Goodness, it was a battle.
I am not exaggerating one bit when I tell you that our sweet girl was bound and determined to never love reading. And, there were many times that I wanted to give up on raising her to read. Seriously.
When she was younger, we would all sit together to have reading time. Kids on couches and floors, with me joining in, reveling in great books for a good long while. Often. And this girl, do you know what she would do?
She would sit, book open, turning pages and never read a word! She would go through the trouble of being still and working to appear as though she was reading but never even give it a shot.
That, my friends, is determination.
She is the last child of four and all her older brothers grew up with their noses in books. I was a teacher for years and totally understood the value, not of being capable of reading, but of truly loving story. We fostered this in our kids intentionally. We read great books to them aloud. We encouraged them to tackle books that sparked their imaginations. We celebrated the finishing of amazing stories. And we made time for reading in our home every day.
Some of the boys came to love it quickly. Others, took their time. What worked for one may not have worked for another, but we found a way to fan the flame for each and, over time, all of them became avid readers. We were thrilled.
Oh, but this girl. She had no plans of doing the same.
She may be stubborn but the truth is she’s got nothing on me.
So, we started to set goals for her. Books she needed to read. She was not happy. We tweaked her use of the library at school (She needed to read certain books before she could just pick willy-nilly) and, because of this, she started to find herself reading great books at her level.
She was shocked. (We were thrilled! :::but acted all cool about it:::)
This summer, I decided to up the ante.
Growing up, I loved the book Little Women. The story is compelling and the relationships are complex. There is nothing formulaic about it and the characters stay with you for a lifetime. Every type of girl is reflected on those pages and I wanted my daughter to experience this story. So I offered her a challenge. Read the book in two weeks and get a reward. (20 Sticks, equivalent to three weeks of chores/tasks at home.) She was intrigued. She opened the book.
At first, it was slow going. She was intimidated by the size of the book and could not figure out the plot. Kids books often simplify things so much that delving into this book felt like a lot of talking and seemed to have no real direction. I encouraged her to keep going.
One day, while she was cleaning her room, I brought her a cell phone upon which I had downloaded the audio copy of the book. I let her listen while she worked.
(It is FINE with me to allow reading and/or listening because I know that the greatest motivator for a reluctant reader is to foster a love of story. )
Pretty soon, she was looking for time to read. She made time. She was totally engrossed in a book that is nearly 150 years old. She knew these girls, wanted what was best for them, was shocked at the turns their lives were taking. (Goodness, weren’t you?? )
And then, I saw this:
In our life, this is a stunning picture.
We are sitting at her big brother’s soccer game. She LOVES soccer and adores her big brother. But she cannot stop reading. The story has grabbed her and she wants to know what will happen. She cannot put it down.
She finished the book that day. Reading the last pages on a phone, while sitting outside in the sun. And since that time, she has come to me several times and talked about those women, their lives, that era and I could not be more proud.
Mommas, this reading battle? It is one we have to win.
Here are three easy ideas to help your child fall in love with story.
- Don’t get distracted by the act of independent reading. That goal will come on its own if you connect your child with great books and amazing stories. (Yes, I know this is not what the teachers say. I used to be one. I taught first grade, the year most kids learn to read. But the truth is that we want them LOVING books, not counting words and pages. Reading as a task can lead to overlooking the wonder of a tale well-told.)
- Read aloud to your child, even books above their level. You are showing them it is possible. You are living out the point! Reading is not at all about sounding words out. It is about what you are reading. Help your kiddos learn that.
- Expose your children to a wide variety of books. Use the library. (We also love Half-Price Books!) Poetry, Mysteries, Fiction, Biographies, Plays–all of it has value. You never know what might connect for your child. Try something new!
I have fought for my daughter for a very long time. I never let myself even think “She just hates reading.” Giving into that belief lets me off the hook but leaves my girl in a place where all of school will be an uphill climb. That is just not what I want for her. I want her to feel capable. I want her life enriched by the wonder of great books. I want her to love reading. And every ounce of credit for all that she has accomplished is hers. She did the hard work and she reaps the spoils.
How thankful, I am.