Kids Don’t Have To Think Reading’s A Chore

by Venomous Kate

To say that my son is a reluctant reader is putting it mildly. I’m not sure when the problem started; he used to adore reading books together, and being read to. Of course, he used to also get away with staying up late by begging me to read his favorite books “Just one more time, Mommy”. Then I’d see him dragging the next morning and realized he needed sleep more than he needed to hear Goodnight, Moon for the umpteenth time.

I guess his dislike of reading really emerged around the time we transitioned from homeschooling to public school in third grade. At that point we were introduced to the Accelerated Reader (AR) program which confused both of us greatly. See, the name makes it sound like kids are challenged to read books on the higher end of their skill level purely for extra credit. In practice, it’s a task they’re assigned over and above homework, with participation in fun classroom activities dependent upon their performance. And how is that performance assessed? By a test, as if kids these days aren’t being tested enough.

So my son, when presented with his quarterly AR goals, balks at them. Most books that capture his interest are a mere 2 or 3 points, while his goal was consistently closer to 20. For those doing the math, that’s one and a half books per week, assuming he scored 100% on the test for each, on top of his homework. Last year, that homework took nearly two hours a night. Needless to say, when faced with the chance to get outside and play once homework was done, or to sit and read for the 30 recommended minutes each evening, he chose playtime. Can’t say I blame him.

One thing I wish? That his teachers knew about the Reading Rainbow video series with its 153 episodes on a variety of themes designed to intrigue kids and point them to books that will capture their interest. Perhaps with some guidance like that, along with the activities and curricula ideas, we wouldn’t have floundered around looking for books that would appeal to him. As it was, we didn’t find any last year, so my son never did make his AR goal.

Oddly enough, that doesn’t seem to be a problem this summer. See, I picked up the Lemony Snicket series at a garage sale not long ago. If you’ve ever read one of those books, you’ll know that the back cover warns kids to go pick a different book — any different book — because this one’s probably going to spook the heck out of them. Reverse psychology? Of course. But it’s brilliant, I tell you. My kid’s finished the entire series in the month that school’s been out, and today he announced he’s starting back over at Book One so he can experience them all again.

Now, if only he’ll hurry up with it so I can start reading them, too!

6 Comments to “Kids Don’t Have To Think Reading’s A Chore”

  1. .
    When I was in third grade (while living in Istanbul) I was content reading Donald Duck comics until my parents started reading some of Tom Sawyer to me. Then they did not continue. That was the point when I began reading books without pictures. From then on I mostly read what I wanted, with the exception of silly books required at school. Then, while attending school at Ft.Churchill, Manitoba, I was required to read “British Literature, memorize all the Kings and Queens of England in order and eat my chips with vinegar. All of that served me well later. I became a trained scientist and an avid SiFi reader until my employment required that I review technical documents written by the US Corps of Engineers. Really, Kate, that took all the fun out of it. My readings continue in the sciences from paleobotony to astrophysics.
    Reading is how civilization remembers, debates, and speculates

  2. Reading for work does take the fun out of it, doesn’t it? I think it’s the adult version of AR — once we’re expected to read and remember data from something, it’s no longer a form of entertainment and, instead, just another chore.

    Love that bit about reading is how civilization remembers, etc! Susan Wise Bauer, who wrote The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had, refers to reading as taking part in a Great Conversation for the same reason.

    As someone who manage to get through college with a Lit major — without actually reading the true text of many of the classics, since the Cliff Notes’ version was so much faster to read — I’ve been working my way through some of those books I missed out on. (Again, because reading became a chore, whereas now I’m doing it for the pleasure.)

  3. The Little Guy is reading to his Dad for thirty minutes every night. He started out reading the entire Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, moved on to the entire Chronicles of Narnia, and is now on the Harry Potter series (book three at this point in time.) After that they’ll be on to the The Mysterious Benedict Society books.

    Having The Little Guy read aloud to Dad ensures that the 30 minutes is actually spent reading and gives The Little Guy and Dad special time that is all theirs. We’re keeping the reading up all summer long.

  4. Oooh, I like that idea! VH and the Big-Eyed Boy spend a lot of father-son time together these days — often excluding me because I’m not “one of the boys” — but I bet that would be a great addition to our nightly routine!

  5. And you can get the entire “A Series of Unfortunate Events” read out loud to you!

    Oh, and the “Mysterious Benedict Society” books are very similar to the “A Series of Unfortunate Events” books. Same kind of weird just slightly alternate universe.

  6. Yes, I suppose that’s a possibility, although I do love reading stories to myself.