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Curing the Summer Reading Blahs

Do you find it hard to get your child to sit down with you for a good book?

I wish somebody would force me to sit down in the middle of the day, every day, to read for a half hour.

Oh, what a luxury that would be. I’d plow through the newspaper, cover to cover, instead of just quickly skimming the headlines or an article that really catches my eye while I’m slugging down my morning coffee, late for some child-chaufferring duty, or rushing to get started on a work assignment. I’d dive into one of the books that sits on my nightstand, mostly getting dusty, and read more than a few pages before my lids get heavy and I give in to sleep. But not everyone recognizes this fantasy 30-minute reading period as the luxury that I do.

What I would consider a luxury, my 8-year-old son calls torture.

Most days, when I tell him it’s time to read for 30 minutes, I get feedback. And it’s not positive. He spends more time making excuses—got to go to the bathroom, I’m not in the mood, I’ll do it after such-and-such. When he finally does settle down to read, no sooner does the timer goes off that he leaps off the couch and takes off running—mid-sentence, mid-chapter, doesn’t matter. Most of the time, he doesn't even bother to add a bookmark.

This summer, after five long weeks, he has managed to complete the first book in the Harry Potter series, a feat for which we’re both quite proud. But his summer reading assignment requires him to read several books, meaning he’s going to have to start making reading his number one hobby in order to catch up. And that’s unlikely.

Judging by other moms' tales of woe regarding their sons' attitude toward reading, it seems my son is not the only boy who eschews reading.

Many moms nod their heads sympathetically when I tell them that if I give my son a ball and a bat or a racket, he’ll focus intently until he's mastered a new drill or skill using it. Put him in front of one of those silly hand-held electronic games, and it has the same effect. Stick a book in front of him and, well, he’s just not that interested.

“How many minutes?” he’ll yell from the next room when he's performing his compulsory reading.

“Don’t worry about it. Just lose yourself in the story,” I tell him.

I know there are some boys out there who like to read. In fact whenever I see one, I can’t help but stare longingly, as if maybe I’ll be able to unlock the secret behind this affinity for the written word if I look really hard. Lucky for me (and the boy), he's usually too engrossed in his book to notice.

That’s how it is with my daughter. She brings books to dinner, hiding them on her lap and sneaking in some paragraphs like we can’t see her. She reads on her bed, in the bathroom, and in the car. Not her brother.

I find this dichotomy of interests strange, since I gave both my kids the same exact introduction to reading. From the time they could hold their heads up without excessive bobbing and drooping, I read to my children. For years, it was our go-to activity whenever I wanted to spend some one-on-one time with them. I still read to my son most nights. Why he doesn’t choose to do so on his own I may never completely understand.

Maybe I should try flopping on the couch with a good book as soon as I put the timer on every afternoon for him to read. If he sees how much I enjoy it, he might think I'm on to something. 

Claire Ritterhoff July 19, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Have you checked out guysread.com? Jon Scieska author of many books including The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, along with other authors tackles the issue of boys who are reluctant to read. He also wrote Summer Reading is Killing Me. Your son is getting to the point where there are many more titles to choose from.
Elizabeth Heubeck July 19, 2011 at 01:36 PM
Great tip, Claire. I will definitely check this out.
K Blue July 19, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Here's a few ideas for that age group: Lawn Boy (Gary Paulsen) The Chet Gecko series (Bruce Hale) Beastologist series (Nathaniel Fludd) Framed (Gordon Korman) Barnstormers (Loren Long & Phil Bildner) The Genius Files (Dan Gutman) Lunch Money (Andrew Clements) Time Warp Trio series (Jon Scieska) Great Illustrated Classics - Count of Monte Cristo, Call of the Wild, King Arthur & the Knights of the Roundtable, White Fang, Captain Courageous

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