Thursday, March 11, 2010

Missing Out

The title of this post reflects both its subject matter, and how I felt after cruising over to the BTT blog, a place I haven't been for about four weeks. There were some excellent topics, some that I just may have to revisit. I picked the one that I liked the most to work on today:

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 kids, but I have to confess that I don't fully understand the concept of "a non-reader." Especially since I live in the north, where it's cold for a good portion of the year. What do non-readers do with themselves? I'm very glad I've been a reader all my life, because unlike many other hobbies, books will always be there for me. At a certain age, I was too old to play with my dollhouse. Kids who are into a lot of sports will age out of them at different rates, too, plus many sports require either a certain setup (like ice hockey, gymnastics and swimming) or at least the presence of quite a few others who also want to play (baseball, football, lacrosse).

So I don't know what I'll do if my kids don't want to read. If I have any, which I'm still undecided about, I'll do everything in my power to get them into it. My parents read to me quite literally from the time I was a baby. By the time I was 3 or 4, I could read well enough to read things to the NEW baby (there are pictures. Seriously). There were always books around, and I was never barred from reading any of them (leading to a few "Grandma, what's an erection?" moments, that were probably worse for the adults involved than they were for me).

But when I encounter a person that doesn't want to read, or doesn't read often, I do enjoy trying to find them things. My boyfriend is a prime example. He had a learning disability, back in the days when there really wasn't such a thing. Back when we were growing up, there were the regular kids, the smart kids, the "retards" whom we were not to call that and who we only saw on their way to eat lunch -- through the window of course, since they ate early and alone; and then there were the dumb kids. The kids where it was OK to say to their faces that they weren't college material, and that they were dumb as sheetrock. One cannot help but internalize a little bit of this.

But, he does read now. After we saw "The Fellowship of the Ring," he went out and bought all three of the books, plus "The Hobbit" and "The Silmarillion." He finished the trilogy plus one in about three weeks time. Several years later, he's still only halfway through "The Silmarillion," but I understand most people don't even make it that far. He liked the Eragon books, and right now he's working on a novel about Arthas, the chief villian of World of Warcraft.

Most of my attempts to find him something have failed. He couldn't get into the His Dark Materials trilogy. He won't pick up Harry Potter, even though he quizzes me about the plot points for about an hour after each movie. I've finally figured out that he likes "high fantasy," so I'm going to get him some Ursula LeGuin after he finishes the book about Arthas. I think it's just a matter of finding what the person might like, as long as they're receptive to it.

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