I've often heard complaints and worries, from a wide variety of people, about how many people, especially youth, don't like to read. Blame is placed on a variety of things, from texting on cell phones to uninvolved parents to class sizes in school. But rarely is the actual way reading is taught and approached and looked at brought into question the way I think it needs to be.
I positively love reading, and have since I learned to read at 8 or 9
(and before that I loved being read to), so perhaps I'm not the best
person to be writing this. Maybe someone who actually hates reading
should be writing this, instead. But then again, people who hate
reading often hate writing as well, so would probably have no interest
at all in writing about why they hate reading! Besides, I
know all the things that I think were done right to foster my own love
of reading, so I figure I can just think of all the opposite things
that could have been done, instead.
2. Required reading.
Similarly to the above, requiring people to read certain amounts or at
certain times of the day or for certain reasons is a great way to make
reading feel more like work. If something can feel fun instead,
that's always what people should be aiming for! As with any forced
teaching or forced "educational activities," making reading mandatory
doesn't make it something fun, it makes it something to resent.
3. Book reports.
So often growing up I heard homeschoolers discussing the book reports
they required their children to write upon completing any book they
read. A forced book report (something often a very unappealing thing to
write even for people who usually enjoy writing) looming at the end of
every completed book, is not a very good incentive to do more reading.
If you want people to like reading, it has to be something positive and
enjoyable, and anything that's done to make it feel more like work
is really not conducive to people learning to enjoy reading for it's
own sake. When people are most likely to not mind doing things that
feel like work is when that work is freely chosen, and when it feels
meaningful and important. Book reports? Don't necessarily feel very
meaningful! Critically discussing books can be (almost) as interesting
and enjoyable as reading itself, but that discussion can happen verbally
or in many different written forms (discussion groups and chat-boards,
blog posts, Amazon reviews, essays, or yes, book reports) and is of
course only enjoyable when the reader has freely chosen to do so. It's
also important to remember that it doesn't signify a lack of
comprehension if someone is happy reading without doing any type of
break-down or discussion afterwards. Different people learn and process
things in different ways, and deciding everyone is best served by
writing book reports is just going to, once again, breed resentment and
negativity towards reading.
4. Shaming reading choices. Maybe a parent doesn't actually regulate as such what their children read, but exclaims upon seeing that horror novel or Superman comic in their children's hands "you're reading that??,"
with a healthy helping of disdain. This can be a very
passive-aggressive tactic, or it can just be a knee-jerk comment made
without thought, but either way, it's not pleasant. People want
approval and support from those they share their lives with, from the
smallest choices and quirks to the biggest life decisions and goals, and
even those smallest comments can be hurtful. If reading is something
they have to anxiously wonder what their parents will think and say
about it, it's not going to be nearly as much fun (not to mention how
harmful that type of interaction is to the relationship between parent
5. Focusing on reading skill. I say this as opposed to focusing on reading enjoyment. Reading
skills are certainly important, and certainly influence reading
enjoyment (if the act of reading itself is a struggle due to learning
dissability or some other reason, it's obviously not going to be very
enjoyable and needs to become less of a struggle first). But when you're
purely talking about reading enjoyment, as I am in this post, I'm going
to say that as long as someone is able to basically read without
extreme difficulty, I think it's really important not to focus on
individual reading skills, and instead on enjoyment. If someone is
being tested regularly, prompted to read faster, asked regularly to read
aloud (as a test of ability, not for fun, since reading aloud together
can be really fun, no matter what age people are!), or otherwise has a
parent focus strongly on reading skills, they're turning reading into
something to feel anxious and possibly inadequate about. If someone
enjoys reading, that's what's important. And if someone enjoys reading
and wants to do more of it, improved skill in the activity will
Of course, some people will face some
or all of the things on this list, and still come out as passionate and
voracious readers. This list is simply some things I think are a lot
more likely to harm than help!
How is your relationship with reading? Do you think I missed anything that should be on this list? Chime in in the comments section and share your thoughts and experiences!