What One English Teacher Did When She Realized Her Kid Hated Reading
Imagine with me…
You love literature. You have beautiful dreams of sharing read aloud books with your children and purchasing lovely editions of the classics that they gobble up as greedily as nachos on Friday night. You can’t wait to introduce them to all your favorites and to see them take off and fall in love with excellent writing.
Well, you’re most likely laughing with me now, right? You can probably guess that I had quite the reality check when my first child struggled to learn to read. Even after gaining fluency, he really, really disliked books for a long while. Here are some tips that worked for us along the way to help him enjoy reading, and now he actually chooses to read in his free time, which is a huge victory!
Helping Kids Fall in Love with Books
- Let them read what they want, within reason. As long as the content is not in opposition to my family’s values, I don’t say a word about what my kids are reading. Comic books, cookbooks, graphic novels, magazines, instructional manuals, it’s all fair game. Of course I want my kids to read great books. However, if they don’t discover those books on their own, they’ll be worked into our schooling little by little with the hope that eventually my kids will begin to choose terrific books independently.
- We set aside time every day to read. Remember D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) time? Who says you can’t do that at home? We try to take 30 minutes every day for what we call “family reading time.” Everyone grabs something to read and finds somewhere quiet to retreat with their book. This time is protected and important – no interruptions allowed unless it’s an absolute emergency. The only rule? It can’t be work or school related reading. We all choose something for the pure delight of it – no obligatory book picks. I have to admit, it’s tempting sometimes to grab something I also need to use for lesson prep or professional development, especially in a busy season –but it has been an absolute joy to know I always have 30 minutes, at some point in my day, to grab something to read just because I want to read it. I want my kids to know how wonderful reading can be, so it’s important they have time to explore and discover books that interest them.
- Engage their senses. I first heard this idea from Sarah Mackenzie at Read Aloud Revival, but I will expand upon it a bit. She mentioned in a webinar I attended that when her kids are reading, she gives them a special snack or drink so that they look forward to reading with a cozy, enjoyable feeling. Adding a treat or favorite snack creates a sense of nostalgia. I’d go a step farther, however, and say that engaging their senses at any level is helpful. Does your young elementary kid love forts? Encourage reading time in there! Does being in nature and listening to the birds calm your too busy teen, or is sprawling on his/her own bed preferred? Involve a variety of senses – a cozy blanket or comfortable pillows, a candle or diffuser, calm instrumental music, as well as the treats help make the experience pleasurable!
- Get terrific books into their hands. A friend once encouraged me to purchase the first book in a series that my kids would find appealing and read it aloud as a family. Then, after it was completed, she told me she often leaves the next book or two in the series lying around where it would be found by her kids. Clever, right? Besides reading aloud and strategically leaving related books nearby, trips to the library and used book stores as well as browsing Amazon recommendations based on previously purchased books help me keep terrific resources in front of my kids.
- Ask others what they are reading for even more ideas! Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” I love to ask those we admire, those we have things in common with, those that have a unique perspective, our peers, friends, and leaders what they are reading. I ask my kids’ friends what they are reading too. It’s amazing the treasures you can unearth and discover that you may have never considered before. Ask around, and then follow up on those recommendations! My kids might not be interested in a book at first, but if they hear that Grandma, their coach, or their friend loves it, they’ll be more likely to take a closer look. (As an aside, I love when my students ask me for book recommendations, especially when it’s a student I know does not enjoy reading! I will hunt high and low to find a few terrific book recommendations for any student that asks me!)
These things have worked wonders in my family! While not an overnight fix, making time and space for reading based on delight has been a joy! I hope you find a tidbit here to try out with your family too!
About the Author
Jenny Cutler graduated in 2005 with a B.A. in Education, and in 2012 with a Master’s Degree in Multicultural Education, both from Eastern University. Jenny has experience teaching in public school, private school, directing children’s ministry in a local church, and homeschooling her own children. She is passionate about seeing students develop a love of literature, as she believes that good books can teach both critical thinking and compassion. She is a voracious reader herself and especially loves seeing students that are not naturally bookworms connect deeply with a work they didn’t expect. Jenny lives on an orchard in rural Michigan with her husband, children, and many critters.