Booking Through Thursday

How can you encourage a non-reading child to read? What about a teen-ager? 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?

In the book Gifted Hands by brilliant surgeon Ben Carson, one of the things that turned his life around was his mother’s requirement that he and his brother read books and write book reports for her. That approach worked with him, but I have been afraid to try it. My children don’t need to “turn their lives around,” but they would gain so much from reading and I think they would enjoy it so much if they would just stop telling themselves, “I just don’t like to read.”

I don’t have an answer to that. These days books compete with many, many other forms of entertainment and the other forms are often easier to enjoy, take less time, and more people are likely to have seen the same TV-show or movie so it’s easier to discuss them with others. Also, you have accept that even if you can encourage someone to read, they aren’t necessarily going to like the same books as you do.

But I’m strongly against forcing people, especially kids, into reading. I would never, ever make it a chore. You can’t force other people to enjoy what you enjoy. Similarly, you can’t make other people dislike things that you dislike. On the other hand, it’s very, very easy to make other people hate what you enjoy by constantly trying to shove it down their throats especially with “I know it’s going to be good for you” attitude. And by the way, some people just don’t like to read. There’s nothing wrong with that. (And Carson’s mom was very lucky; her sons could have been, for example, dyslexic.)

Edit: other people have reminded me that young people read a lot these days: text messages, forums, fanfiction etc. Also, here in Finland people have to read subtitles all the time.