As a 4th and 5th grade elementary teacher, I’ve spent the last 10 years teaching everyone else’s children to read. I can’t tell you how excited I was this year, after my wife and I had our first son, to sit down and read with him! Before he was born we had already adorned his room with a bookcase full of children’s books. My wife, who is also an elementary teacher, even had a children’s book themed baby shower. As our son grew up over the first year, you can imagine our surprise when we discovered that HE HATED TO SIT DOWN AND READ WITH US!
Let me explain that our son was 110% boy, full of energy, and wanted nothing to do sitting in our laps, books, or anything that involved staying still! I’ll never forget being invited to dinner to one of my student’s houses when the topic of reading with our children came up. They said they had read with their daughter ever since she was born and asked if we had as well, after all, we were both elementary teachers. I was so embarrassed when my wife explained that we never read with our son because it was practically impossible, but it was true.
Then one day, when my son was about a year old, something happened that changed everything. After years of watching children become readers I’ve witnessed this same event over and over again with numerous children, especially boys. I believe this one event can be the trick for turning children who hate to read into children who love to read. MY SON FOUND A BOOK HE LOVED!
The book, I found out later, came from my mom and was a nonfiction, cardboard book full of colorful photographs of trucks covering each page. My son had just started noticing trucks and I couldn’t believe it as he sat down and looked at the entire book with me! As we sat there, I would just point to each truck and say its name and make some awesome sound effects. He was totally captivated. My son, who had never sat still longer than 2 minutes, wanted to read the book over and over again! In fact, one day my wife and I both got that suspicious feeling that parents get when the house suddenly becomes a little too quiet. We searched all around the house for our son and found him sitting all by himself in his room, on the floor, reading his truck book! I would have taken a picture but I didn’t want to ruin the moment.
Unfortunately there is no secret formula that works with all children to turn them into readers. However, if you’re struggling to turn your child on to reading, and your wondering where to put you time and energy, I think spending the time to find books you think your child will love and “selling” them to him might be your best shot.