Monday, February 1, 2016

A lesson in patience: children who hate reading

I have loved books since before I could read. I remember begging my parents and siblings to read to me all the time when I was very small. Finally, my older brother taught me to read so that I would stop asking. Since then, I have read everything I can get my hands on!

My oldest son loves books. My step-children all love to read. And my husband too. youngest son....getting him to read anything was a constant battle. Now there were reasons...he is dyslexic. Learning to read for him was a constant struggle. It really affected how he felt about books. Reading was a punishment for him, not something he enjoyed. Finally, I homeschooled him for 2 years to give him the one-on-one attention he needed. With lots of phonics work, he learned to work around the problem. But, he still hated reading. The only thing he was willing to read were instuctions for video games and webpages about games, software, or Minecraft how-to manuals. I tried every sort of book I could think of....ones I liked as a child such as Harry Cat's Pet Puppy, The Cricket in Times Square, The Mouse and the Motorcycle. He would read them because he had to, but there was no enjoyment.

I found that part of the problem was me. As a bookish person, I had a hard time understanding how he could dislike reading. I had to step back and realize that each person is different. His experience with books was not a good one because of his learning disability. My pushing books on him was just like someone fixing liver 27 different ways, telling me that I would come to like it if I ate it every day. No way. For Josh, reading was something he had to grow into. He had to discover what he liked and ease into it. He just needed time to stop associating reading with his struggle with dyslexia and start seeing books as outlets for his imagination. So I backed off. I kept offering books, but I let him start deciding what he read.

When he discovered the fact that some movies he enjoyed such as Harry Potter, Maze Runner, and Divergent were actually based on books, he started showing more interest in trying to read those books. I told him that a lot of content from the books was left out or changed in the movie versions. To illustrate my point, I showed him an old after-school special of The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Whole plot points were changed, and big sections of the story were left out. I also told him that some characters and situations in the Harry Potter novels were left out or significantly changed in the movies. The only way for him to learn about Nearly Headless Nick wanting to join the Headless Hunt would be to read the books!  It was like a light came on inside him. Suddenly, he wanted to read!! Josh returned to public school this year. He loves it. He has made lots of friends and is thriving. And he reads his assignments and library books for Accelerated Reader points without much complaining.

He loves science fiction. I started showing him YA book series that seemed to fit him. Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus series caught his eye. He asked for the first book, Lost Hero. Every night he sits and reads for at least 15 minutes, telling me how much he is enjoying the story. My son. The book hater. Reading a 600+ page book by CHOICE. He loves Harry Potter. He whipped straight through book 1, and is now reading book 2. When we went to the bookstore last week, he asked for a copy of Throne of Glass. Then this month a fan fiction book based on Five Nights at Freddy's (a video game), The Silver Eyes, was published. It was the first time he begged me to order him a book from Amazon. His bookshelf is quickly filling up. My lovely secret sisters from OTSPSecretSister sent him some great books to try as well. HE HAS A TBR SHELF!!

Not every child who dislikes reading is going to turn a corner and become a bookworm. But with patience, they can find books that they like and want to read. Joshua still hates books that he is forced to read for school. Right now, his class is reading The Black Stallion and he doesn't like it. Every night I have to listen to him complain about "the stupid horse book.'' He is not interested in the slightest. But, like it or not, it is a fact of life that at times everyone has to do what they have to do. It's a life lesson. So each night he reads the required chapter for school, then he gets to switch to something he does want to read. We are taking turns reading chapters of The Silver Eyes out loud to each other. He's learning to use inflection (and character voices) when he reads out just makes me smile!

So, if you have a child who hates to read....just give them space to discover books that they enjoy. Reading might never become their favorite pastime but over time they can learn to find some enjoyment in the written word.

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