Getting active kids reading

Sitting and reading is not the only way.

At age five, girls are able to sit still and listen about 2.5 times longer than boys, according to studies.

But we don’t need research to tell us that most boys would rather get up and move around than sit and read.

Here are some great ways to keep active kids happy while they’re learning. (Statistically, this tends to be a boy issue–so we’re using the male pronoun–but if you’ve got an active girl these tips will apply just as well.)

1) LET HIM MOVE. Let your son play with a ball while you read to him. Having a ball to quietly hold and catch helps lots of kids concentrate better.

2) INTERRUPT THE STORY. When you come to a plot point, stop and ask him, “why do you think that happened?” or “what do you think that meant?” Not only does it help with comprehension, but it breaks up the monotony of listening.

3) GO OUTSIDE. It’s called “environmental literacy” – finding things to read outside. There are tons of signs and advertisements to read out there, and even word puzzles to figure out. What does that parking sign mean? When can you park here? How much is parking? What is that an ad for? Do you believe the ad? He’ll have to read carefully to figure out the answers.

4) MAKE EVERYTHING A CONTEST. Active kids, and especially kids who like sports, love to be timed, challenged, and rewarded. When you play literacy games, getting out a stopwatch can bring the right measure of fun competition to it.

5) PLAY ACTIVE GAMES. Take a long strip of paper – say four feet long by four inches high (or several strips). In marker, write a sentence on it. Then cut the sentence up into words. Hide the words around your backyard or playground. Have the child run around and collect the words, bringing each one back to you when it’s found, before running out and getting the next one. When he has them all, he can piece them all into a sentence. Time him and see if he can do it faster the second time around.

6) HOST A TREASURE HUNT. Use signs to lead your child up to his bedroom, across to his dresser, over to the bathroom, down to the basement, into a closet, up to the attic, into the fridge… and then over to the dining room table, where he’ll find his treat (chocolate, or a wrapped book, or some other small reward). It’s a great game that combines reading with physical activity.

7) WRITE A STORY WHILE YOU’RE WALKING. Schedule a long walk, just the two of you. While you’re walking, lead him to create a story – with characters, an interesting setting and a couple of plot points.

Extending this activity: When you get back home, he can dictate the story so you can write it down, or he can type it up. Make it into a book and add illustrations. He’ll have something tangible that he has created.

This post is part of the Literacy Blog Tour (March 8-14, 2010) – welcome tourists! We hope you’ll be back again and again.


  1. Jen Robinson

    Great tips, Joyce! I'd add listen to audiobooks while in the car, too (I guess you sit and listen, but you can use audiobooks while doing more active things, too).

  2. Anonymous

    April is National Poetry Month. The 3rd Annual “Paws for Poetry” Contest Challenges Kids to Write Sonnets to Spaniels, Prose for Persian Cats

    Colorado Springs, CO (March1, 2010) –April marks the 14th anniversary of National Poetry Month.
    To help celebrate, budding Emily Dickinsons and Edgar Allan Poes are encouraged to participate in the 3rd annual “Paws for Poetry” Contest (PawsforPoetry.org). To enter, children ages 5-12 are to write a poem to, and provide a photo of, their favorite animal friend. The contest is co-sponsored by kids’ virtual field trip Web site Meet Me at the Corner (MeetMeAtTheCorner.org) and Flashlight Press (FlashLightPress.com ).

    Original poems of any length may be submitted in one of two categories: Group One (ages 5-9) and Group Two (ages 10-12). One grand prize winner in each category will receive a prize package worth $50.00. Two runners-up in each category will receive a $25.00 gift package. Children’s author, poet, and Iraqi war veteran Thad Krasnesky, writer of the upcoming “That Cat Can’t Stay” (Flashlight Press, 2010) is the contest judge.

    In addition to the prize packages, winning poems and pet photos will be highlighted in an upcoming Meet Me at the Corner video pod cast. The pod cast will be videotaped at New York’s Angellicle Cat Rescue Center. Local students will present the winning poems.

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    For more information, rules and submission guidelines, visit PawsforPoetry.org.

  3. Anonymous

    March is Youth Art Month!

    Celebrate YOUTH ART MONTH with MEET ME AT THE CORNER, Virtual Field Trips for Kids.

    Our child host visits with San Diego illustrator Lori Mitchell author of DIfferent Like Me and Holly Blooms's Garden from FlashLight Press. Lori talks about her life as an illustrator and her life as an artist. Links to fun websites filled with great art projects for kids.

    MEET ME AT THE CORNER, Virtual Field Trips for Kids (www.meetmeatthecorner.org)
    is a series of free educational video pod casts is directed at kids ages 7-12. Each three-minute episode includes links to fun websites, a list of recommended books and a Learning Corner of questions and extended activities about the topic.

  4. The Book Chook

    Great ideas here, Joyce. And you are so right about that stopwatch. It's a great motivator!

  5. Tidy Books

    Excellent tips here, especially as I have a boy, just turned 5.

    Glad the Literacy Blog Tour led me here.

  6. Melissa Taylor

    I love these ideas, especially how you've made them so active. Thank you.

  7. Dawn Riccardi Morris

    Thanks for the great ideas!

    I have a very active son, who plays a lot of team sports. He LOVES to sit down and read too, though. It's not always easy to find books he likes, but when he does, he can sit there for hours!

    He's pretty picky about books, but if they're about a sport he likes, that's the best of both worlds for him. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that for him, there's a time to be running around outside, and there's a time to escape into the world of reading. When you can link the two together, it makes a big difference.

  8. Terry Doherty

    These are great ideas, Joyce. My Sister-in-Law says that it drives her nuts, but her son likes to kick his soccer ball around while they are drilling him for tests. I like the idea of doing more with environmental literacy.

  9. Dawn Little (Links to Literacy)

    Great ideas, Joyce! I love the active game of hiding words outside to create a sentence! And since it finally seems that spring is around the corner, we might just play that soon! In response to Terry's comment. . . my son likes to run around the kitchen table when we study his spelling words. It's really amazing how much better he does when he is able to be active! Thanks again, Joyce!

  10. GREAT, WONDERFUL ideas!!! I've got one of those active boys and this has provided me with some more ideas!! Thank you!!

  11. Cathy Puett Miller AKA The Literacy Ambassador

    Joyce, I know many who have active children (especially boys) are looking at reading in a new way after reading your post. I might add that there are great "act it out" books that children can participate in like the several versions of "We're Goin' On A Bear Hunt" (my favorite by Helen Oxbury), Anna Banana: 101 Jump Rope Rhymes, and 1-2-3 Jump by Jane Fladd.

  12. Sandy Fussell

    Such excellent ideas. As the mum of an active boy I found this immediately useful and then I tweeted it because I know so many other mums (and anyone reading to kids) will think so too

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