Monday, April 25, 2011

Reading hard or hardly reading

Q. What is the best way to get my boys--age 12 and 9 to read? It is like pulling teeth to get them to open ANY book.

A. Dear Kansas, 
Please allow me to tell you how much I love your name. Even though I'm pretty sure that's not your name, I love to think it is, because I have always wanted to meet some one named Kansas... Kansas Saville. 

It's interesting that you ask this question because like your boys I too am, not a reader. I can read. It's just not anything I do often. In fact, by the time I was in sixth grade, I was only reading at a sixth grade reading level! And I had read exactly no books. Sure, I had read, by heavy persuasion, some of those flimsy kids books. The kinds filled with pictures and a sentence or two in each page. I read my class lessons and homework, I suppose... I must have. Actually as I write this I wonder, how did I learn to read? Ah well, who knows. Anyway, Jr. high school saw me read through a couple of those choose your own adventure books. In high school I read, Ender's Game, and thought that might kick start something. And it sort of did. In the years since, I've read most of the books in that series. 

But to answer your question I have to ask my own question, How would I get my grade school self to read?
1. I would have to eliminate ready access to the television. 
2. Like most kids I was self absorbed and unaware of what others, especially older people, were doing. If any one in my house read I never noticed it. So in "my world" no one read. As I grew up I found this was not actually the case. Everyone in my family reads more than I do. 
2.B. Point 2 was getting longer than a bullet point should be so I moved on. And will do so again. 
2.C. I think I would have benefited from a family reading time where books were read aloud. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have children who enjoy reading. And it's because they see and hear their mother reading regularly. She reads on her own and about 20 children's books, with them, each day. (Some in the morning. More mid day. And a more at night.) Because of this, the kids open up and study books often. Granted not everyone gets to stay home with their children and be that available. But any amount of this would be helpful. 
3. There was no getting around it, point 2 was a long one.
4. Hot on the heels of point 2, I'd say read chapter books to them nightly. This may also help get them to bed sooner (I think that is a universal issue).  Reading to them can instill an interest in the written word and remind them there is much to be learned and explored trough books. I feel I would have responded well to this. I need constant reminders that books are full of life and not just inert piles of bound paper. 
5. Listening to audio books would have helped me. We check out a few of these a week, from the public library. And I'm almost to the point where I have considered reading for fun. 
6.I thought of a reading chart or motivational prizes but that makes it feel like work. Like a project. I know a reading chart would have never motivated me. 
7. Play to their strengths. Feed their interests. Looking back I did read a lot of skateboarding magazines and even a few books on the subject. I liked reading through the interviews and music reviews. It wasn't Catcher in the Rye (which I finally did read at age 23) but at least it had words. 
8. Spend time at your public library or bookstore. Help your children explore reading possibilities, both fiction and non fiction. Given time, they are more likely to find and stick with their reading interests.  

In summation, reduce access to television, schedule family and personal reading time, feed their interests and make use of your public library. 

Hope that helps,

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