I don't think it's a secret that most parents want their children to be avid readers, or, at the very least, read a book every once in a while without wincing.
I have boys. And my need to see them enjoying the written word and not some video game has consumed my entire time as a parent. Some of you lucky moms and dads might not see the problem in my last sentence, but it’s there, trust me. It’s right between ‘not some’ and ‘has consumed’. You don’t know what tug of war lies ahead of you until you’ve engaged in battle with your eight-year-old over a Call of Duty or Skylanders video game. It’s hellacious, maddening, and often times ends with one of you ugly crying.
Back in the day when I was Über Mom (not to be confused with the car service for those you born after 1991) and my eldest was a toddler, I would read any Internet articles promoting childhood literacy that I could get my hands on. The hubs and I even went as far as buying those Your Baby Can Read DVDs. We’d sit our kid in front of the TV while he watched little children parading around and singing and reading flashcards and being totally advanced for their age. For a time we thought those videos and flashcards were working. But we soon found out that our kid was mimicking the actions he’d seen in those videos; and was memorizing words on flash cards through constant repetition without retaining any real knowledge of them.
We tried so many things after that to get our boy to love reading. We’d read to him, act out passages from books, got a LeapPad. But nothing worked. The kid just wasn’t interested.
Your internal parent might be saying, What? Compromise with my kid? No way. Seriously, there are parents out there who don’t believe they need to compromise with their kids about reading. Oh, but you will and you must.
For example, I love the Harry Potter series so much that I passed it along to my kid to love. I thought, If I can just get him to the exciting parts in the book, he’ll want to read more. But the truth is, children have to want to read long before the exciting parts ever happen.
That’s him in the picture above. You can tell from his expression that he isn’t feeling Harry Potter too much. But give him a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle graphic novel and it’s an entirely different response. You won't be able to pry the damn thing from his hands. And you know what? That’s okay. Am I hurt that he doesn't like the boy who lived? Heck yeah. But am I happy he's reading something else instead? Heck yeah. I’ve learned to let go and let them read.
Let your children read whatever they want—the ingredients on the back of cereal, street signs, or at least what interests them. But probably not Hustler. Hustler is bad.
Side note and untested tactic to get my boy reading more: I wrote a book with him as the main character. It’s about a boy who loves to read and covets a book of knowledge his mother gave him. Wishful thinking much? You can read the first chapter here.