Today’s guest article is by Leigh from Sparking to Learn.
On any given day, I’ve got three books open in my to-be-read pile, several online stories to be enjoyed, and a stack of my own work to edit or continue writing. I’ve always been a reader. There isn’t a time in my memory that doesn’t involve books in some form. Honestly, I catalog the big events in my life by what book they remind me of, or by what I was reading when the book occurred.
So how, you might ask, does a woman whose life is full of written words end up with several children who absolutely do not care to read? I’m not sure. I would have thought it impossible, but it happened.
My 9 year old daughter learned to read around her 4th birthday. She read, however, only for pertinent information like how long to microwave popcorn or what time her favorite television shows were listed on the television guide. That’s still her plan of attack.
She is an information gatherer. Her stack of “to be read” books is 100 percent non-fiction. She prefers reference books to story books, and rolls her eyes at everything from the American Girl series to Harry Potter. I wouldn’t know she could read if she wasn’t frequently surprising me with tidbits of biology or entymology she has picked up from her research. I know she can spell because I follow her on Facebook.
My 7 year old was reading before he turned two. He has incredible sight-reading abilities and is an intuitive reader. He rarely meets a word that he can’t figure out, no matter what the reading material. For the majority of the past two years, though, he has refused to read any book with more than a single paragraph on a page because he is convinced that he can’t read “big books”. He recently read 1800+ pages of Legend of Zelda manga in a single day, but then was absolutely devastated when we suggested he read a Magic Treehouse chapter book because that book had “too many sentences on each page”. Nate loves a story that someone else is reading, but would never sit down with a book on his own. He doesn’t believe me when I tell him that reading is a valid form of entertainment.
Our third child will be 5 in the fall, and she’s still in the pre-reading stage. Of course, she’s the only child in the family who actually walks around with a book in her hands. She’s always on the lookout for someone she can con into reading her one more story. She has already informed me, however, that she’s not interested in learning to read for herself because she likes “grown-up voices” reading. She says she’s happy to look at the pictures while someone else does the work. Gee, thanks for nothing. I was hoping she’d be our little bookworm, but it appears she’s going to follow along the same non-reader path as the older kids.
So, what do I do to encourage a turn-around in our reluctant readers? It’s really a multi-pronged approach.
*I had to let go of my preconceived fantasy about our perfect children and their stacks of great works of literature. Some people read for pleasure. Many more people, even well-educated and highly successful people in many fields of study, read only for information gathering and instruction. It is not illegal or immoral to not find joy into drifting into books…even if I personally can’t fathom not loving the turn of pages.
*Seed every room with as many different kinds of reading material as possible. Every room in my home has piles of books, newspapers, magazines, and even available internet access. I want my children to have access to the answer to any question, and to be able to see books in casual use every day. My husband and I read every day, and I model that behavior in hopes that it catches on with the children.
*Stop being afraid of “fluff.” I had to learn to be content with the fact that my children have picked up something to read, no matter if the material is a picture-filled Manga or a years-old back issue of National Geographic magazine.
*Practice Parenting Patience! It may not happen today, or even this year, but there is significant evidence that children without learning disabilities who grow up in home with free access to books will eventually become fluent readers. In my case, with children who can read but choose not to do so beyond what we require, I’m holding out in patient hope that some author somewhere is writing the perfect work to bring them over to the side of inky-fingers and page-strained eyes.
Leigh Allen-Chen is the reading, writing, picture-taking mom of three homeschooled kids who pick bikes over books on a regular basis. Leigh blogs about life and the living of it at http://www.sparkingtolearn.com …whenever it’s her turn to use the computer.
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