10 Wily and Unconventional Ways to Keep Kids Reading and Off YouTube

Getting kids to read more is as easy as “losing” the iPad charger and following these easy steps.

School is a pretty great thing. Not only is education incredibly important, but there are some ancillary benefits that come with the package. I love my kid, and I love having him around, but there’s some truth to that adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Nevertheless, even teachers deserve to enjoy the warmth and sunlight before we plunge into the dark reality of Canadian winter. For just over two months, it falls upon us parents to ensure that the kids don’t close shop in their brains for the summer and forget everything they’ve ever known – and then some. My son even claimed one summer that he couldn’t remember how to operate the dishwasher.

Based on some of the YouTube channels he was watching, it might've been true.

Pry your kids away from the Boob Tube and keep them reading so that when summer ends, we don’t discover that the wheel is turning, but the hamster died tragically of brain malnutrition due to exclusive consumption of 8-bit Ryan.

If you’re worried that you’re going to have to make a reading list and lesson plan – don’t be. Getting kids to read more is as easy as “losing” the iPad charger and following these easy steps.

Embrace opportunities to read… where you find them

Most of these opportunities may look exactly like a bathroom. Stick a basket of appropriate tub-and-toilet consumption reads in a handy basket between the two. Factoid books like “Toilet Trivia” and kids’ books like “Everybody Poops” will be popular choices. Leaving books sitting on the kitchen table along with your “Beware: here be no electronic devices” rule may also encourage some thumbing through.

Hit up the comic store

Graphic novels are big right now, and there are books and comics for every age and type of fan… including the adult men in our life. The best part is, if you don’t use the word “reading” or “learning” in ear shot, kids will never clue in to the fact that they’re doing something educational. I won’t tell if you don’t.

Hit the road, Jack

Arguing over who has shotgun now has consequences. Plan a day-trip where you can use MapQuest, print out the directions, and tap your front-seat winner as “navigator.” You’ll have him reading instructions and road signs in no time. You’re probably less likely to end up in a river than if you followed certain map apps' instructions, so there’s literally no downside to this.

Make it competitive

True story: everything is more fun with a reward system that your kids can brag about. Register at a local library for the TD Summer Reading Club where kids will get official notebook and stickers to keep track of the books they’ve read. The more books they read, the more stickers they get. It won’t be long before Pokémon-itis kicks in and your kids decide they “have to get them all.”

P.S., whoever invented stickers as a reward system for kids was a genius.

Eating In – or out

Menus count as reading. Whoever says it doesn’t is a dirty liar. If you spread out two-dozen takeout menus on the table that you’ve got stashed, then you also don’t have to be the one to figure out what’s for dinner tonight. And it will keep the kids occupied for approximately 47 minutes while they argue about the merits of Sweet and Sour Chicken over Souvlaki. This is what we call a win-win-win.

Make a game of it!

Did your grandma always whoop your butt at Scrabble like mine did? Time to pay it forward with some family fun, kids. The adults will be gloating and the kids will be reading the dictionary in no time. Boggle Junior makes it easy and convenient to include the younger readers, too.

Share classics you loved

I mean, if Treasure Island floated your boat, that’s great. But I went over to Amazon looking for Sideways Stories from Wayside School for my “classic.” Because of all the books and summer reading lists I had as a kid, it’s the oddball characters like Calvin, the kid who had a tattoo of a potato, and Sammy the dead rat, and kids getting trapped on the 19th story that I remember best.

… or Find something new to celebrate Canada’s birthday

There’s been a lot of hype for Canada 150, and some great book lists have come out to celebrate the occasion. For an easy list to peruse by age range, check out TD’s Summer Reading Club which has 150 books on it (75 in English and 75 in French). If your children are in French Immersion and you have been worried about keeping up their French over the summer, your life has now been made that much easier. You’re welcome!

Spend some time with your inner rapper

Nothing annoys a kid like spending time on rhyme. I do it all the time. It makes me feel fine and it’s a great way to stay sharp.


Hit it, flip it, rap it, pass it to the kid to cap it.

Pro tip: Long car trips are the best place for rhyming shenanigans, and it works even better when you can tag team the rhymes with your partner. Make sure you lock the doors first, so the older ones can’t escape the lesson plan.

Use the tablet for the power of good

I’m busy, you’re busy, everyone’s busy and sometimes you just need 30 minutes of uninterrupted peace and quiet while you pay bills, sit in a doctor’s office, or make dinner. That’s when the tablet sings its siren song loudest. Don’t let avoidance drive you to crazy town. Instead, be sneaky and load up the tablet with e-books and other reading-type game apps and “mysteriously” delete YouTube.

Then go find that charger cable you “lost.”



Anne is one of those people who usually speaks to others in memes, pop culture references, and SAT words. On those occasions she can be understood at all, she likes to entertain others with a sense of humour usually described by friends as “hilarious—once you get to know her.”