A middle grade boy with dark hair wearing a striped shirt. He is on the floor. His chest is propped on a pillow and he's reading a book open on the floor in front of him.

Should You Be Tracking Your Child’s Reading Time?

September 4, 2023

In today’s digital age, parents often find themselves grappling with the challenge of motivating their children to read. With the proliferation of screens and distractions, keeping kids engaged in books can be a daunting task. One approach that has gained popularity, particularly among elementary grade schools and teachers is the requirement to track your child’s reading time. While this practice has its advantages, it’s not without its drawbacks. Below are some pros and cons of tracking your child’s reading time.

Benefits of Tracking Your Child’s Reading Time

Accountability and Goal Setting

Recent studies from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have shown that setting and monitoring reading goals can significantly improve a child’s reading performance. By tracking reading time, parents can hold their children accountable for their reading habits and encourage them to set achievable goals. In fact, a survey by the American Association of School Librarians found that 78% of students who set and tracked reading goals reported an improvement in their reading skills.

Improved Literacy Skills

According to the U.S. Department of Education, tracking reading time can lead to improved literacy skills. Recent data shows that students who read for 20 minutes or more per day scored higher on standardized reading tests compared to those who read for less than five minutes. This suggests that regular reading, when tracked, can have a direct positive impact on a child’s literacy development.

Moreover, tracking reading time allows parents to identify reading challenges early on. If a child consistently struggles to reach their reading goals, it may indicate the need for additional support or intervention, such as tutoring or speech therapy.

Parental Involvement

Parental involvement in a child’s education is crucial for their academic success. Tracking reading time creates an opportunity for parents to actively participate in their child’s reading journey. A study conducted by the National Center for Family Literacy found that children whose parents track their reading time are more likely to view reading as a positive activity and are more motivated to read regularly.

When parents engage in discussions about the books their children are reading and celebrate reading milestones, it fosters a strong reading culture within the family. This not only enhances the child’s reading experience but also strengthens the parent-child relationship.

Disadvantages of Tracking Your Child’s Reading Time

Stress and Pressure

While setting reading goals can be beneficial, excessive tracking and pressure to meet these goals can have adverse effects. Recent data from the American Psychological Association reveals that excessive stress in childhood can lead to a range of physical and mental health issues. Constantly monitoring reading time can inadvertently create stress and anxiety in children, making reading feel like a chore rather than an enjoyable activity. It’s important to strike a balance between tracking progress and allowing children to read at their own pace.

Loss of Intrinsic Motivation

According to a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, extrinsic motivation (rewards and external pressures) can undermine a child’s intrinsic motivation (self-driven desire to read). When children are constantly rewarded or monitored for their reading time, they may lose the natural joy and curiosity that comes with reading for pleasure.

Over time, this can lead to a situation where children only read when they expect a reward or praise, rather than reading because they genuinely enjoy it. This can hinder the development of a lifelong reading habit.

Limited Diversity in Reading Material

Tracking reading time can inadvertently restrict a child’s choice of reading material. In their eagerness to meet reading goals, children may opt for shorter or easier books that they can finish quickly. This may lead to a lack of diversity in their reading choices, limiting their exposure to different genres, cultures, and perspectives.

Recent research from Scholastic indicates that a broad and diverse reading experience is essential for a child’s cognitive and social development. Tracking reading time should not come at the expense of exploring a wide range of books.

Tracking your child’s reading time can be a valuable tool for fostering a love of reading and improving literacy skills. However, it’s important to approach this practice with caution and sensitivity, taking into consideration the potential stress and loss of intrinsic motivation it may cause. By finding a balance between monitoring progress and allowing for freedom in reading choices, parents can create a positive reading environment that benefits their child’s development in the long run. Ultimately, the goal should be to instill a lifelong love of reading that goes beyond mere numbers on a clock.

Our Literacy Tips are presented by Reader’s Digest Foundation.