Thursday, February 11, 2010

Booking Through Thursday Post...

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?

In the book Gifted Hands by brilliant surgeon Ben Carson, one of the things that turned his life around was his mother’s requirement that he and his brother read books and write book reports for her. That approach worked with him, but I have been afraid to try it. My children don’t need to “turn their lives around,” but they would gain so much from reading and I think they would enjoy it so much if they would just stop telling themselves, “I just don’t like to read.”

This is a difficult question I think because it ultimately depends on the child in question. Every person is different therefore there will be a lot of different responses to different methods. Therefore while the book report thing may have worked for that kid, I think it's a bit excessive myself and if my Mom had tried it with me I probably would have resented it.
The thing about reading is that I don't think you can enforce a love of reading on a kid/person. They are either going to like to read or they aren't. What you can do is give them incentives to like reading/encourage it. For example if they like stuff like Nancy Drew and the other so-called bad books for kids that you don't necessarily think is worthwhile, please, let them read it. The point is that they are reading something and they enjoy it; that is good and it may encourage them to move on to bigger better things like the classics/other books. Don't force literature down their throats, because that may backfire on you.
One thing I know that worked for me (believe it or not, I actually once hated to read as a kid) was that my Mom signed me up for my own library card. She then made it a weekly/bi-weekly habit of going to the library and letting me choose any book I wanted (within reason, she told me to wait on Sherlock Holmes when I was seven at the time). Gradually I became excited about going back to the library and finding new books/stories to explore. I also know this has been done with other kids and has worked before.
But ultimately, it has to be up to the kid. Let the kid decide if he/she wants to be a reader. If they don't turn out to be big readers then just learn to let it go. That's who they are and they won't appreciate you lamenting over the fact every time they turn around and may resent reading even more as a result. Just point out to them that they will be facing reading a lot in school/work so it probably would be a good thing if they enjoyed it.


  1. I think reading is a discipline that needs to be instilled. I think the problem with children not reading is that there are other forms of entertainment that really do encourage mental laziness like tv and video games. When you are used to not using your mind and imagination it becomes very hard when you are required to do so.

    Here is mine

  2. I definitely would have resented book reports when I was younger! Nice answer.

    I posted a Valentines book-related question at The Crowded Leaf if you're interested!

  3. I don't think my mother would even have come up with the idea of book reports. Of course, I was always a voracious reader anyway. I agree, different "encouragements" work on different children.

    This was a fun topic. My thoughts are here.