I have always loved reading. Every since I can remember I loved having my parents read to me and as I got older I loved reading for the sake of reading. I’ve always read pretty fast and I’ve always had a pretty high reading level so in school reading became a pain because the school I went to did the AR reading program. This program determined what reading level you were on and then you got to read books out of the school library that were within that reading level. Once you read the book, you took a test on it. We had to read so many books each month in order to maintain a good grade.
For someone like me who loved reading so much, I hated this because the only AR books that were at my “reading level” books in our library that I was interested in was Mary Higgins Clark books. The nice thing was that I’d read all of these books in the 7th grade, so when I got to high school and read them again it was just a review. The problem was closer to the end of my high school career I was having to search for books I had no interest in reading simply because the school told me I had to read X amount of books in X amount of time at X reading level. Do you think this fostered the love of reading in anyone?
My sister has always hated reading. We’d buy her books and try to appeal to her interests and it just didn’t do any good. She didn’t want anything to do with reading. It was boring to her and pointless. It wasn’t that she was a poor reader, she just had no interest in picking up a book in high school. In the past year or so (she’s 20 now) she’s started getting interested in movies that are books, such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. She read both of those and has also read other book series that she’s discovered she likes.
Why the change? Did she just hit that age where she started appreciating a good book? No, I don’t think so. Students are forced to read certain classic novels for class, which I agree with, but they are taught in such a way typically that makes it boring beyond belief. Sometimes we have to read things we don’t want to. However, students are also forced to read books from one library and in one reading level in order to pass a test. This is supposed to harvest a love of reading?
Students should be reading. The problem is, no one seems to be able to come up with a good way to encourage kids to read except by forcing them to read. Because they know they can’t force them all to read for the fun of it, they have to create tests or reports to gauge their comprehension of the material. In order for the teacher (in PS situations and HS situations) to be able to properly assess whether the student has actually read the book, the teacher either has to read every book every student decides to read or they come up with a cookie cutter system like the AR reading program.
I have to say, between reading Animal Farm, The Scarlet Letter, and every Mary Higgins Clark book created through 2007 (twice) — I started to hate reading too. I didn’t do a whole lot of pleasure reading throughout high school or college because I was so burned out on reading for school.
Josiah has recently started reading and at this point although he can sound out words it is not fluid and honestly no fun for him. It is a chore — just more school stuff to do. My goal has always been to show him how much fun reading can be and how reading doesn’t have to be boring. Periodically I read him chapter books and of course smaller storybooks. I also show him that sometimes I choose not to turn on the TV and just sit down with a book.
A few days ago we had this conversation:
Josiah: “Mom, don’t you want to watch TV?”
(I was sitting in the living room with the sunlight shining in, no TV, just quiet peaceful reading while Samuel was napping.)
Me: “No, I just want to sit here and read.”
Me: “Because reading a book is better than watching TV because it’s like TV in your head. You read and you see the pictures in your mind instead of on a screen.”
I told him that that’s why we practice reading, because although it is hard now someday it will be easy. Every week we go to the public library and he picks a few books he’s interested in — regardless of the topic or “reading level” and then I pick a few books for him. I don’ t care if he picks out a book that I’ll have to look at with him and help him understand. All I care about is that he discovers that he can learn things about things he’s interested in from books. Books can be interesting and they can be fun. He once checked out a book on all the different space crafts used in Star Wars. He had no clue what he was looking at, but the pictures were cool and it intrigued him. One of my proudest moments as a Superman fan was when he checked out a huge book on Superman, all the characters, Krypton, and how all the different forms of Kryponite affect Superman.
Children have to discover that tales of “far off places, daring sword fights, a magic spell, and a prince in disguise” (10 bonus points if you know what Disney movie that’s from) and other wonderful adventures lie within the pages of a book. They need to know that if they want to learn more about a particular topic that they can go to books instead of always resorting to Google (Google isn’t always right anyways).
Let your child see that you read. Let your child know reading can involve adventure. And lastly, let your child know that just because they can read it by themselves that you’re still willing to sit down and read a good book with them.