Thursday, February 11, 2010

Booking Through Thursday

(BTT is hosted by

This week's question:

How can you encourage a non-reading child to read? What about a teen-ager? Would you require books to be read in the hopes that they would enjoy them once they got into them, or offer incentives, or just suggest interesting books? If you do offer incentives and suggestions and that doesn’t work, would you then require a certain amount of reading? At what point do you just accept that your child is a non-reader?

As a home schooling mom, I ran into this problem with my oldest child. We always had books around the house, and we read to all the children from when they were tiny babies until they no longer wanted to be read to (about middle school age). I thought by giving the children access to books, taking them to the library, and reading to them, it would instill the same type of love for reading that I had. I know, I was young and foolish :)

When we started teaching my son how to read, and had him reading the beginner books, he was frustrated because he thought the stories were dumb and pointless. We searched, changed readers, changed everything we could think of and by third grade, he didn't want to read any longer and was getting to the point of hating to read. It became a struggle every day, so I made a rash decision. I was no longer going to make him read.

My husband thought I was crazy, especially with him in third grade with mandatory testing looming over our heads. He was sure I was really screwing up and that we would be required to send our son to school because he wouldn't test well. We had tons of discussions, but I stuck to my guns.

I told my son he no longer had to read "stupid" books. In fact, he didn't have to read at all. You should have seen that boy's face. It lit up like a beacon! I went on to tell him that since he wasn't reading, he would be required to sit next to me while I read to him. That was fine with him, "as long as the books weren't stupid".

All through third grade, our son (and daughter) sat next to me while I read from books that were beyond his reading and age level. He enjoyed good literature and stories that had meaning, adventure, and good values. He, of course, read along with me, and I would see his lips moving while I was reading. Every once in a while I'd miss a word or phrase, and he'd jump right on it, telling me that I got the word wrong or skipped something. He was anxious for our reading time, and as time went on, he started wandering off with books again. When the mandatory test results came back, his scores were very high and my husband couldn't believe that we were successful.

I believe that each of us has our own needs and learning style, and those have to be nurtured. If a teen hates to read, my question is "WHY?". Once we get to the bottom of the problem, the solution is plain. It's just discovering the problem. Making a teen boy read a romance that he despises just because it's a classic is absurd. There are so many classics out there that I'm sure one can be found to fit his personality.

My son is now off in college as a history major. He loves to read and has an overflowing bookcase of books he can't part with. We can't go past a bookstore without having to stop and browse and we never leaving empty-handed. He took his favorites with him to college, although I'm sure he doesn't have much time to look at them. He said they are if he wants them.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this fantastic question. Make sure to LEAVE YOUR COMMENT or link to your answer below!!


  1. I enjoyed reading this. I only have one left at home, and he prefers video games and computer games to reading, sadly.

  2. I agree that the list of classics is weighted more toward female readers. I think that guys can respond to books like Ender's Game or Lord of the Rings and both are as much literature as Pride and Prejudice.

    Of course, there is nothing good about Lord of the Flies. LOL

  3. What a wonderful story! I think reading aloud is one of the best things out there. My mom read to us for years and I started the tradition when my oldest was tiny. Unfortunately my second two are fidgeters and never really got into it. I've sadly had to give up that pleasure, but thankfully, they both thoroughly enjoy reading on their own. I wonder if they'll ever try reading aloud to their kids some day?

  4. Sounds like you nailed it. I'm not a fan of all their methods, but the Waldorf schools have an interesting concept that mirrors your approach. They don't "teach" reading until about third grade. They just read out loud a lot and all engage in storytelling. Most kids read on their own when they're ready. If they haven't by the time their in third grade, they push a bit harder, but nothing Draconian. It seems to work for them and I often think we push it too hard in public schools. Sometimes I think the best solution would be to forbid reading on your own until you're something like ten years old. You're just not allowed. And be mean about it. Hide books on the top shelves. Then we'd have the best readers on the planet!

  5. A cool story. Thanks for sharing it. Perhaps, something that they can relate to is the key. Thank you for visiting my blog. Hope to see you again soon.

  6. You write so nicely ! I could actually imagine your little boy's eyes lit up :)
    Ahh..The more you force any child to do a particular thing, the more he/she will do the exact opposite of it..!

  7. I loved your post. Your approach to your son's lack of interest in reading was creative and I'm glad to hear that it worked. I think reading becomes a hated chore for some kids when they are forced to do so by parents or schools whether it is being forced to read a certain type of book or just forced to read in general.

    One of my English professors said he hated to read until one year when he was a young teen and he was sick at home and someone gave him a comic book. He was so bored that he devoured the comic book which lead to reading more comic books and then all kinds of books.

    I have always loved reading but I hated having to analyze what I read while I was in the middle of reading it. I always felt that teachers spoiled a good story when they made us try to answer questions about what we've read so far and theme and what we think will happen. I would rather read the book and enjoy it and analyze it to death afterwards!

    You are right in your post when you say that everyone has their own learning style. There are people out there who will never enjoy reading (I personally don't understand it but to each his own) but in most cases it is true that people have to come to reading on their own terms.

  8. Choosing the right book is important. Giving Moby Dick to a teen may not encourage reading.

    Here is mine

  9. Kudos to you for having the patience to home school.

  10. I really enjoyed reading of your experience with home schooling. And I sure enjoyed visiting your blog...I just became a new follower. Will be looking forward to your future posts.

  11. What a wonderful story! I loved that. I don't have any children yet but I know that when I do, odds are one won't like to read. This gives me hope that maybe with a little time they'll come around!

  12. A success story! I love these.

    I think that, once the mandatory reading is lifted from a lot of people, they'd be more likely to read. That's one of the problems I find with regular mandatory education. You have to really balance the necessity of getting kids up to reading level and exposing them to the classics without shoving it down their throats. I know far too many people who said they hate reading or hate certain books because they were forced to read when in school.

  13. Great post! And congrats on the great job you did with your son's reading problem. I think the fact that my mother read to me when I was a child had a lot to do with my love of books and reading.

  14. That's a wonderful suggestion! We are struggling transitioning my daughter from toddler/baby books to reading on her own and more challenging children's literature. I read aloud to my son when he was her age, quite complicated books that were just a shade above his comprehension level but were thrilling stories that he loved. I haven't even considered doing the same for her because she is at a different level than he was, but it just might be the incentive she needs. Thank you for sharing!

  15. We read longer books to our son while he picks out the books he wants to read. It's a nice mixture that way of things he can read himself and longer stories that capture his imagination.

  16. I'm glad this all worked out for you! I was lucky that I've always loved reading, but if I hadn't, being forced to read would have backfired. Everyone is definitely different.