Well, why does anyone do anything? Why do you get out of bed in the morning, go to work, or tend to your family responsibilities? The question, "How do I motivate my child to read?" is often asked by parents once the child is expected to read in school. 

Instead, the first step in my pre-kindergarten Reading Readiness System is all about motivation. It is the child’s interest in reading that sets the stage for his or her success as a reader for a lifetime. In order to understand how motivation influences behaviour, it’s worth touching on the different types of motivation and how they work.

Cue lights, cue projector, ahem.

Extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to complete a task to earn a reward or avoid punishment. Like when you study hard because you want to bring home a great report card and receive praise from your parents.

Intrinsic motivation occurs when we perform the activity for its own sake, because the act alone is personally enjoyable or rewarding; an example would be solving a crossword puzzle because you find the challenge fun and exciting.

So, which one is better?

Well, some studies have shown that offering excessive rewards for something that’s already internally motivating can lead to a reduction in intrinsic motivation (called the ‘overjustification effect’). For instance, if children are rewarded for playing with a toy they are already interested in, they will become less interested in the toy after they are externally rewarded.

While intrinsic motivation is often seen as the ideal, both extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation are important ways of driving behavior.

My advice for a DIY takeaway is to observe and discover what approach is right to take with your child based on his/her unique self when it comes to reading. Discovering the right motivations and rewarding the right behaviours is instilling within your child a true interest in reading. And this, of course, should be the first step to reading readiness. 

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