I love books. I love big, thick novels penned by wordy English writers and footnote-heavy volumes by American historians. I usually have at least two or three books in the works at any one time, but usually of different genres, so I don’t get confused. Or bored.
And because people know I love reading, and because I write about homeschooling, I often hear from moms who are distraught, (or at least concerned,) because their children just don’t like books.
And I bite down on a smile and gently reassure that mom that all hope is not lost.
Because there was a time when I didn’t like books either.
I did well in school. I made good grades. I was a smart kid.
But I didn’t like reading.
Or let me amend that to say I didn’t like book reading. I always had an interest in American history, (some things never change,) and I could spend hours flipping through history books and encyclopedias. I was intrigued by current events and politics, too, and would pour over my parents’ news magazines from cover to cover.
But books? No. I liked thumbing through them and reading excerpts and picture captions, but I rarely ever read a book through. I wanted to — I could fill a notebook with a list of the titles I started and never finished — but it was rare that I ever got through a book. And if I liked one enough to actually finish it, I was likely to read it again at least three more times in the weeks that followed.
There are so many things I realize now inhibited my reading of books. I try very hard to apply the little lessons I’ve learned in the way I teach and encourage my children to read. Trust me, moms, your 8 year old isn’t doomed to academic failure because they don’t like reading. Your 10 (or 12, 14 or even 18) year old has not closed the door on lifelong learning just because they haven’t yet developed a deep love for books.
Believe it or not, I was married before I really, truly fell in love with books. In fact, I credit nursing with driving a love of books within me! Reading generally requires sitting and, unless I’m writing, sitting isn’t easy for me to do. Nursing, however, FORCED me to sit, which helped develop that habit of reading that has carried on for years now.
So you have a child who hates reading. Well may I share a few suggestions?
Remember that reading is reading, even if it doesn’t include books.
I still call myself an ADD reader. I am easily distracted and quickly lose interest, which is part of why I think I prefer reading several books at once. If one gets a little slow, I can always switch to another!
For some kids, particularly those with shorter attention spans, one long, continuous story line may be overwhelming. The same child may love short stories or they may enjoy brief articles about subjects that interest them. While your child may not read stacks and stacks of books, they may devour magazine articles or blog posts. See if your son or daughter enjoys reading more if they can do it in smaller doses.
Don’t rush reading.
Honestly, this was one of the greatest reasons I didn’t develop a deep love for books until I was older. I just am not a fast reader. In fact, I can’t enjoy a book at all if I’m not able to slowly and carefully digest it. Especially given the way I read multiple books at once, it can sometimes take me weeks to finish a book.
And that’s okay.
In public school I was often required to read thick books in a ridiculously short amount of time. For me, it was an impossible task, so I would read as much as I could and count on my good writing skills to cover for me in the event of a test. My senior year of high school we were expected to read one book per month from a list of the 100 greatest books of all time. Even though many of those books were incredibly thick volumes, a month’s worth of time was probably reasonable for most kids, but I still couldn’t do it! Thank heavens for the plays on the list! Had it not been for Shakespeare and Thornton Wilder, I never could have completed the assignment.
My point is, give kids time. Let them read in little chunks and enjoy a book at their own pace, not yours or even your homeschooling curriculum’s.
Give reading its own window of time in your home.
I would have read more as a child and teen had time been intentionally carved out of my day for it. I’m not opposed to forcing reading, (with some kids it may be necessary,) but YOU should make a time for it rather than expecting your child to find a time for it.
Set a certain amount of time for reading during school, right after, or maybe just before bed. When it becomes established as a habit in your home or becomes like another school subject that must be completed before the day’s work is done, you may find your kids acclimate to the custom of reading so well they keep reading even when you tell them they can stop!
Let your child choose their own reading material.
I know you have to use some wisdom here, and of course we all want to encourage our kids toward the best books, but it’s okay to let our children have a say in what they read.
We dropped by a Barnes and Noble on our recent vacation and my daughters wanted books more than any other souvenirs. (How do you say no to that?) My youngest, who is dyslexic, was intrigued by this lovely classic.
I was hesitant to buy it, both because it was unquestionably the thickest book she had ever attempted to read and because it had more challenging language than she has tackled before, but she wanted it so badly I gave in. And it has been a wonderful purchase. The book is a collection of fairy tales, which fascinates my daughter to begin with, but then the individual stories are each relatively short, which helps make the book far less overwhelming for a child who struggles with a reading disability that keeps many kids from being able to enjoy reading at all!
Be discerning of course, but let kids pick their own books at the library or bookstore as often as you can. Even if you have particular books you insist they read, allow them some books of their own choosing as well and even allow them to alternate reading between the two. Believe me, they are far more likely to remain interested in a book they have chosen for themselves, and getting occasional breaks from assigned books can help them remain interested in those books as well.
Be wary of boring, mundane assignments to coincide with reading.
If you want to make reading a drudgery, tie incredibly dull and pointless writing assignments to it!
Especially when a child is not particularly enthusiastic about reading in the first place, boring, tedious assignments related to it will likely do nothing but turn it into even more of a chore. I’ve stated before my opinions on book reports, but lengthy essay tests and quizzes can be just as bad or worse. And who wants to leave a child forever associating something as wonderful as reading with something as awful as dull busywork?
If you must assign writing to go with reading, be creative with it! (And don’t feel like you have to come up with all these brilliant ideas on your own. You might be surprised how many fun and unique writing assignment ideas you can find with a quick Google search!)