Thelma Morris-Lindsey inspires children to read

How do you excite, influence, and stir the souls of our children to greatness? In other words, how do you inspire our children to read?

Create a sense of self-efficacy: I have never known anyone to do anything unless there was a feeling that they could accomplish the task at hand. Putting a book into a child’s hand is the first sign that you believe in their greatness. A book is symbolic of all that is possible for them in this world.

Carve Out Time For What You Believe Is Important:
The time and attention that you give to the art of reading is what signifies to children its worth and value. If instead of a ball you give a book, our children could predetermine their own destiny. If instead of a concert, we took them to the bookstore our children would not only have a piece of the American pie, but would bake, distribute, and sell the pie.

Interest: Let children read what they enjoy reading. Before we can introduce them to the great pieces of literature, let them read about what interests them. Let them discover, inquire, and revel in the sheer delight of books for both information and pleasure.

Loving Space: When you really think about it, some of your most amazing memories were very simple ones. Mama cooking in the kitchen, conversations outside on the porch with Grandpa… Children find a great deal of pleasure in simply spending time with you. Creating a loving space for just you and your child to dream, believe, and read will be the moments they will talk about the most. These will be the real moments that matter.

Readability level: Make sure that children are reading at their level of comfort. Each page turned should encourage another… Children should have a sense of success when reading and be able to comprehend what they have read.

Talk about books and make it applicable to the real world:
One of my favorite books is The Legend of the Valentine. Talk about the challenges and joys we confront as we go through this journey called life. Children love to talk, to share, and to learn. Read to and with your child(-ren). Ask for their opinion about the book. Would they have changed the title? Would they have reacted as the characters did in the book? Would they have written a different ending?

Let them see images that look like them: If you have or work with children of color, let the images they see in books reflect who they are. Let them be proud, hopeful, and secure in their own images. Let them know that the skin they live in is beautiful and adoring.

Have Fun: This is your five minutes of fame! Become the actress or actor you had only dreamed of becoming….Reading to and with your child should be fun. Change your voice as characters are introduced into the story. Sing the song on the page instead of reading it! When describing the place, invoke feelings of wonder, excitement, or doom and gloom if the pages call for it!

In the end, tell your children that reading is a revolutionary act. Tell them that reading defies prejudices and biases. Let your children know that reading is a change agent. Be consistent in your message about reading.

When you really think about it, reading is a constant reminder to our children that we birthed the world, inherited a legacy of great dynasties and great minds, and, every time we pick up a book, our children have an extraordinary opportunity to connect with the greatness that is rightfully theirs.

Thelma Morris-Lindsey is founding director of Earning by Learning of Dallas (EBL), a 13 year old nonprofit created to motivate children to read. EBL is in 64 Dallas ISD elementary schools and currently a part of a Harvard research study. For more information about Earning by Learning, log onto or or email

Earning by Learning • 2904 Floyd Street, Ste. A-1• Dallas, Texas 75241• Phone: 214-442-1620
This is the first in a series, where we will pose the question to folks in the children’s literature/literacy community: How can you inspire children to read?

Now, I pose the question to you: How do you inspire children to read?


4 thoughts on “Thelma Morris-Lindsey inspires children to read

  1. As a bookseller I inspire children to read by actually listening to what they have to say. When I ask a kid , What type of books they like? or What’s your favorite book? or What do you like to do? I really what to know the answers to these question so I can help the kid find the right book for them. Sometimes it takes time but its totally worth it. I love when a parent comes back looking for another book for their reluctant reader.

  2. Thanks. I’ve been wondering about this myself. My son, 6-years-old, reads very well, and is required to read for 15 minutes per day for homework. But I don’t think he really likes to read; He does it because he has to. He reads the words, but isn’t really concerned what the stories are about, and grumbles if there’s too many words to wade through.

    I thought I’d found the answer the other day as he read Dave Pilky’s (name?) Captain Underpants. He read and laughed out loud several times. But he could care less whether it’s Captain Underpants or Junie B., as long as he can quit after 15 minutes, his required time.

  3. Hello Thelma,

    Longtime classmate from Holy Cross saying Hello and wishing you well.


    Anthony Rolen

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