Reading Incentive Basket

Help your kids WANT to read!!

So it’s summer holidays in our house (WOOHOO!) and I couldn’t be more excited! I am always concerned about how to make my children read over school breaks especially because, since we homeschool, reading can really feel like school.

My son has been a struggling reader for many years, and he’s finally starting to get it! To help encourage him to read even after the end of the school year, and to encourage my JK and SK daughters, who seem to be catching on to reading quite well, I decided to make a Reading Incentive Basket. I have seen this kind of thing before, but in speaking to an Educational Therapist this week, I was reminded of it, and decided to give it a try.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

I love to read because of the reading basket! It has such great stuff in it like lip gloss and perfume!

4-year-old Daughter

The Premise:

An Incentive Basket can be used in many circumstances to help children to take the initiative in learning. My sister uses this kind of idea for when her kids do extra chores. When her kids complete an extra chore they get to pick a prize out of the basket. For my kids, they get to pick something when they have read.

Prize Ideas:

My son is 9, and my daughters are 4 and 6, so I got prizes appropriate for their ages, but I put it all in one basket so anyone can pick anything. And I’ve been surprised by some of the choices! I also put doubles of most of the girly things so my daughters can have one each. I went to the Dollar Tree for my prizes, and some things, like a pack of three notebooks or a pack of 25 tattoos cost $1.25, so look for things like that that you can divide, that way you can get more bang for your buck (twenty-five). So here is some of what I bought:

  • bottles of Jones Cane Sugar Soda (1 each, three different flavours)
  • 3 notebooks (divided)
  • pack of 5 Fun Dips (divided)
  • pack of 4 Popeye Candy Sticks (divided)
  • foam glider
  • lip gloss
  • temporary tattoos
  • hula hoops
  • dust pan and brush (for their Play House…sounds lame, but they were excited!)
  • body spray
  • masquerade masks
  • paddle board and ball game
  • balloons (pack of 15 divided in three)
  • twisty straws (pack of 5 divided)
  • craft feathers
  • stick on nails
  • butterfly net
  • padlock
  • magnifying glass
  • laser flashlight
  • mechanical pencil (pack of 5 divided)
  • battery operated tea lights
  • animals that grow in water (pack of two divided)
  • recorder
  • rope
  • colouring book

I love the reading basket because if you read you get a prize. It helps me to read.

9-year-old Son

My prizes cost me about $60, and equaled about 60 prize items in it. I also threw in some of my things that I have, but don’t use, like lipstick and a mirror compact.

When I got home from the Dollar Tree on Monday I grabbed a big shallow basket to put all of the prizes in. I wanted a shallow receptacle so they kids could see many of the items without having to dig around. I put them all (divided) into the basket and thought about my rules for obtaining a prize.

My Rules for Obtaining a Prize:

Photo by cottonbro on

Originally I said that they could read a book for a prize. My four-year-old is just learning, so she’s rather limited, and every book is a struggle. I have a pack of really beginner books that I got out new (to us) for this purpose. I got out the older kid version of these books for my SK. My son could read almost anything he wanted, but then he tried to read baby board books, so I new I needed more rules. My husband asked him if he really thought he deserved a prize for reading these books, and he said “no,” so it was not a battle at all. Phew. This is supposed to be fun, after all. So yesterday (the day I showed them the basket) we read for about two hours and flew through the prizes.

I like the reading basket because it has prizes in it like stick-on nails and candy. Every single time you read you get a prize. I have to read two books to get a prize.

6-year-old Daughter

On Tuesday, I got up and was read to almost immediately – they just had to wait until I made my tea! Then I listened to them read for two and a half hours. Yep. It was intense. I explained to them my thought of it not being fair having all three follow the same requirements so we agreed that my son would read 3 books, my older daughter would read two, and the little daughter would read one. They could pick anything they wanted from the ottoman, except the big ones couldn’t choose really baby books. If they chose a book that had a tonne of words in it I might make it count as more than one book.

On Wednesday we had my husband’s aunt over for a backyard lunch (she brought lunch, bless her) and all three of the kids spent some time reading to her.

We’re a reading kind of family, so that helps, too. Here is an old picture of them reading in our ottomanšŸ„°.


  • The child has to read the agreed upon number of books
  • If they are a beginner reader (my JK) they have to read to me
  • If they are a self-sufficient reader they can read to another member of the family (then I ask both reader and listener what the story was about to make sure they did it)
  • You can’t read the same book twice
  • You can’t read a book that Mum says is too easy *Read the footnote on this baby!
  • You DO NOT get a reading basket prize for reading a chapter of your chapter book, but when you’ve finished the book you get a $5 bill.

Encourage, Don’t Discourage

*Try not to discourage your children from reading what they want to read, even if it’s too easy. Reading is reading. BUT my son was doing it to be lazy, not because he actually wanted to read “That’s not my Dinosaur.” If they are genuinely interested in “That’s not my Dinosaur” then maybe they can read it as well as another baby board book to equal one big kid book. The Educational Therapist I spoke to last week warned my husband and I that we shouldn’t tell them that books are too easy, especially if they’re interested in the content. She said that if kids read the easy stuff it boosts their confidence in their ability to read, and they’ll naturally move towards the more difficult stuff (that’s a paraphrase).

In the few short days we’ve had this Reading Incentive Basket all of my children have improved in their reading, especially my JK, and we have read for HOURS more than we normally would have. Bonus: I have NEVER said, “Let’s read now!” or anything of the sort. Talk about taking the battle out of reading! I wish I’d done this years ago, and I really hope you give it a go! Let me know how it worked for you in the comments!


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