In this age of Facebook, Snapchat, Youtube, and iTunes, getting kids to crack open a book --and finish it -- is posing a real challenge for parents like me. 

Thanks to massive leaps in technology, and the pervasiveness of social media, competition for our children's time and attention is intense. 

Several research studies underscore what we as parents already know: Developing a consistent reading habit at a young age makes kids more likely to succeed in school. Studies show that reading often is also likely to increase their chances of succeeding at their careers.

Here are five things you can do to encourage your kids to read more -- and three things you should discourage them from doing:

1. Read to them from an early age.

I read to each of my kids since they were infants. It was an activity that we spent many hours enjoying together, and I'm convinced it helped them to become the strong readers that they are today. Today, while my teenage son (understandably) no longer wants me to read to him, my ten-year-old daughter still enjoys it.

2. Teach them how to read.

Reading to your kids is essential, but take it one step further and play an active role in teaching them how to read. Don't outsource such a critical skill entirely to their teachers.

In addition to reading regularly to my son and daughter since they were babies, when they were about four or five years-old, I taught them how to read phonetically using the Hooked on Phonics system. 

3. Buy books -- and lots of them.

While my kids have enjoyed their share of toys and games, I've always bought a lot of books for them. When they were old enough, I let them choose books they like to read. 

Just the presence of books at home can be a motivating factor for our kids. Recent research shows that having a lot of books around the house is an indicator of the future success of children.

4. Ask them questions about what they've read.

Of course, besides learning how to read, you want to make sure your kids are understanding what they read. One way educators suggest you do this is to ask questions about the content of the story. It's not only a good way to help them think through what they're reading, it lets you get even more deeply engaged in your kids' reading journey.

5. Let them see you read.

For any good behavior that you want to instill in your children, as a parent, you need to model it. I read a lot at home, and I bring books -- and, more recently, my iPhone with the Kindle reading app -- wherever I go. They see me enjoy books and they know I still spend time to read.

Positive incentives are a good way to motivate your kids to read. But as any parent knows, the temptations of technology can be too strong to resist for kids. That's why you need to set some boundaries. Here are three things parents can do to limit their children's use of technology:

1. Limit use of the internet.

We all know just how much time the internet can take away from our lives if we let it. While software is available that limits when and for how long you can access the internet, ultimately, it's up to you as a parent to set clear usage limits for your kids. 

2. Shut-off the TV.

We cancelled our cable TV subscription several years ago. And since Netflix only recently became available in the country where we live, we haven't developed a habit of binge-watching movies or TV series.

No, we're not Luddites. We download or stream movies from time to time from the iTunes store. My son enjoys going out to the movies with his friends. And my daughter watches too many Youtube videos. But we are, finally, a TV-free household, so that's one less distraction.

3. Restrict smartphone usage.

This one is tough, especially for teens and tweens that are addicted to social media. A recent article in The New York Times shows that kids are getting smartphones at a younger age, exposing them to the benefits -- and dangers --of the internet.

Again, it's up to parents to decide at what age they'll let their kids have their first smartphone. Most experts agree, however, the longer you wait, the better. And be sure to set clear rules and include consequences for non-compliance.

Published on: Jul 25, 2016
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