Getting the Squirrel to Read

My family likes to read, and we specifically like to read fiction. Except my 11-year old son, Alex (affectionately known as the Squirrel). He would rather run and jump and play outdoors. While those are wonderful activities and part of a healthy life, this literature thing is pretty good, too.

So I’m looking for suggestions. What can I do to encourage the Squirrel to read?

I would have thought interest in reading would be passed down genetically; our other children have certainly caught the bug. I read everything, though I’m currently on a YA doom kick (Hunger Games, Maze Runner, etc.). My wife reads excessively and is currently on a YA fantasy kick.

My oldest daughter has recently flitted from Les Miserables to Tales of Genji, just finished a Lynn Kurland kick, and is currently working on a fat fantasy (she also writes, recently winning the LTUE writing contest). My oldest son has developed an interest in post-apocalyptic survival tales, and my second son is reading his sixth fat fantasy in a row (David Eddings).

The five-year old loves to look at the big dinosaur and mythology books every day (not reading yet, but will soon), and even the three-year old has taken to sitting down and paging through whatever book is handy; if there’s a picture he’ll try to name what it is, otherwise he just points at the words and pretends to read.

But not the Squirrel. He doesn’t like books. We just took him to the book fair at school and he didn’t find a single thing there was interested it.

To be fair, neither did I; too many zombies, sports heroes, and Justin Bieber(s). And he does read somewhat. He prefers fact and true-life adventure, but he pretty much only reads one book a month where the rest of us read 1-3 books a week—and that’s usually a homework assignment. He doesn’t care much for fiction at all, and considers science fiction and fantasy to be actively boring.

Where did I go wrong, and what can I do to fix it?

We’ve tried to encourage him to read something, anything. We tried comics and graphic novels. We have the Britannica encyclopedias (and an old World Book set, as well as several developmental reader series and story collections). We offer shopping trips to the bookstore. But while he will read, there’s no enthusiasm, no fire. It’s a chore to be completed after his homework and before playing on his computer or going outside to play soccer, football, or tag.

I guess there’s nothing wrong with a literature-free life, but I feel like I’ve failed in my parental duty to convince him of the merits. So I’m looking for suggestions, tips, techniques, or bribes that are effective in encouraging a reluctant reader.

At least he hasn’t announced his passionate quest to conquer chartered public accountancy. I don’t even know where to look for help on that.

This entry was posted in Children's Lit corner, Community Voices and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Getting the Squirrel to Read

  1. Jonathan Langford says:

    What does he do on the computer, and is reading involved with that? Does he have any interest in social networking and/or online games? Undesirable though they may be in other ways, at least they do involve some use of text…

    Of course, the underlying reality is that not everyone will like reading. But I agree it’s worth trying multiple tricks in order to see if something will work. In general, I’d say that your best bet is to see if he can be interested in reading about things that he’s already interested in.

    Another question: Does he have any greater interest in listening to texts that are read by others? If so, he may be more of an auditory processor. Also, does he have an interest in TV programs and movies that tell stories? Or is he simply disinclined to fiction narratives of all kinds? And what about nonfiction narratives (e.g., biographies)?

  2. Scott Parkin says:

    Mostly plays silly Flash arcade games involving shooting things or bouncing blobby things through mazes and up stairs.

    No special interest in TV or movies, except to watch Mythbusters and other fact-based explorations (documentaries are good). No special interest in listening to much of anything (except Viking metal).

    In the end, he has little interest in story. I don’t actually consider that a problem, but it is curious that only one of the eight people in my home just doesn’t read and finds no interest at all in story. Even my nerdboy fourteen-year old creates storylines using Bionicles as visual spurs/representations, and writes them down in a spiral notebook.

    He is an excellent reader when he tries (comprehension, verbal acuity, vocabulary); he just doesn’t try on his own effort. He just doesn’t feel the draw (though he loves it when I tell oral stories of my own life and experience—again, real life experience stuff).

    Not a learned trait (at least not from his family at home). Maybe it’s genetic or spiritual.

  3. Ciel says:

    A couple of my siblings were like this. Generally they end up finding something they like (one loved Ender’s Game while the other loves Percy Jackson–because she’s learning about Greek Mythology), though they still didn’t become ‘active’ readers.

    My only suggestions for books he might be interested in would be biographies or maybe the The Way Things Work books.

  4. DIARY OF A WIMPY KID is supposed to have gotten a lot of non-readers interested (according to the latest PARADE magazine, anyway).

    I don’t know, Scott. I think it’s great that he CAN read when he needs to. Maybe he’s just one of those people who marches to the beat of that different drummer out there?

  5. Holiday says:

    As a youngster, I gained a love for reading from comic books.

  6. Jonathan Langford says:

    I think it’s just cool that we’re all sitting around talking about families where the “odd one out” is the kid who DOESN’T read. AML blog rulez. Power to the bookworms!

  7. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    My boys didn’t like to hold still for reading. Maybe its the same problem. So I’d read to them and NOT make them hold still. I’d let them play with their toys as I read. My husband would complain that they weren’t listening, so I’d have him test them. They were receiving the story just fine. Of course, at school, my youngest wouldn’t sit still for reading time and I got an email from the teacher. I told her that I let him move around at home, that we’d work on getting him to understand school is different, and then I gave her the same challenge: Pull David aside and quiz him about the story you don’t think he’s paying attention to. She did and he had gotten every single point. Some people are movers and shakers.

    But either way, it isn’t a horrible thing to be able to read, but not have an interest. We each have God-given talents and interests. My husband doesn’t read fiction and had little interest when younger. Now he reads astrophysics and philosophy and history, all for fun. Let him be a square peg. He’ll be fine.

  8. Do you read aloud as a family? Sharing some fun books that appeal to most of the kids might be a way to involve your son in stories. Some books our kids have liked have been Maniac McGee, Holes, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

  9. Julie Wright says:

    My middle child had dyslexia and hated reading, but it took me several years to figure out the problem. His teachers were less than helpful. Because of his problem, he hated reading. We worked with him every day to retrain his brain to see the words properly. But he still associated reading to work and it was tough to get him interested. He was finally won over with comic books. The reading was simple and he really like them. He also liked books that were all pictures with tidbits of fact–like the ripley’s believe it or not kind of books.
    Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>