As an English teacher, I know all about irony. So while I can never find enough time to read all the books on my “on deck” list, my 9-year-old would rather do almost anything else but read.
Okay, that might be a little bit of hyperbole. It’s not that he won’t read. But unless I ask or remind him, reading a book isn’t something he’ll do on his own. He’d much rather watch YouTube videos, play with his Legos, draw, and even practice his piano (and that makes him cry sometimes, so…).
I’ve taken all the familiar steps. Careful not to take the joy of reading and discovery away by forcing him into it, instead, I’ve tried to fill our shelves with interesting books. Knowing the value of serial reading among lifelong readers, I’ve added Magic Treehouse, Hardy Boys, Beast Quest, Secrets of Droon, Time Warp Trio, Boxcar Children, Wayside School. Because he also loves to draw, we have books from the Diary of the Wimpy Kid Series, Big Nate, Percy Jackson, Middle School, and I, Funny. And because they’re classics, we’ve got Ronald Dahl, E. B. White, and C. S. Lewis on our shelves, too.
I’ve tried reading books together. For example, right now, we’re about 2/3 of the way through Charlotte’s Web, which I’m reading to both him and his younger brother. He seems to enjoy this, but when I suggest that he could always read something like Charlotte’s Web on his own, he just shrugs his shoulders and books go unopened. On long trips, we’ve listened to audio books like the first Percy Jackson book and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
I keep hoping that something will “hook” him and he’ll want to read on his own. So far, not too much luck.
We’ve set aside reading time, and even got one of those timer bookmarks. I thought that maybe if I could just get him into the habit of reading 20 minutes a day that something would just stick. Instead, what I’ve learned is that he’ll read for 20 minutes exactly. When the timer goes off, he stops reading, sometimes mid-sentence.
All that said, there have been a few successes here and there. In second grade, he seemed to really like the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, which he used for a school project. In third grade, he read the part one of Mary Osborne’s Odyssey series for kids (he was really into Greek mythology for a while). And this past year, he’s read the first four books in the Middle School series by James Patterson and The One and Only Ivan (which was a struggle, but he enjoyed in the end – I think). But again, all this has been with my (gentle?) encouragement.
So I’m not sure what else I can do except keep trying to put books in his hands. He enjoys some non-fiction, but nothing that he’ll sit and read for any extended period of time. We take almost weekly trips to the library and bookstores, which he usually spends looking at the latest Minecraft manuals.
Because he’s already in fourth grade—fourth grade!—I’m starting to feel a little panicked that reading bug will never bite. Then I remind myself that I have 9th graders sitting in my classroom who never liked to read until this year and now actually enjoy it. I remind myself that it’s never too late for any reader, that all readers are reluctant readers at some point. I remind myself that he’s not already in fourth grade, but only in fourth grade. I remind myself that it’s just about finding that right book at the right time.
And I wait.
This post is part of the “Slice of Life” series, organized by the teachers at Two Writing Teachers, whose goal is to give teachers a place to write and reflect. This March, more than 250 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even some students), visit twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.