Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, if your children/students dislike reading it is not because reading is in any way bad for them. Call me biased, but I believe reading is never bad. Au contraire! It’s like filling up on manna from heaven or godly ambrosia. Reading could be perceived as “bad,” however, if it’s required or when readers don’t have what they feel are good choices about what or when to read.
Now, sometimes we adults do read things because we need to or because we have to for our jobs or to help edify our lives. However, reading is not something that children, especially very young children, will do for such pragmatic reasons. Children’s work is play. So if reading is part of their play lives—if it is personally relevant and fun—they’re more apt to do it. Children who choose to read do so because they have learned the wonderful opportunities and joyful experiences available to them through reading.
Sadly, once children learn to dislike something that really is wonderful (like reading…or broccoli) parents and teachers have a devil of a time turning them around. So if at home or in the classroom we have children who are reluctant to read a self-selected book, that must be addressed immediately and at pretty much any cost.
The cost of course is simply to encourage our kids individuality in their reading selections, because kids who have access to individually relevant books are on their way to becoming eager, avid readers. Those who don’t, aren’t.
This is important because avid readers are lifelong learners. If children aren’t developing into delighted readers, then regardless of all the wonderful things they may learn from family or through formal education, the absence of books in their lives will stunt their intellectual and linguistic growth, now and far into the future.
Each child must become engaged with reading in his or her own way. That may mean some work on our part to help them mine the riches of libraries and bookstores and the Internet so they can discover their favorite reading topics, genres or authors. It means helping them get access to reading materials that spark their imaginations and speak to their personal values and interests. It also means presenting reading as a get-to adventure into the fascinating unknown, rather than a have-to chore or assignment.
Ultimately, we want to nurture kids’ appetites for reading so they eagerly devour page after page and book after book and end every reading session hungry for more. And when that happens, we need to just get out of their way and let them feast.