Today’s Booking Through Thursday questioner wants some advice: “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.””
I’ve mentioned before that my brothers used to be non-readers. For my younger brother the elder, it took until he was ten or eleven to get him reading, but it was pretty easy — my grandmother bought him the first Harry Potter book, he grudgingly read a few pages to be polite, and then he devoured the rest of the pages and also got the rest of the family hooked on the series. To this day his primary reading material is epic fantasy, in particular the Wheel of Time series right now.
My younger brother the younger wasn’t much of a reader until I left for college, when he was about five or six. He liked his video games much better, but always wanted company while he played them (even if it was a one-player game), so I turned that to my advantage. I told him that I wouldn’t watch him play video games, but I’d certainly read a book with him. At first, this ploy didn’t work very often, but soon, once we found series that he liked, he wouldn’t even ask about video games, going straight for “Will you read this book with me?” It’s still hard to get him to read new books (he’s a total re-reader), as evidenced by the fact that he hasn’t read Alvin Ho or The Maze of Bones yet, even though I’ve asked him to give them a shot every time I’ve seen him. Sad face. But he is reading what he likes to read, and I’ll settle for that. 🙂
Also, I would recommend against book reports. As a kid, I read a whole bunch of books on my own and loved them, but as soon as I had to write a book report about one? I didn’t want to read it. I would instead stress the fact that kids “don’t like to read” when they’ve only read books they don’t like. It may take a while, but someday every kid is going to find a book they love, and the reading bug will take over from there.