I have always loved to read. I was a regular at the library as soon as I could ride my bike there, and I still read about an hour a day, usually right before bed. I assumed that my kids would be natural readers as well. My daughter does enjoy reading. She’s very picky about what she wants to read, and it’s usually something from the Little House on the Prairie series, but at least she reads. I can’t complain. My son, on the other hand, is a different story.
He was never interested in books. He would sit with me and let me read him a little kid book, where we could look at the pictures and talk about them, but he had zero interest in reading on his own. He learned to read at the normal age, a little later than my daughter, but that’s normal for boys and girls to learn at different stages. What distressed me was his total lack of interest in reading on his own. He was capable of doing it, but had no desire. I’ve always brought home stacks of books from the library and kept them in a big basket so my kids can rifle through and pick something they’re interested in. My son just wasn’t interested.
Finally at age 10, he has turned into quite a voracious little reader. I’ll tell you what I did that seemed to help him along that journey.
First, I read to him even when he was old enough to read to himself. He only wanted to read funny things, so we read all of the Roald Dahl books. We read some goofy stuff like the “Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing” series. I tried to find classic books that were funny, but mostly what my son wanted to read was not the highest quality literature. That pained me to no end as a homeschool mom, but I tried to compromise with him. We would read “Super Fudge” and then we would read “Charlotte’s Web.”
As time went on, I noticed that he developed a taste for higher quality literature. I was still reading to him, but at least he was broadening his spectrum of books that he could get into. He really enjoyed Kate DiCamillo’s books. We read an abridged version of Huckleberry Finn that he liked, and a similar version of Swiss Family Robinson. He started to become interested in stories, and wasn’t just looking for something to make him laugh.
During that same time, from about 7 to 9 years old, I let him read graphic novels. He has always loved all of the superheroes, especially the Marvel universe. Spiderman is his absolute favorite. When we lived in Georgia, our library had a large collection of graphic novels, and he would pick two or three every time we visited. That was the first time that he had ever been able to sit down with a book and read for more than five minutes.
It wasn’t my first choice in literature, but he was reading and I decided to take it. Our kids don’t always fit into the little boxes we prescribe for them. Plus, the superhero stories have some redeeming qualities. They are typically classic tales of good and evil, and there’s a clear good guy and a clear bad guy. They are sort of the like myths for our modern time.
At the age of nine, he started picking up books to read on his own. They were usually short books, and they were usually funny. One of the first things he read on his own was “Matilda” by Roald Dahl. Then he went back and read the “Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing” series by himself; all books that I had already read to him. He would sit in his chair with his book cracking up quietly to himself. He was learning to read for enjoyment, and I was thrilled!
Now he’s 10, and I would say that he’s a real reader now. By that, I mean that he asks me to go to the library and get him a book because he wants something to read for entertainment. He’ll start a book and say he’s really not interested in it, and put it down. That’s fine. I don’t make him finish everything he starts, just like I don’t finish books I don’t care for. Other books he will read from cover to cover very quickly. Sometimes he’ll read a book again because he enjoyed it so much. I’m not picky about any of that. I’m just happy that he’s reading.
In our homeschool, typically we have one book that he has to read for school, something of literary value. Sometimes I will read that aloud to him, if it’s a little difficult for him to read on his own. I have no problem with that whatsoever. In fact, there’s a lot to be said for reading aloud to your children well past the age that they read on their own. Check out www.readaloudrevival.com for great information on that topic, as well as wonderful book lists for all ages!
If you’re a mom, homeschool or otherwise, and you’re freaked out that other people’s kids are reading Shakespeare and your kid won’t even pick up a comic book, take heart. Sometimes it takes a while for a kid to become a reader. As long as you keep putting books in front of them, read aloud to them, and let them have some say in what they read, eventually most children will learn to enjoy reading. It may take some time, but stick with it!