Boys Don’t Read

 

I was thinking about this old trope recently as I followed the recent online discussions about gender bias in the NY Times Book Review section.  Pretty good joke, huh?  Boys don’t read, but they’re still the gatekeepers about which novels are important and which aren’t.  A good reason not to read NY Times book reviews, I think.

But this isn’t a post about gender bias in the literary world.  It’s about finding ways to persuade boys to read.

I come to the topic naturally.  My son is due to be born this Saturday.  As a boy who read avidly, once I discovered on the back of the school bus that the Hardy Boys books, unlike the primers we read in class, were actual stories, I’m extremely interested in having a son who reads.  But the anecdotal evidence isn’t strong.  My friends with sons talk about how getting even the bookish ones to read can be an enormous chore.  There are so many distractions.  If I’d had a Game Boy or a smart phone in second grade, I’m not sure I’d ever have picked up a Hardy Boys book at all.  Too many other places out there to get my narrative fix.

So, what’s worked for you?  I was a lucky child – I had parents who read, and I attended a school where the cool kids were reading Dune and Stranger in a Strange Land in 6th grade.  (Yes, I’m old.)  My wife and I can give young Henry (we decided on Henry over Thor) parents who read, but I’m not sure we can give him the same school environment.

Suggestions?

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  1. 1. Gerald

    My wife and I are both avid readers, and have been from an early age. We have two sons, 8 and 10 years old.

    The 10 year old is not a reader. He does enjoy graphic novels, and we try to encourage him. He also loves being read to.

    The 8 year old absolutely devours books. We can’t keep up with his appetite. At 8, he’s already read all of the Percy Jackson books, and is almost through the FableHaven series. He found Lord of the Rings too boring to read.

    It basically turns out to be luck of the draw. Both boys have had the same exposure to books, but only one is a reader. Go figure.

  2. 2. NewGuyDave

    I read a lot as a child because mom and dad read. Though I have no littlins myself, my sister has four, with a fifth on the way. They don’t have cable TV and only watch a few hours of movies a week. In the evening they sit in the living room and read together. Her kids are Grade 2, K, and younger, but she’s been doing this for years, so they don’t know any different. The kids get to watch limited TV at the grandparents house, and still like to look through the books when there.

    I blogged about the decline of boy readership a while back based on articles found at http://www.boysread.org/index.html but the data is old. There are a lot of titles listed in the Best Books tab on the left, grouped in First Books, Early Years, MG, and YA. There are also ideas for instilling reading habits in a child from early on in the Take Action link.

    I was considering starting a reading tribe at the local library. Maybe read Halo and gamer books to entice boys to the group. Then see if they want to branch out into other genre. I’m still not sure if I’m the guy for that, too many projects on the go already.

    Good luck to you, Susan, and Henry.

  3. 3. Elias McClellan

    Mr. Butler, congrats on your impending bundle of joy and tax deductions. My Mrs. and I are slogging through the lovely adoption process and we (both readers) hope to pass our love of print to the child God blesses us with.

    From our experiences we plan to: insure the child is socially awkward, expose them to chronic illness such as Rheumatic Fever, ear/mastoid infections, etc, and finally not give them every electronic device on the market.

    Silly, I know. How do you tell some big-eyed urchin, ‘yes, I exposed you to Dutch Elm’s Disease but you can’t have a game boy,’ and live with yourself?

    We grew up in the dawn of Atari and neither of our parents would ever consider paying that kind of money for a toy. We had a (singular) TV and usually our folks watched sports, (ick) movies with people talking, (ick-er) or news, (too icky to relate).

    Of course, you already know the answer. There are no guarantees. You can read to them, (as a teacher, I learned how much kids of all ages love to be read to) you can embargo the electronics, and buy them every form of fiction from comic books to Oprah’s BOTM to a subscription to Naughty Mash Letters and still end up with a boy who will go along until he can get away. Good luck and please, please, please, keep us posted with your progress.

  4. 4. Tim of Angle

    Duh. Don’t give him a GemeBoy or a smart phone in the second grade.

  5. 5. Seabrooke

    I think the problem with distractions today is not so much in what as it is in how much. It’s not necessary to deprive children of all these gadgets and toys; simply to limit how much time is spent with them.

    This is especially true of television, I think. Growing up, my family only got aerial stations, which naturally limited how much time we spent in front of the tv. Neither of my parents watched much, either. Lead by example. We had a Nintendo, but we got it a couple of years after they’d first come out and the initial novelty had worn off. We were allowed to play it every day if we wanted, but we had a strict time limit to how much time per day we got.

    I think, though, the biggest influence on why we read wasn’t that there was less else to do as it was that reading was simply part of the family way of life. Both of my parents were and are avid readers themselves, and of course a child can’t help but notice such things. But also, every evening before bed we’d gather around mom or dad in the living room and she or he would read us half an hour of a chapter book (the chapter books, of course, would leave us wanting to sit down the next night and find out what happens next). This continued for years… till my youngest sister reached school, possibly longer. They would take us to the library and encourage us to find one book that we wanted to read. It would be put on top of the stack of ten or fifteen books mom or dad had already picked out.

    And lastly, we were rewarded for reading. Mom had a huge collection of books at home that she’d bought at used book stores. I don’t know that she’d read most of them herself, but they were books she’d learned of through reviews, or through the book For Reading Out Loud. She would make up book lists for us, perhaps 15 or 20 books on a list. We’d receive a small amount of money every time we finished one – when I was growing up, it was around $1 or so. We didn’t get an allowance for chores (those we were expected just to do as a family responsibility) so this amounted to our spending cash. Every now and then, one list would come with a big reward at the end for having read the full list. One year, my sisters and I were promised the small-animal pet of our choice. I got a rabbit. That also had the dual benefit of teaching me responsibility for another life.

  6. 6. Seabrooke

    I should also add, perhaps, that my mom taught all of us to read herself, rather than waiting for us to be taught at school. By the time we entered kindergarten, we were all reading comfortably ourselves.

    Be proactive with your children. So many parents today feel they are too busy to spend much time with their kids and fall back on tv and gadgets as easy (and cheap) babysitter-replacements, but in my mind it would be better to cancel your cable tv and use the money you save each month to pay the girl down the road to come over for an hour after school and read to your kids, or to fund their reading-list reward program.

  7. 7. Chris

    I think that having parents who read is a vital first step. The second is having parents who read *with their children*. From the moment I was born, my parents read to me all of the time.

    What’s interesting (and what galls my girlfriend who works in kid’s publishing) is that they never read me very many kid’s books. Part of that is because they came to the US from an country that never had a “kids book culture” and kid’s books just weren’t on their radar screen. Instead, they read me myths and fairy tales, National Geographic issues (I loved the colorful pictures, apparently).

    I think that set the foundation. But the real event that made me a lifelong reader was actually a bet. When I was seven, I loved cartoons. I’d watch them every chance I had. My dad joked that I was “addicted to TV”. To prove him wrong, we set up a bet: for 18 months, I wouldn’t watch any TV other than news and documentaries. I would get the equivalent of two dollars a day if I stuck to my guns. My dad expected me to bow out after a week, maybe two. But to his surprise, stubborn lil’ me stuck it out the whole 18 months. That changed how I entertained myself: I found that I loved to read. Books, comic books, newspapers, anything. It wasn’t about not having the television: we had several in our house. It was about the discipline of finding something else to do.

    I have no idea if that would work for anyone else (I was a weird kid). But it’s why I think I’m a lifelong reader.

    Now, that being said, the instant the bet was over, what did I do with that money? I bought a television with a built-in VCR (I thought my dad was going to keel over).

    As an aside, my girlfriend has a neat theory on why boys don’t read: the dog dies. If you look at so many middle grade “boy books” (certainly the classics) the boy’s dog dies in the story. A little tongue-in-cheek, but she thinks that such a traumatic intro to middle-grade books might turn a lot of boys off from reading. Might be something to consider as your son grows older and looks to you for help figuring out what to read.

  8. 8. Elias McClellan

    Huh, easy as that, TOA? What about beyond 2nd grade? As I understood the topic, it’s a question of instilling a life-long appreciation if not love of reading in boys.

    You also gonna lock him away from the TV, the household PC, and the radio? For the duration of his adolescence? And even if you are that ‘hands-on,’ (when i taught, I had trouble getting my student’s parents to go over their homework with them) it’s no guarantee your boy will become a reader.

  9. 9. Tim

    My son, now 10, was a slow reader. He struggled with words and word order. Both parents are avid readers (two kindles and tons of books around the house) we have read to him every single night before bed for about 20 minutes since he was 1. This last year he finally got old enough to express some interest in the books we were reading. In the last 5 months he has read (on his own):
    Scalzi-Zoe’s Tale, The Ghost Brigades, The Lost Colony, Old Man’s War
    We hooked him with the Eragon trilogy, which I read to him every night (painful to read out loud by the way). Once he got into the stories, he was asking to take the Kindle to bed so he could keep reading.
    The trick was finding the books that interested him, getting him to sit and listen and then enabling him to read on his own. For the last point, the Kindle did wonders, because for whatever reason it was less intimidating than a large book.

  10. 10. Michael

    Here’s what worked for me:

    Get rid of the television (more particularly, get rid of cable, and only keep the TV around to watch tapes and dvds)

    Don’t let the child have regular access to the computer – limit it to 1 hour a week until they actually really need it for school (and that you should limit primarily to writing homework, until you actually run into a subject that can’t be researched using books in the library).

    Read to the kid. My father used to read to me every night. Eventually, I had to learn to read because he kept changing the stories that I had memorized so I’m told by my mother that I learned to read to prove him wrong;). Besides, there’s nothing better to instill in a child a love of stories than reading to them. And don’t read just children’s books. Read things like The Hobbit, The Once and Future King, The Princess Bride…books written to be read by adults to children.

    Make sure you kid gets plenty of exercise:D…a child with a tired body can still have an alert mind and reading gives the mind something to do.

    You can only do these things for so long – once they hit about 12, it won’t work. But if you can instill a love of stories in the child before he gets his access to the crap that rots the brain, he might be more inclined to read.

  11. 11. Sam

    Everyone I know who loves reading and reads a lot, was taught to read long before they were taught at school.

    Anecdotal and biased evidence perhaps, but I can’t help but feel that there’s something important to be learned there.

    I also second what Chris @7 said, the closest things to what passes for “children’s stories” now I ever remember reading or having read to me were the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I strongly suspect I’d have picked up on being patronized to by stories about giant fluffy friendly nonsense things in most children’s books even at that age, just as I would now.

    The Brothers Grimm, Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss and so forth were all more than fluff and had substance – how much you get out of them depends on your interest and understanding, but they work at any level.

    If I’d been brought up on Jack and Jill and their boring hill, I’d have lost interest after the first reading and always dreaded the sight of a book ever after, regarding it as some kind of chore rather than a joy.

  12. 12. Jaws

    Well, I have to admit that I started reading Dr Seuss to the elder remora when he was three days old, and he thought that was great… and is a lifelong reader. The younger remora is, too, even though the Dr Seuss didn’t start for four days after birth. And I’ve got the baby pictures for both of them!

    But that leads to two other things that I think reinforced the early joint participation in reading:

    (1) Treating the library as a routine trip, and letting them select books and magazines (with appropriate guidance) from a _very_ early age.

    (2) Avoiding the popular early- and middle-grade readers.
    See Spot run.
    See Dick and Jane avoid ever engaging in an actual conversation.
    See Johnny’s ability to understand written sentences that are as complex as those he uses/encounters in everyday speech atrophy.
    See Johnny lose any joy in language that he once had while he struggles through Mrs Grundy’s stupid (not to mention inaccurate) grammar exercises while being graded by an undereducated teacher who chooses not to read for pleasure and can’t write worth a damn.
    See Johnny rely solely upon Fox News because there’s nothing ambiguous on Fox News… or in any of the “approved by the educational/publishing establishment” early readers that he was force-fed.
    See “see” become a sad shorthand for “do you understand?” because that’s the first (and too often only) intransitive verb encountered in too many basal readers…

  13. 13. Laura Conrad

    What does it mean to call someone a “bookish boy” if it isn’t that he reads books?

  14. 14. Andrew A. A.

    Yay to a new little spirit roaming the world both the real, the imaginary and everything in between!!!

    Books:

    Here’s my secret truth. I hated reading! I love being read or told stories too. If it wasn’t for my fascinations with dolphins at the age of 6-8 I would have never bothered with reading at all. I was such an odd child that I found myself wanting to fit in somehow, someway. Reading was not one of those ways… catching footballs was pretty good, except was smaller and sickly but I bounced.

    My older brother was a reader, so let him read and either he could tell me about the book or make up STUFF. Same thing with my Mom; she would read LOTR to me while I fished.

    I had my pong and atari. I had woods behind my house. I liked fishing. I liked sports even if I was weak. I liked comics.

    Books sucked. I hated school too. Stupid thing school, got nothing to do with learning but socialization… don’t like other kids either. Then I’d have to do stupid homework, shich obviously meant nothing. i would have to go to bed by 9. All the good shows were on at 9 — I couldn’t watch ‘Remington Steel’ or whatever 9 O’clock show I liked. Nothing worse than School. I wasn’t even Tired!

    Brother kept leaving books by my bed, cluttering up my bedside. I Picked up ‘Sword of Shanara’ by Terry Brooks. Started reading it. Nobody yelled at me for staying up either. Read ‘Spellsinger’ series by Alan Dean Foster next. Then Eddings. Then Hobbit.

    Stupid school. Stupid brother leaving books in my room. Stupid Parents for making me go to bed. I guess its pretty cool they didn’t yell at me for staying up though…

    Still hate reading. But boy do I love a good story.

  15. 15. Anna

    Well, I’m an avid reader, and my parents read to my *a lot.* They read to me while I was still in the womb and a ton after that, and then when I started reading, I read all the time. My guess is that the key to getting kids to read is reading to them.

  16. 16. S.C. Butler

    Gerald – I know what you’re saying about kids being different. (Henry is my first son, but not my first child.) My daughters were all different in their reading habits, and only one of them enjoyed being read to. Unfortunately, none of them turned into particularly avid readers. Perhaps I’ll do it better this time.

    NewGuyDave – Great website. Even better idea about the reading tribe. I think showing boys that adventure books can be even better than adventure movies (I’ve always thought so) is a great way to get thm to read.

    Elias – Good luck with the adoption process. It’s a long, hard road, but certainly worth it in the end. As for reading, I think what you say about embargos is true – the kids who most craved sugar when I was growing up were the ones who were allowed none at home.

  17. 17. S.C. Butler

    Tim – It’s a good idea, but one you can’t keep up forever. As I said to Elias, the kids who most craved sugar when I was growing up were the ones whose parents denied them all access at home. Moderation in all things is my motto.

    Seabrooke – I had much the same sort of parents when I was a child. TV was limited, and not the babysitter it frequently becomes today. Reading aloud was also hugely important, though my experience with my daughters suggests that it only works on some children. I suspect that parents do their job if they expose a child to things like reading, but we can’t guarantee the results. Cool what your mother did with the lists.

    Chris – Great story. Love what you did with the money. I personally consider cartoons to be one of the great art forms of all time.

  18. 18. S.C. Butler

    Tim – What hooked one of my daughters were the Babysitter Club books. (And you think Eragon is painful to read aloud.) Interesting point about the Kindle. Have you ever heard of the same thing with other kids? Chances are Henry will only have ebooks to read by the time he’s 10.

    Sam – I didn’t learn to read till first grade, and couldn’t read well till second. But I always loved Seuss and Grimm (Dahl came after my time – I discovered Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when I was thirteen). You’re right about fluff. Reading is an individual tic – one of the keys is finding out what a child likes to read.

    Jaws – Right on about libraries. My wife especially grew up with libraries as a special trip. (I grew up with a great one at school – it was an everyday event for me.) Teach a child o love the library and they’ll probably love books too.

  19. 19. S.C. Butler

    Andrew – Sounds like you hate reading the way I hate writing. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. And I love your mother reading LOTR to you while you fished. I think Tolkien would have loved that.

    Michael – Forgot to mention your good point about exercise. Especially true for boys, I’ll bet. I was actually a jock all through my school days. Run all day, then go home and read!

  20. 20. Ryl

    Reading is no fun if you don’t posses the skills for it. Strong reading comprehension and a healthy vocabulary are vital.

    Shortly after he turned 1, my son began wanting stories read to him. Whenever I took him shopping with me I let him pick out a new Little Golden Book — his own library of these picture books, kept on the lowest shelves for his reach, soon numbered over 4 dozen. With 3 or 4 of these books clutched to his chest, he’d grab me by the hand and pull me over to the rocking chair, and we’d spend hour after hour reading, with him on my lap and turning the pages. By the time my husband got home from work I was usually hoarse from doing all the voices and sound effects. :D

    When he was about 14 months old he began mimicking me reading aloud, matching my inflections and cadences [all in baby jabber, of course]. I didn’t want to waste that window of opportunity by waiting for him to enter kindergarten, much less was I willing to trust anyone else with something as important as my kid’s literacy.

    I’d heard the horror stories of kids failing upwards, being graduated from high school despite being functionally illiterate, and I wanted to make sure mine wasn’t one of them. So I seized the moment — and his enthusiasm — and begin teaching him to read phonetically. At 2 he was spelling words, and by the time he was 4 he was reading at a 3rd grade level. Now a married man, he’s still an avid reader. :)

    Sometimes reading with your kids isn’t about the books — it’s about the time you share with them.

  21. 21. Oz Drummond

    I have a daughter who had learning disabilities. Learning to read was a tremendous struggle for her. But she loved books. Why? We read to her. We read the same stories over and over if that’s what she wanted. We read to her every single night until she was in second grade and began reading to herself.

    Read to your child. It’s never too early to start. We read to our daughter a minimum of half an hour each and ever night at bedtime. From picture books to books that were too old for her, we read. When the school had a read-a-thon, she ‘read’ more than any other kid in her class because they allowed hours spent reading to a child to count. So for that week of ‘turn off the tv’ I would read to her for hours. Usually three hours a day. And no, we didn’t turn off the tv. She could still watch it.

    Reading, on any subject, stimulates the mind. It’s a massive undertaking to do it every day. You’re tired, you don’t want to. But it pays off. Get picture books with stunning art in bold colors and with clever rhymes to start with. Do funny voices. But read to your baby, your toddler, your kindergartner, your first and second grader. And if they’ll listen still, read to them when they’re too old to be read to.

  22. 22. Olivia

    My dad read all the time when he was young, and although he’s really busy with work now that he’s an adult, he still finds the time to read a book or two a month (this month is more, since I got him into The Hunger Games series.) My mom read less than he did in school, and is even more busy than he is now, but she manages to get some “booking” in every now and then as well.
    I, on the other hand, am (as Gerald said about his son) the Book Devourer of the family. Even with the books I was too young to actually read in kindergarten (like The Hobbit), I knew the story back to front due to bedtime stories from my dad. I’ve read/been read to almost every night for my entire life (I’ll be 15 in a couple weeks), and don’t plan to stop.
    My sisters, while not as intense about it as I am, also read a lot.

    However, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it at first (although I learned at a fairly early age). Then my dad said “Books transport us to other worlds” and I thought that was the coolest thing ever.

    My dad and I still read aloud to each other every now and then. It’s fun, and it’s time we spend together.

    When it comes to boys…my closest guy-friends (they’re brothers) have a few series they love (Percy Jackson, Eragon), but don’t read much in general. Once your son’s older…find a girl who likes to read and make her suggest books to him (and make sure she’s persistent.) I am that girl to one of my other friends, and it works. :)

  23. 23. Bree

    First off: congratulations!

    I think that reading to your kids is a vital ingredient in getting them to love reading. My parents both read to me and my brother when we were growing up. Usually a chapter each night once we were old enough to appreciate longer stories.

    A few years ago my dad recorded himself reading Watership Down and gave it to me and my brother for Christmas. It was one of our favorites. Definitely an amazing gift.

    My brother happens to be dyslexic, but still has a great love of stories and reads for pleasure even though it is difficult for him. I don’t think he would have developed that appreciation without having stories read to him.

  24. 24. Till

    I can’t say if our strategy will work, but our kids (1 1/2 and almost 5) not only see reading parents, but also have a lot of books (and no TV). We read books to them (look at them together with the little one, read stories with the older one), but they also take their books (or even our books …) to browse through them by themselves – in a very concentrated/intense state of mind.

  25. 25. Steve Buchheit

    Congrats, Sam. Hope you get a reader. And I agree with reading to them early to develop the love of story.

  26. 26. Chrystoph

    Regarding technological distractions, I (as a professional geek and uncle) find that it is often a lost opportunity. Gadgetry is an ongoing process, so let’s put it to use.

    Instead of looking at the device as competition to a book, use it as the presentation medium. Borders has put out a tool to read their books on many different types of widgets. Your munchkin has a smart phone, they can read the books on the smart phone.

    Libraries are one of my favorite places, be it the one downtown or the one in my house, but, if the child won’t go to the library, maybe the library needs to come to the child.

  27. 27. Adam Heine

    If you read (and read to them), they will almost certainly read. Also I have some anecdotal evidence to counter yours, if it makes you feel any better.

  28. 28. S.C. Butler

    Ryl – No question the time you share with kids is important, and very special too. Which makes reading to a child doubly important. Good to know the Little Golden books are still around. They are the perfect kid size.

    Olivia – I hope Henry has a friend like you when he’s 15. And hopefully my wife and I reading to him will influence him as much as your dad did with you.

    Bree – What a fantastic present from your dad. Something you can treasure forever. The next generation in your family will love it. And the consensus seems to be pretty solid that the best way to get a child to love to read, boy or girl, is to read to them.

  29. 29. S.C. Butler

    Bree – It is amazing the way kids can focus so intensely on books before they even know how to read. I think that’s what makes picture books so important. It gets them in the habit.

    Steve – Thanks for the good wishes. Cross your fingers for a reader.

    Chrystoph – Definitely, we will bring the library to little Mohammed. I’m guessing ebooks will be his main source of reading by the time he’s 10.

  30. 30. S.C. Butler

    Adam – Your link leads to another post entirely. Don’t get me going on the failure of schools to teach reading as pleasure, not work, or their continuing failure to offer much that’s interesting to junior high boys’ reading lists.

  31. 31. Elias McClellan

    @23, I like the idea of bringing the library to the child.

    My father was a merchant sailor and we never went to the library or discussed reading but I loved going through stacks and stacks of dusty books he’d taken with him to sea. That was were I read Faulkner, Vonnegut, and Joyce.

    My wife’s father was a merchant sailor as well and when he came off a ship, he would walk her to the neighborhood library. Mr. Sanderson would wait outside to smoke and talk with his friends while she enjoyed the full benefit of story time.

    Or as she recounted the story of the rough-tough sailor waiting patiently for his daughter rather than party down at the cafes and juke joints… ‘He’d wait outside because if he interupted a reading by some lady dressed like a bunny, kitty, or rat, there would be some trouble up in there.’

    Our fathers and us (the Mrs. and I) never exchanged more than 15 words at a time. Our fathers were both older, serious men but their support, even indirectly, in our introduction to a reading world gave us more than they ever knew.

  32. 32. Adam Heine

    I’ll agree with that, SC. Junior High and High School nearly killed reading for me. Though I’m not certain that’s specific to boys ;-)

  33. 33. LJCohen

    We have two (now teenage) sons who are both avid, greedy readers. I don’t think there’s a secret. We just read to them when they were little and their innate love of story did the rest.

    It also helps that we share books as a family and then talk about them at the dinner table.

    One of my fondest ‘book’ memories was when my boys discovered “A Wrinkle in Time” and I had the excuse to read it again and share my love of it with them.

    Now they recommend books to me and pester me unmercifully until I’ve finished them. Currently on my reading queue, courtesy of the two of them: Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, and For the Win by Cory Doctorow. I’m pushing them to read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorgorsikan Saga series.

    My eldest son will be off to college in a year and I hope that sharedbooks continue to be a touchstone between us.

    Best of luck with your new soon-to-be reader!

  34. 34. S.C. Butler

    Elias – Sounds like you folks had a pair of interesting fathers. Might be some stories right there.

    Adam – If they’d just teach reading as something that’s fun, I think that would go a long way to helping everyone.

    LJCohen – Shared books are always great. Loving a book that passionately and sharing that love with someone, relative or friend, is a always a great feeling. I hope I’m as lucky with Henry as you’ve been with your boys.

  35. 35. Douglas Hulick

    Congratulations!

    We have a 12 year old and an 8 year old. The younger has autism, and they both love to read.

    We have a TV. We have a DS. We have a PS3 and a Wii. We have three computers in the house. And the boys both still love to read. Some of their favorite gifts are gift cards to bookstores for the holidays, and they love to take trips to the B&N and library.

    I don’t truck with no TV etc., especially as they get older. These items are common social topics and touch-stones for their ages, and I don’t see the harm in access to tech as long as it is moderated. We also don’t worry overly much about which books they are reading, as long as they aren’t too age inappropriate (either too old or too young, although, really, if they want to sit and read a reader again, so what? It’s reading, and if it’s just for a lark, who cares?)

    So, what do we do? Limit TV, etc., but not too strictly. We allow and encourage books/papers/magazines at the table at breakfast and lunch (dinner is family time). We keep baskets of books in almost every room (including the bathroom). We read in front of them, talk about what we read, about what they read, and so on. We buy movie novelizations, even for the little kid movies. We make sure they each have at least two magazine subscriptions each (getting mail is a HUGE deal when you are a kid, and if it is *your* magazine, you’ll want to read it). We still read to the younger one before bed, and read to the older one until he decided he’d rather do it on his own.

    As they get older, I expect it will get a bit harder. More distractions, more homework, etc. One thing we are trying with the older one right now is that all tech goes off at a certain time. If he wants to read, he can stay up 30 minutes later; if not, get ready for bed, etc. It’s amazing how often reading wins if it means getting a bit more time to be up (we factor this into the bed time).

    But mostly, we encourage them to read, by word and by example. My dad never said No to getting me a book, and I try not to do the same to them. Make books a usual, normal part of daily life, and they will keep them near. I think part of the problem is that not enough people do this any more.

  36. 36. S.C. Butler

    Douglas – Great point about the magazine subscriptions and getting mail. That was exactly how I felt when I was a kid. And good point about the homework as well. I’ve always felt that the best English homework is half an hour reading the book of your choice. You can spell and do grammar and vocabulary in class, but there’s nothing like reading a book you like to really learn how to read well.

  37. 37. S.C. Butler

    Quick update – Henry was born late Saturday night, and we read his first book to him this afternoon. The Little House. Not sure he noticed, but he will.

  38. 38. Ketutar

    I come from a reading family, went through school were I was practically the only one who read, and I don’t have children, but I have a sister who has two, and both dyslectic. She forced them to read. They chose the book themselves, and if they didn’t like it, they could change it, but they read. Now they are adults, and both have the habit of reading.

    So – I suggest you read a lot to the child, even after he has learned to read. My husband and I still like to just sit in bed and read books aloud. That’s the way we read Harry Potters, because neither of us wanted to wait for the other one to read :-D It is a wonderful way of spending time with family :-)

    I also suggest you demand the child reads books, at least an hour a day, after he has learned to read. He can play with his gameboy, and internet and what ever he likes doing after schoolwork and daily reading is done. It will be ok.

  39. 39. S.C. Butler

    Ketutar – I agree with you about how the home environment will be more important than the school environment. But I’m not sure I agree about the demand thing. My wife and I want Henry to have fun reading, and not to think of it as just another chore.

Author Information

S.C. Butler

Butler is the author of The Stoneways Trilogy from Tor Books: Reiffen's Choice, Queen Ferris, and The Magician's Daughter. Find out what Reiffen does with magic, and what magic does with him... Visit site.

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