What if They Don’t Love Books and Reading?

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The love of books does not come easily to children whose parents aren’t readers or whose teachers don’t include this most important whole-child goal in their instructional practice.

A love of books and reading needs to be in place if we expect anyone to be able to read beyond the basics. Avid readers not only love books and reading, but are, by virtue of that emotional connection, well on their way to being lifelong readers and thus lifelong learners…real contributors to society.

THAT achievement is (or should be) one of, if not the single, non-negotiable goals of K-12 education. If that’s not accomplished, then it will be difficult, at best, to achieve other education goals. Ongoing updates to children’s educational experiences that happen through the daily reading of a range of materials won’t happen. Effectively, they’ll never get out of high school, let alone go on to pursue postsecondary education.

So, how can others lead children to love books if the important adults in their lives can’t or won’t commit to that?

Like everything else, I think it starts with conversation. Conversation changes what we think about and how we understand things. By changing the conversations we have with children or their parents, we can enrich their conceptions of books and reading. Without being preachy, we can expand the family’s understandings of the world of books and the power and reward of leading a literate life. Even a little nudge could make a difference.

It can start with a simple statement about something you know or have read.

  • Wow! What a surprise to read about XYZ in the paper this morning! That writer really got into the issue in an entertaining way.
  • My favorite book by ABC has something like that in it. Wow, can she write! Pulls me right in every time.
  • I always carry a book with me in case I get stuck waiting somewhere. No matter what happens during the day, in 10 seconds I’m on a mini vacation and don’t mind waiting or hanging around for something.
  • I’ve been reading books about GHI. I have three or four at home right now. Fascinating stuff!

Even a simpfirefighter talking with kidle, yet direct question can lead to a new awareness about how fun reading is and how easy it is to engage with books.

  • Do you have a favorite book?…author?
  • So, what are you reading right now? Anything I might like?
  • How’d you find out about that? I’d like to read up on it. Any suggestions?
  • I tend to read everything by a good author and then move on to the next one. Who are you reading lately?
  • I read the book, as well as saw the movie. It’s great fun getting to know People at Work 2014_coverthe characters really deeply and how they think. Books go into more detail than movies can. Was there one person in the movie that you related to particularly?
  • I know she is just learning to talk, but does she have a library card? Did you know that her language and thinking will take off when you read and talk with her about what’s in books? Some kids’ books are funnier or more meaningful to me than “adult” stuff I read!

Talking to children about what they are or could be reading, and talking to parents about the power reading and books bring into their children’s lives, can move a family in a positive direction toward literacy and a new trajectory in life.

Anybody can change someone’s life today, just by starting a new conversation.


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2 Responses to “What if They Don’t Love Books and Reading?”

  1. Paula Lee Bright December 5, 2015 at 3:28 am #

    Oh heavens, oh my word, oh, help!

    As an online reading teacher, I demonstrate this every day, and it works. All my failing readers end up reading well.

    But I have a niece with a baby. I send a board book a month, plus lots at Christmas and holidays. She now says–enough books. We have more than enough, we need more practical things, like gas and stuff from Walmart.

    I totally hear her! I know they need $$$$! But still, they aren’t realizing what Baby M needs to rise above that situation when he’s grown. I’m not really in the mood to supply their basic needs. It’s not my job!

    I’m a reading teacher. I’m in the mood to teach Baby M to love reading, and love learning!

    I feel that I can’t interfere, and also that I can’t try to convince them otherwise.

    What do you recommend that I do?

    • Mark Condon December 5, 2015 at 9:22 am #

      I’ll be your cheerleader, Paula. You must live your truth. I’d send him even more books, but select titles targeted for when he’s a bit older. Be the crazy book aunt. Many of us had one and have lived thankful for her our whole lives. Heck, send mom and dad books. Get them what they might love. That might open the opportunity to talk about the unique power in book language to generate likely school success. Heck, mail ’em a subscription to Ranger Rick or Highlights. You go!