Booking Through Thursday -Encouragement

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.”

In the high school where I worked a few years ago, each morning at 10:40, right after morning announcements, the voice on the PA system would say, “And now it’s time for silent reading.”  For 20 minutes, the entire school, teachers and students alike, stopped everything and read.  You could read anything you liked, as long as you were reading.

I loved that idea, and wished it would spread throughout the entire world.  Besides encouraging a reading habit, it gave kids the idea that reading was important, not just for young people, but for every person.

I think that’s one of the best ways to encourage reading at home, too.  Make it a family affair, maybe allow a special snack while reading, or read aloud to one another.  Make trips to the library a regular event, coupled with a stop for ice cream or pizza.  (I still do that, especially now that my library has a cafe with super home baked cookies for sale, and I certainly don’t need any encouragement to read!)

 I guess I always lean toward positive reinforcement to encourage any behavior, believing in the old adage that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

And just because children don’t read now, doesn’t mean they never will.  My husband was never much of a reader until just the past couple of years…now his TBR list is longer than mine!


8 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday -Encouragement

  1. That is really interesting about your husband. My parents got married in 1974 and my mom said she started reading because my father did and she was bored when he was occupied that way. My brothers and i have always been readers though.

  2. Oh your husband will make such a good partner. He will never complain with our growing piles of books since his is taller.

    That “silent reading time” was new to me! It’s a good additional to the rules of any school.

  3. This is an interesting question and one I’m not sure there is a cut and dried answer to.
    I have four children aged now between 26 and 16, two boys and two girls and I always read to them at night, every night, until they were at senior school (age 11 in the UK)
    As I am a voracious reader and our house is full of books, they have always known that reading is important and books are, for me, a vital part of life.
    My husband on the other hand is not a reader. We both work in PR and he claims that he does enough reading at work so all he reads when at home are the racing pages although he will read a book while on holiday provided that we are staying somewhere without access to a TV!
    Does the fact that they have a non reading example from their father explain why my two sons are only occasional readers while my daughters always have a book on the go?

    It didn’t occur to me to try forcing the kids to read or getting them to write a book report, but we did go to the library every week and I always made an effort to search out books that I thought might ignite the reading fire in the boys.
    That had partial success with my younger son, the most reluctant reader, who spent our holiday last year glued to a couple of rock star biographies because he was interested in the people and the lives they had lived (both so outrageous that it’s a wonder they lived to tell the tale!)
    Interestingly, senior son, who is now married with a daughter, has returned to the reading fold as his wife is a reader – perhaps not quite as dedicated as my daughters and I, but she reads every day, so that is definitely a step in the right direction. Interestingly, when my 20 month old granddaughter comes to our house every weekend, she makes a beeline for the book case where I keep a range of childrens’ books, and will happily be read to for quite long periods bearing in mind the attention span of a toddler!

    I have had to accept that not everyone will connect with books, but sometimes all it takes to convert a non reader is to offer them the sort of book that captures their interest – and I don’t really care what sort of book. Schools are often not that great at doing that – some of the reading schemes my children brought home in the early days drove me to despair because they bored the children witless and I could see that in a non-reading household where the kids had no access to non-boring books, it would be enough to set up a prejudice against reading for life!
    Sorry to twitter on, but it is a subject that I feel quite strongly about and all I can give as advice is you keep reading so they have the example and still try to put interesting reading matter in their way – it doesn’t matter that much what it is so long as they are reading!

  4. I wish my 14-year old daughters would read more. I used to love reading to them when they were little, but now they are too old to be read to they rarely pick up books. I think this is partly due to the constant distractions of computer games, dvd’s and the internet. Even though they adore Harry Potter they only watch the films and have never picked up the books. When I was a child I had nothing much to do, so boredom resulted in seeking out books and the library. Very interesting post.

  5. I stumbled upon your blog through another blog I follow and I thought this was a very interesting question that you posed. As an intermediate (grade 7 and 8) english teacher this is always at the forefront of my mind. I have mandatory silent reading periods for both my english classes but the students are allowed to read anything they want. They are required to write me letters about their reading and answer some questions, along with a summary in order to show they are actually reading something. I work hard to validate their personal reading choices by making this assignment worth 50% of their mark- so what they choose to read is equal to what I ask them to read. Now, not all my students love to read…but the overwhelming majority ALWAYS bring a book and reads at least one book a month. It also helps me learn about my students because it shows me their interests. I don’t know if this helps but I wanted to share because I thought your question was a valuable one.

  6. I too am a teacher (Grade 6) and one of the main things i want my children to leave with is a love of reading. we do book circles where the children share with each other the books they are reading. i find that children read much more when their peers recommend a book as opposed to when their teachers do! these book circles are great and i participate too, reading the books that the children recommend to show them that their choices are valid even for grown ups. my class has always loved these discussion because they enjoy sharing their ideas and feelings about their book choices. i always end up learning lots about the books the children really love instead of always assuming that i know what books they should be reading.
    love your blog, by the way!

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