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Will your children end up loving or loathing reading?

I keep banging on about how much I want my child to enjoy reading, but ultimately I am not really sure how much of an impact I can have on another person’s likes and loves, but that does not stop me from having a ‘strategy of encouragement’.

Thinking back I have very strong, and very vivid, memories of enjoying books as a child.  Memories include taking books on holiday with me, and reading them at night, even after all the excitement of  the day, days that would usually have included a multitude of activities, making new friends and, at times, perhaps, the odd bit of mischief.

But even after all those highs, I would enjoy coming back to my night time reading, and look forward to the visions that my mind would create based on what I was reading.

It was also at this time that I first discovered that reading can be so much more fun than television, or film.  I had a book based on the children’s cartoon series M.A.S.K. The images I came up with while reading it, in my own grey matter, were always better than the actual episodes I numbed myself with on television.

However, somewhere along the way, I lost my love of reading, and looking back I think I can start to perhaps pinpoint where, and why.

I now believe it was during high school, which, twenty years ago (wow) was when school felt like it was getting serious.

A proper timetable, homework, a diary to record homework, targets, tests and reports.

All these things turned me off education, and while I did not struggle at school, I did not thrive within its environment, and my love of reading was lost to the labour of reading what I was told to, and to; READ IT BETTER.

It was not until I left school, again on holiday - one very different to the ones we used to enjoy as a family - that a friend handed me a book they had just finished; Popcorn by Ben Elton.  And after reading it, in what seemed like hours, my love for books was reignited.

My hand luggage on any holiday after that would always be dominated by books, at an almost one-per-day-of-vacation ratio.   And I would always have a book on-the-go at home, without finding the time to read them at such at perhaps such a ferocious pace.

Now with my son starting school this September, I can, sadly, see him going through a similar process, it is already happening in his first formal year of schooling.

My son loves books, or being read to certainly, he gets very excited when I increase the number I am going to read to him based on his positive behaviour, and that fills me with joy.

What fills me with dread is when he says things like; ‘I MUST read this tonight, as I HAVE to get to the end of this level, to get onto the next’.

Laboured, rushed reading, ignoring his learning ability, and certainly his joy of learning and words.

What is more depressing is that this is seemingly a global issue, with parents feeling the world over, that children are under increasing pressure from a ridiculously young age, to achieve certain targets, with little regard to the impact this is having on the individual.

The Book Chook gave, what I believe, to be an excellent response to a letter she received from a worried parent.  A parent concerned that their child is not at the right level of reading.

I appreciate there has to be a balance, but, in my opinion, a love of reading conquers being on red, green level or having a ‘reading age’ surpassing the years since your birth.

But, what do you think, and have you experienced similar?

28 thoughts on “Will your children end up loving or loathing reading?”

  • Joy

    My dd started showing an interest in reading at a very early age. My MIL took it upon herself (a teacher) to ask her to read to her every time she saw her and started asking what does this word say - all the time. Completely turned my dd off reading, to the extent where you couldn't even say you wanted to read a book anymore. I had to say, shall we explore a story, instead.
    We are, fortunately, home educating, and I was able to just let her be, although I did continue reading to her. She is now enjoying spelling words, but I still can't ask her to 'read' something, I have to couch it in different terms. If you ask her if she can read, she would immediately say no. But she has regained her love of books, thankfully!
    Good luck with your son, I hope he doesn't lose his love of books.

  • Ian Newbold

    I hope so too, and thanks for sharing your experience.

    It seems I am not alone, and it is glad that it reads like your experience is turning back into a positive one.

  • ImPerceptible

    One of my children learned to read early and she loves reading. It's as if she was born a reader. I have seen a slight loss of interest in reading since she started middle school. They have reading tests on their "free" reading books and they are required to get a certain number of points each month. She gets mad because the books she likes to read are not on the list.

    My other daughter is 10 and she just found out that she loves reading. It has been a long road flled with worries (mine) but she's there now. I am happy that I took the advice of fellow homeschool moms and did not push reading even though a part of me wanted to. Children learn to read when they are ready and forcing it before they are ready is going to be harmful. Right now she is reading books and stacking them into a pile. Her goal is to get the pile of books all the way to the ceiling! I don't think she would have the same enthusiasm if she had been labeled as behind and forced into special classes so she could 'catch up' and meet the random requirements of the school system.

  • Ian Newbold

    That's very interesting, and seems to reinforce my do-not-push mentality.

    Must be hard to not push though, especially when it feels like you should. Good on you for giving both of yours a thirst, and thank you for sharing.

  • chrissy

    Ian, as u know each child is different.. My husband started reading to each child at the age of 2... He started reading fairy tales to them and slowly graduated them towards Wizard of Oz, etc.... my girls loved reading.. my son ( last child) got up one evening leaving my husband sitting .... he was bored... And I know what u mean as far as the rewards they get in school in order to get them to read... We have always told our kids that reading instills imagination, escape and also develops vocabulary.... My son did not do well on the SAT due to the fact his vocab knowledge sucked...
    Is your son interested in a particular subject? or hobby? he could read books related to his interests... sports?
    For awhile my son was into Lord of the Rings... and also it was connected to a video game so he learned alot... another medieval game was related to history and that got him interested in medieval history....
    Its hard I know especially if u love to read as well... Maturity and control also has a lot to do w/it...
    When my son refused to write in his journal at school the teacher said he didn't have to and took the journal away... which prompted him to take it back and write.... I think that if u tell him that if he chooses not to read, it will result in a lesser grade...
    As my therapist told me : preface w/YOU not I. so it takes the onus of of you as a parent... Let him know the consequences and he can make the choice... Also remind him that he is missing out in enjoying and learning by not reading...

    • Ian Newbold

      Chrissy - I hope that my son does pick up books on subjects he is interested in, and that the system allows him to do so. I may have mislead you in the post, but my son at the moment very much enjoys books, my fear is the school system will knock that out of him - like it did me, for a while. I will be doing my level best to stop that from happening, which may be to do nothing at all, but I suspect it won't be.

  • Zoeyjane

    I'm extremely against pushing - I think, on all academic levels, children should be able to progress at a level that's natural to them. With different kinds of learners, the simplified 'learning to read' rules might not work, too. For instance, my daughter's got a dozen words down. Not because she's learning to read, but because she's got a wicked memory and knows the sounds that letters on signs make and is choosing to apply those abilities to books, too. But, I'm not suggesting to her that she read, whatsoever. She's three.

    What we do though is stop during walks when she starts naming letters on signs. We read most nights, for half an hour. She sees me always reading. She associates reading with stories, like Joy ended up doing, and stories are always welcomed.

    • Ian Newbold

      Zoeyjane - To me that is absolutely key. Learning when they want to, to the point they are ignorant to the fact they are learning, just alive to the new information they are processing.

  • Lauren

    Hey, just thought i'd comment as I completely agree with your arguement. I was an avid child reader, loved literature in school and went on to do A level Lit too. We did the usual Victorian Literature and stuff and i feel it was at that point that my enjoyment factor started to wane.
    I am at the end of a three year Literature degree and can honestly say i now HATE reading for my course. Being forced into what you can and cannot read and having theories and themes cast upon that text which invariably changes your view of the text is despressing and takes the fun out of reading to me.

    My Gran is also really into reading and she literally has bags of books for me to read when I finish my degree. Though i'm really grateful, it's almost going from one 'canon' of books set my the University to another completely opposite 'canon' from my Gran!

    I yearn for the days when I can wander for hours round Waterstone's again, NOT in the literary criticism section and smell the books, feel the spines and indulge myself in the first few pages of a dozen books before making my special selection :)

    • Ian Newbold

      Lauren, thanks for sharing that. And it sounds like you are very nearly there, at the end of the degree I mean. And what a library to look forward to, I hope you enjoy it, and walking around Waterstones soon!

  • chrissy

    I've worked in the schools as a Special Ed. Aide and our district always allowed( within reason) anything that would help further the student... Even those w/out learning disabilities... I do know u have to have a caring staff of teachers and administration... If you find your school is not listening to you then its time to find another and yes it is hard work.... then again is it fair to stifle a child's learning because the teacher may have to go the extra mile and provide an alternative book or lesson? that is where an aide comes in... I was always adjusting the student's lessons to be more conducive ...

  • MrsW

    I was utterly horrified when my 5yo daughter came home after mere weeks of schooling and told me she was in the "top" reading group. Not so much that she was in the top but that at 5 years old she knew she was in the top. I found it so very sad that if she knew her place in this arbitrary hierarchy (what else can it be? we are talking about 5 year olds here!) then so did the children in the "bottom" group. It's one thing to identify those that need a little more help but to group them, grade them and make it known to them how they measure up against each other I found quite revolting. And I told the teacher exactly that. The next year when my son was in the "top" group I had to ask for him to be moved down as I was utterly sick of the stress he was placing on himself to maintain his "position". By the look on her face I suspect I was the first parent to ask such a thing.

    Now 14 my daughter has successfully negotiated her first "made to read" book, Lord of the Flies. She has emerged unscathed and continues to read books as vociferously as always. My 13yo son - not so much, but he engages with narratives in a variety of alternative genres and mediums so I'm not at all worried by that.

    Apparently the most influential thing a parent can do isn't to read to their children but to be read themselves, in front of them? I'll have to ask MrW for a source on that one but it does resonate with me.

    Incidentally, most of the 5 year olds in that bottom group, written off almost immediately and who knows how dispirited, have ended up at the lower end of the achivement scale in secondary school. Nature or nurture? I have my theories.

    • Ian Newbold

      Mrs W - Thanks for stopping by here. And as always you make very interesting points. I agree that is awful to be setting children up from reception, like in inferred in the post, my son knows what level of book he is on, and that of the others. I didn't actually realise that there were different levels until other parents enquired as to my son's level, and his need to read based on 'moving up a level'. Again, thanks for sharing, and good on you, would be interested in finding that reference from Mr W too.

  • Katherine Norman
    Katherine Norman February 12, 2010 at 8:24 am

    As a home educating (home schooling) parent I have had the joy of seeing my daughter learn to read - on her own. She sees me read, I read to her. We are surrounded by books and from that she has learnt to love them. One of her first words was book.
    First she looked at the pictures, then she listened, then asked me to follow the words with my finger and sometimes tell her what a word says - but that is it. But I don't sit her down and sound words out, or tell her to read to me. The couple of times I tried this - she backed off. She stopped being interested and withdrew. Her reaction shows how disempowering and how much of a turn off someone trying to test you, to opush you to do somthing is.
    She is 6 and is starting to read herself. I have friends who didn't learn until they were 9 and who love words, reading and value the skills of memory that they developed before they could read. I also know of others who didn't learn to read until they were 14, and who had developed other skills and interests in the mean time - and then did it in a week or so.
    To love books and reading - you must own it. Make the choices yourself - not only what to read, but how to learn and when.

  • Ian Newbold

    Katherine - What a beautiful thing. But as you describe, you let your child dictate the learning. Wonderful. I think I need to get back into the habit of reading novels, as one benefit will be my son seeing me read.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Sayuri

    I really liked this blogpost and all the comments, seeing that all of you are so very concerned about your children, but on the other hand give them their freedom to explore on their own how wonderful it is to read.
    Personally, I love to read, though I'm not even sure why. My family tends to read, and of course my parents read stories to me, but they were not in the language that I read in now (because they are immigrants). I think it might be that I just saw them reading and that I noticed that it was fun for them. And then, I presume that I was about 6 or 7, I started to read a lot. Before, I learned it in school, but I wasn't an exceptionally good reader. But somehow on my own, I learned to love books and stories, and until today (I'm 17 years old now) I would rather read a good book than watch TV or play a computer game.
    PS: Sorry for any mistakes in my text, English is a foreign language for me ^^

  • Ian Newbold

    Sayuri - Thanks for commenting, and absolutely crystal clear English.

    I am delighted that you love reading, and that you seemingly self-creating that love.

  • Kelly

    I agree with a lot you say, and have had quite a few similar experiences myself.
    I've always loved reading, but i absolutely loathe Shakespeare after studying it in school, even though i always liked the plays and films for the most part. I also found that how well i did in English depended on how much i liked the book i was studying, and the books they chose were often... uninspiring. The only one i actually took pleasure in was To Kill a Mockingbird, which the rest of the class also liked and almost a third of the class got A*s in that coursework, where usually only a few did.

    My friends in the lower classes often hated English, and they were studying books that again wouldn't appeal to teenagers. I have nothing against classics, but i do think that if you're trying to stimulate love for reading in somebody, you need to do it with a book that interests them. One particular friend of mine failed her English GCSE, and is now taking an Adult Ed course in English that she actually enjoys a lot. She's reading Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett.

    I've also got a six year old brother who is learning to read, and it's a constant battle to try and get him to do it. The thing is, before he started school he enjoyed asking about words and how to spell things he liked, and he loves stories, but whenever anyone tells him it's time to read he runs in the opposite direction as fast as he can.
    It's actually the same with everything now. If he thinks someone's trying to teach him something, he doesn't want to know; you have to treat it like a game for him to listen.
    And the other thing that really annoys me is that they've been teaching him how to write joined up. From reception. He still writes half his letters backwords and he can't quite follow the lines so to me it seems that joined up writing at this stage is trying to make them run before they can walk.
    Anyway, I think it's exactly as you said; homework, tests and targets suck all the fun out of learning.

    • Ian Newbold

      Kelly - Thanks for commenting, and sharing your experience. It is 'good' to know that I am not alone in my experiences of reading at school. Though it does seem to be a common issue, or thought. I think we almost need to separate learning to read into a process outside of school that is enjoyable rather than tiresome. Hope you brother progresses to a love for reading.

  • Cathy Puett Miller AKA The Literacy Ambassador

    I believe that a parent's influence when given in regular doses can have more impact than the sometimes artificial reading environment we see in schools (sometimes it's just the focus teachers feel compelled to take on the mechanics of reading - we should celebrate the science). The secret is to make reading at home the most delicious, delightful experience ever - give your child an authentic reason (based on his/her personality, interests, needs) to read.

    • Ian Newbold

      I am warmed by what you say, and thanks for commenting. My experience is limited to my son, and the observations through my own childhood. Though I am discovering, here, as well as in the playground, that this is a theory felt by many parents.

  • Layla Cook

    i was also home schooled when i was younger and it is also a great weay to get your education.

  • Bethany Bennett

    i was home schooled too but i would still prefer regular schools.::`

  • Fridge Freezers

    i was home schooled when i was still very young and i have to stay that it is also a great way to educate your kids .'-

  • Colin

    I really like your site! Have you got a fb or fb page? I'd like to connect and speak about a few things. Appreciation for all your work.

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