Booking Through Wednesday–Encouraging Reading

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Suggested by Barbara H:

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 think that a love of reading is something that should be encouraged early and often in life.  I think if you plant the seeds that reading is fun early in life, it will bloom later in life.  That said, I think the best way to encourage a non-reader to read is to find things they will want to read and not discouraging them from reading them because they aren’t “great literature.”

I was recently listening to a radio program on the “Doctor Who” tie-in novels published by Target.  For those of you who may not know, the novels were adaptations of the “Doctor Who” serials published in the 1970s and 80’s when the television show wasn’t repeated often and there wasn’t VHS or DVD to watch them over and over again.  At one point, the commentator brings up the point that the books would get boys reading something because of their interest in “Doctor Who” and that, at times, educators weren’t happy about it because “it was only ‘Doctor Who.'”

I feel like this can happen a lot with the choices that boys and teenage boys can make in their reading material.  We’re often drawn to graphic novels, comic books, sci-fi and fantasy, tie-in novels, etc. and sometimes when we read them, there’s a bias by teacher, parents, etc against them.   Also, I really think we need a revolution in publishing as well to target young boys.  I wandered by the young adult section of the bookstore and if you just look at the covers, you can tell that a majority of the books are marketed toward young women.  Which is fine, but we need to have some good alternatives to encourage the young guys to want to pick up the book as well.  And despite the old adage, many times books are judged by their covers.


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9 responses to “Booking Through Wednesday–Encouraging Reading

  1. Their freinds and bribery worked for me, perhaps a bit of timing as well. Here’s Mine

  2. My children have been read to since they were babies, became early readers and the passion has stayed with them into their teens. We are not a telly watching family and we do not own any gaming systems. My teens love bookstores and libraries and request books as gifts. My full BTT:

  3. Phyllis

    “I think the best way to encourage a non-reader to read is to find things they will want to read and not discouraging them from reading them because they aren’t “great literature.”

    So true! I still “make” my kids read “great literature”, but allowing them to also follow their own interests is healthy and I see them making their own connections between books and plots and ideas. The more they read, of both “fluff” and quality, they are able to see the differences and appreciate the various aspects of each genre.

  4. I agree with you about the YA targeting women a lot, but I have noticed a rise in books that could be geared more towards young boys, especially with the Percy Jackson series. Even the book I’m reading now has a young male as the main character. Hopefully they will continue coming, since I love buying them for my nephew!

    I’ve posted a Valentines related question at The Crowded Leaf if you’re interested.

  5. I agree – and not just with the books on the market. Have you ever looked at the list of classics most teachers pick out? They seemed to be targeted towards girls and not the guys.

    I had to deal with this with my oldest child.
    Here’s my response.

  6. Yes, a lot of books are geared towards women. Heck shopping in general is geared towards women.

    Here is mine

  7. have you see Guys Lit Wire? it’s a site that targets boys and highlights all sorts of books that teenage and younger boys may like. They cover sci-fi, non-fic, graphic novels, classics, everything. It’s a good resource.

  8. You’re right about the shortage of YA books for guys out there. It’s a shame, and hopefully that will eventually get corrected.

  9. While there are some individual teachers who may not value popular fiction the bulk of teachers these days recognise the value of popular fiction and things like manga and graphic fiction. In one of the libraries I have worked I introduced the current range of Dr Who novels and I have to disagree that there is a lack of YA geared towards boys, it looks that way in bookshops at the moment becasue girls are more inclined to buy books and the whole vampire thing has created a bit of dark romance frenzy but if you look hard enough you will find that there is an abundance of great fiction for boys. One good site for books for boys is Book Zone
    A good library and children’s librarian should be catering to the needs of boys and a good children’s librarian can make a great ally in getting boys to love books.
    Great topic! And I also grew up reading those Dr Who novels.

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