important for us to find what motivates those who are not. According to the Center of Teaching at Vanderbilt University, there are two types of motivation-intrinsic and extrinsic.

Those who are intrinsically motivated have passion for the topic, learning in general, or just love the feeling of succeeding.  Those who are extrinsically motivated are looking for something to gain beyond the learning.  It could be a prize, making a team, or avoiding punishment.

Motivate Young Readers-intrinsic vs extrinsic options

So is there a type of motivation that is preferred?  The answer depends on the needs of the student and on the goals we as teachers have.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of motivation, and for the full research on it, readers might want to take a look at the article on motivation published on the Center for Teaching’s website [here]

As I think about my students, the needs are broad, and each is motivated by different variables. Some love to read and are intrinsically motivated to improve their decoding skills, fluency, and comprehension.  Others are motivated by grades or rewards, and a few need praise and encouragement (constantly) to get where they need to be.  For me, it’s all about knowing your kids and what makes them tick and communicating with their parents to get everyone on board the learning train.

How to Find ways to Motivate Young Readers

Cool Classrooms Motivate Young Readers

One way I motivate my students is by working to make my room one of the coolest looking rooms in the school.  I want my kids to think, “I want to be part of what’s going on in there!” This year, I went with a “Wild about Reading” theme, so I used anything with animal print.  

I put a cozy reading nook in the back corner of my room, and I have an open door policy before school where the kids can come in and read.  Sometimes, they hang out and chat with me, but most of the time they read.  I use this time to find out about their night, check on how homework went, and anything else that might be on their minds.  

Here are a few pictures of what my room looks like.

How do you motivate young readers? In this post, I share information about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and ways to help classroom teachers.

Matching Books to Readers, a way to Motivate Young Readers

Another way I motivate my students is by helping them match books to their interests.  I keep a wide variety in my classroom library, but I’ll also recommend books and titles to them for library time.  After seeing Donalyn Miller this spring, I have gone out and purchased their requests too. Usually I can find them at the used bookstore in town or online.  Here are some of the most requested titles.They may not be top quality literature, but when kids love them, they will read them.


talking about your reading is a way to Motivate Young Readers

Finally, as my students finish books, we make a big deal about that.  I encourage lots of talk about what they’re reading, what they like about the books, and allow them time to give each other recommendation.

We use the Accelerated Reader Program at our school, and I try to set the standard high for the kids and do lots of high fives as they pass tests, etc.  I’m not a huge fan of AR in and of itself, but I like the motivational part.  We have quarterly incentives for the kids such as Bouncy Houses, a trip to go tubing at a local ski slope, and at the end of the year, our librarian organizes a trip in a Limo for the top readers in each classroom.

Use Extrinsic Motivators When Needed to Motivate Young Readers

There are times when you just need to give stickers or prizes to make reading enticing. Some kids will work for a sticker. Is it ideal? Nope, but we want to focus on the end goal.


other posts on motivation:

resources that motivate young readers:

How do you motivate your students to read, have positive behavior, with homework, or with schoolwork?  If you have special products that have worked well, you are welcome to link them to this post.  I will be linking up some motivational posters that I made and hung in my room.  Those messages are read, and I believe displaying a message of the day is another way we can let the children know we believe in them and expect their best.

Have a “motivational” Friday and thanks for all you do!  Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!


Carla is a licensed reading specialist with 27 years of experience in the regular classroom (grades 1, 4, and 5), in Title 1 reading, as a tech specialists, and a literacy coach. She has a passion for literacy instruction and meeting the needs of the individual learner.