Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

By Laila Weir

There are so many reasons to encourage a kid to pick up a new book. Maybe you have an emerging reader who needs to build skills and confidence. Maybe you have a reluctant reader or one who’s stuck in a rut (how many times can they read Harry Potter?). Or maybe you want to keep your kid gainfully employed on weekends or vacations—without screens. Just as kids are more likely to try new foods when they are presented appealingly, an appetizing literary “spread” can get kids to try new books. Creating an enticing book grab basket can help your child choose to read more.

The goal here is simple—getting your child to read more or more widely—but your presentation can be as one-of-a-kind as you like. If you customize your grab basket for your little reader’s personality and interests, they won’t be able to resist digging in!


  • Books 
  • Basket (or other receptacle)
  • Decorations (anything you like, from ribbon or stickers to balloons, feathers, and more!)
  • Optional: Bookmarks

Cost: This activity costs as little or as much as you care to spend. Tempt your young reader for free or next to nothing with a basket, bowl, or gift bag you already have and books from the library. Or you can go all-out on a cute container and brand-new reads from your local bookshop.

Step 1 - Gather Your Books

Step 1: Gather your books. Pick up a stack of tempting titles from the library or your local independent bookstore. Thrift stores can be great sources if your reader is open to a variety of subject areas and genres. 

Choose books you’d like them to read, but make their level and preference your guideposts. The cutest basket in the world won’t tempt a hesitant reader to pick up a 1,000-page epic or a fantasy-obsessed kid to embrace an encyclopedia set. Sticking to your kid’s comfort zone in terms of length or difficulty can pay big dividends, as can capitalizing on their current interests. From there, you can stretch them little by little

The staff of independent bookstores can point you to titles that fit your child’s level or interests (or your reading goals for them), as can children’s librarians. In fact, some libraries will even provide grab bags with a curated selection of books for a particular age or reading level! Make sure that the chosen books have eye-catching covers and/or intriguing titles likely to make your child want to take a peek inside.

Step 2 - Customize Your Basket

Step 2: Customize your basket. Select a bowl or basket (or make your own by supersizing our mini-basket tutorial with large-format paper). The key is to choose something wide enough that you can fan out the books to pique interest, and portable enough that your kid can cart it to a cozy reading corner.

Next, dress it up. Ribbon tied on and curled is a quick and easy way to make any basket attractive; a colorful balloon or two would seal the deal, especially for younger kids. A few well-chosen embellishments can go a long way, but you can also get as detailed as you like. 

Not sure how to get started? Think themes: add soccer ball stickers for a sports-obsessed reader, horse pictures for animal lovers, and feathers or flowers for your nature child. Consider adding book-page pencil pinwheels or origami book-page butterflies to tie in a writing theme.

For a reluctant reader, a special occasion, or a long car trip, you might choose to include a few reading snacks or a small new toy or collectible in the basket. But beware of relying too much on food or toys, since the goal is to tempt them with books, not schwag.

Step 3 - Assemble Your Grab Basket

Step 3: Assemble your grab basket. Add the books to your basket and fan them out to display the most tantalizing covers. Consider adding an eye-catching bookmark, which gives a child one more reason to explore the books. Libraries and bookstores usually give away bookmarks, but you could also make your own. What kid could resist these adorable kitty bookmarks peeking out over the pages of a new book? Kids also love our tasseled bookmarks and fruit slice corner markers.

Step 4 - Let the Reading Begin

Step 4: Let the reading begin! When you’re ready, surprise your child with the basket or leave it in a place where it will catch their attention … and then let their curiosity do the rest. 

Sit back and enjoy the silence as your child sinks into their next great read. Or, better yet, grab a book and curl up next to them. After all, the dishes can wait, and making reading social is among the best ways to encourage children’s literacy. Happy reading!

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