Booking Through Thursday – Encouragement

This week’s BTT is about Encouragement. That is:

How can you encourage a non-reading child to read? What about a teenager? Would you require books to be read in the hopes that they would enjoy them once they got into them, or offer incentives, or just suggest interesting books? If you do offer incentives and suggestions and that doesn’t work, would you then require a certain amount of reading? At what point do you just accept that your child is a non-reader?

I was one of those non-reading children, and once I was into chapter books the few things I did read were only because other people did. My sister, whom I idolized, was a big reader. It was because of her that I ever read any Piers Anthony, D. Manus Pinkwater, Douglas Adams, or Robert Asprin. I read A Little Princess and some unicorn series because my grade school friends were really into them. I always participated in the Summer Reading Program at the local public library (which had the best children’s librarians ever, by the way), but there wasn’t much incentive for me, really, considering the prize at the end was just another book. I remember getting a book in the gift exchange in fourth grade and being just incredibly disappointed, especially since everyone else got toys. The books assigned at school were no help either. I still fall asleep just hearing the names of such standard English Class fare as Johnny Tremain, The Incredible Journey, A Separate Peace, and The Scarlet Letter.

The change came during my freshman year of college. I didn’t own a television, and after a while I became so desperate to read something – anything – that wasn’t a text book that I picked up Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. I’d liked the movie, so I figured I’d give the book a try. I loved it, and luckily was able to find copies of the next three books in the series at the college library. (Being in the Honors College gave me the unexpected perk of being able to check books out for an entire semester, which came in handy considering how little free time I had for pleasure reading.) After that was the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (aside: this is one series I’d want an e-book reader for, since the mass market paperbacks have a tendency to fall apart and anything larger is super heavy), and by then I was hooked. I needed to have a book on me at all times, if only to pick up for a few minutes before class started. These days I have three books going at any one time: my regular book, an audiobook in my car, and a paperback in my gym bag for reading on the exercise bike.

So I guess this is a long-winded way of saying to just let them be. You can’t – and probably shouldn’t – force interests. If they want to read, they’ll get around to it eventually. If not, then not. Pleasure reading isn’t the be-all and end-all of pastimes. I enjoy reading, but I know plenty of perfectly intelligent and well-rounded people who don’t. It’s just one of those things.

  1. Interesting that you didn’t consider yourself a reader in grade/middle school. My remembrance of you is that you really enjoyed reading. I also read the Anthony, Aspirin and Douglas books because of you (or, more accurately I suppose your sister).

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