Kimber Brown, a program director for Teach for America, says the incentive to read is different for every child. "For anyone to be motivated to do anything, they have to believe two things: (1) They have to believe they can do it, and (2) they have to want to do it," Kimber says. Some kids may be motivated by a sticker on the chart, while others may need the promise of a more tangible prize, like a trip to the community pool or zoo, to catch their attention. However, Thom Barthelmess, president of the Association of Library Service to Children, cautions parents against promising TV time in exchange for reading. "Kids are smart and they're paying attention, and the message we want to give them is that reading is its own reward. When we [offer TV as a reward for reading], we show them that reading is what you do to get something really valuable, like watch TV," Thom says.
The biggest motivator for children is often as simple as knowing that adults are rooting for their success. When you hear a young reader struggling with a new word, remind her of the words she's already learned. "What helps a child get through those certain roadblocks ... is having someone who's constantly on their side letting them know they can do it," Kimber says.