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.”
From my experience (all be it only with my own children), making any activity something they have to do is only going to make them resent it, and I could imagine that forcing them to write book reports (essentially more schoolwork) would only make it worse! But then, encouraging my children to read is not something I've ever had to think seriously about as they both read for pleasure anyway. I think I'm lucky however, because I don't know how I would feel if they didn't enjoy reading. I do think it is an important part of life, and it would upset me if either of them didn't want to read. I would find accepting them as non-readers difficult. In a way though, I suppose I do still expect a certain amount of reading, because we always had a rule that anything electrical would go off an hour before bedtime and if they didn't want to go to sleep, they would have to do something else, quietly. I never actually enforce reading, but that is usually what they choose. This isn't deliberately to make them read though, it's more about calming down.
However, I've always thought that they love reading simply because I do, and because I've encouraged them to read, and they see me reading. We graduated from bedtime stories in bed, to them looking at books themselves, then eventually reading them for themselves. It was a a fairly easy transition. But this is how I remember my childhood being, and presumably my sister's was the same. Yet she very rarely reads a book. So maybe it is just that some people like to read, and other just don't. And that we shouldn't worry about it. I don't know.
This question started me thinking and led me off on all sorts of tangents, one of them being that I think I am more involved with my daughter's reading habit's than my son's. Partly because she's younger (Chrissie's 7, whereas Dylan is 12), so needs more guidance when choosing books. But I don't think it's all about that. I think it is easier for me to get involved with her reading because I can suggest things I read as a child, or at least things that are similar. I've already passed on to her some of my childhood favourites, such as The Magic Faraway Tree and The Worst Witch, and there are plenty more to come as she grows up a bit. She tends to read these things with more enthusiasm than anything else, so that must be my enthusiasm rubbing off on her.
Dylan has always been a voracious reader. I did have an issue when he was about 9 though, when he developed an aversion to reading anything new. Constant re-reads of books was all he ever did. This was the only point so far when I thought that he may going off books, and his teacher said his comprehension was dropping for the things he had to read at school. Basically he was getting lazy, and reading for the sake of it, without having to think. I was at a bit of a loss, but with the assistance of some wonderful library staff who suggested some brilliant books, some of which we both read and discussed, his love of reading returned, and he's never looked back since. Joint reads is something we still do, mainly because I'm trying (very gently) to encourage him to read something slightly out of his comfort zone, which is fantasy involving dragons, monsters, swords, demons and the like. I think this will always be his favourite genre, but in a way I think he's getting lazy again, and reading what is easy. This stretches me a bit too, because I read things I'd never normally pick up. I don't want to push him too much though because I don't want to put him off. I'm really just happy that he does enjoy reading. If it drops off when he becomes a teenager, I don't know what I'll do. The same encouragement tactics again I suppose, but if that fails there probably isn't much to do, because past a certain age it becomes difficult to say he can't have electrical equipment on just because I say so!