Saving the World One Teen at a Time - Column on Parenting Tweens and Teens

My Child Hates Reading!

By Abby Margolis Newman 

 

Is it possible to instill a love of reading in a child who hates to read? Or is it, as Cletus from “The Simpsons” might say, “an exercise in futility”?

 

I’ve been struggling with this question regarding my youngest son, Henry (now 12), who will be going into 7th grade in the fall. I love to read-always have. My husband is a reader. Our older two sons, Jonah (17) and Aaron (16) have always loved reading, and in fact Aaron devours books greedily and at an astonishing pace.

 

So what to do about Henry: somehow try to change his viewpoint about the joy (or to his mind, the misery) of reading, or simply accept that not everyone in the world is a reader? And I fear I’m taking this too personally- that my perspective may not be exactly objective or, well, healthy. Books and reading are central to my life- just as they are peripheral at best to Henry’s.

 

It has not always been thus for Henry. When he was younger, surrounded by books and readers, it was a regular part of his life. I took seriously the advice from parenting experts that reading aloud to your children was critical if you wanted to raise kids who loved to read- and would be a central component in their learning to write. If you were submerged in good writing, the logic went, you’d naturally absorb its structure, rhythms, and extensive vocabulary; and that when the time came, good writing would flow naturally and easily.

 

From the time Henry was about 3 to 7, he shared a bedroom with his two older brothers (weirdly enough, the three of them freely chose this configuration). So in addition to my reading picture books and chapter books aloud specifically to Henry, he would listen when I read books at night to his older brothers. In this way, he became hooked at a very early age on the “Harry Potter” series.

 

In first grade, Henry was the first picked up by the school bus in the morning, and the last dropped off in the afternoon. In other words, he spent a lot of time on that bus every day- and he spent it reading Harry Potter books.

 

It goes without saying that J.K. Rowling’s franchise kept rolling along in the first decade of this millennium- and the books got longer each time. In third grade, Henry and a few of his friends were reading whichever Harry Potter book had come out at the time; they frequently compared notes as to who was further along, who had finished chapter 10 first, etc.

 

Henry’s teacher decided the boys were becoming too competitive, and- without discussing it with the parents ahead of time- told the boys they had to stop reading it and pick a different book. No, this teacher was not some religious freak opposed to the Satanic wizardry of Hogwarts- she just didn’t like the overt competition, and put a stop to it in the most insensitive and blockheaded way possible.

 

willterry
06.19.12

I love this topic as I hated reading as a kid. I used to look at the pictures and pretend to read. I got horrible grades. Now I'm an author/illustrator of 25 children's books with national publishers. I hope this is appropriate for this discussion but I now have a new app under dev called "I HATE READING!" Through a humorous story of natural consequences, I HATE READING! teaches kids that reading is fun. Here is a link to it but I understand if you don't want to post this: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/willterry/i-hate-reading-childrens-a... Terry

willterry
06.19.12

I love this topic as I hated reading as a kid. I used to look at the pictures and pretend to read. I got horrible grades. Now I'm an author/illustrator of 25 children's books with national publishers. I hope this is appropriate for this discussion but I now have a new app under dev called "I HATE READING!" Through a humorous story of natural consequences, I HATE READING! teaches kids that reading is fun. Here is a link to it but I understand if you don't want to post this: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/willterry/i-hate-reading-childrens-a...

Raffertyclan
08.19.11

My 10 year old daughter doesn't like to read either and the amount of reading is only increasing as the school years go by. The school librarian suggested getting her an ebook. She said that alot of kids who don't enjoy books are put off when they see the size of the binder but don't notice how much they are reading with the ebook. I got her one and let her pick out the cover and the 1st book for her library. So far, so good! She is reading away! I hope it continues once the novelty wears off.

EllenID
07.22.11

I love the idea about audiobooks. It's all about keeping them attached in one way or another to reading.
Along those lines, what about reestablishing reading aloud to your child? Or sharing the reading...you do 3 paragraphs, he does 3 paragraphs. I just thought of this, but may try it myself!
I have a 13-year-old daughter who is on the fence about reading. She seems to be one of those kids who has very narrow preferences. She loved Harry Potter, but other than that she seems to prefer books about teenage girls that are true-to-life, funny, and don't have any explicit or implicit message. There don't seem to be many that fit that description, so she's read the Georgia Nicholson series about 10 times. I don't have any real answers, I'm in the trenches with you here. I just keep buying or getting books out of the library I think she will like, buying magazines that might interest her, and leaving them all in her room. Good luck to us both!

Mom_of_3
07.19.11

I have three boys. My two oldest say they don't like to read. However, they will read if it's on a subject that they're interested in - spaceships, eagles, trains, etc. They prefer more non-fiction, than fiction. A popular fiction series, that they have read, is "Diary of a Wimpy Kid", but I'm also trying to get them to try reading Rick Riordan's series. I take them to the library to let them pick out books that interest them, but they whine as if I'm taking them to the dentist. I don't want them to see reading as a punishment, but think they won't struggle in school if they continue to improve their reading skills. I also will appreciate hearing what's worked for others.

acontreras82
07.19.11

As a teacher and a mother of a dyslexic child - I've had children (mine and students) claim they hate reading but never met a child who truly meant it. Yes, they may truly prefer other activities, they may only prefer certain types of books (or maybe prefer magazines or online articles), or they may just need to find books that are on their reading level so they're not constantly frustrated with the act of reading. But every kid I've ever met can enjoy reading. A lot of parents who've told me their kids hate to read were surprised to learn that they just had very narrow tastes, and they actually devoured anything that pertained to those narrow preferences. Try non-fiction related to his current interests, sports, or even get a family magazine subscription.

mommaduckie
07.19.11

My oldest daughter is not a reader. She never has been & it breaks my heart as well. Not just because I am a reader & I love it & I would love to see her get the same joy from a book that I do. But also because reading is such a part of school, and it gets more & more required as the years go & her hatred of reading makes it so difficult to get those tasks completed. I want to see her succeed in all areas & to see an area where she is just not doing as well as I would hope and where I just can't seem to make a difference is extremely difficult. I don't want to see her struggle in school & I worry.

If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them!

MHBurts
07.18.11

Have you checked to see if he might like audio books? I know it's not the same, but for my husband it's been a good solution. For him reading is work, his eyes don't focus well on text. Prior to audio books he would read if the story was compelling enough, e.g. Harry Potter, but mostly just the stuff that he had to read for school or work. Audio books allow him the opportunity to enjoy a story in a relaxing mode - and the player is on when he is doing chores or having to wait for something or someone, any spare moment.