As a teacher-librarian, the question I am asked most often is “how can I get my child to read?” I have become an expert at teaching others using all the data and research responses used to promote literacy, and I’ve thought a lot about offering advice when I hear that a child still hates reading.
I lived through this question for many years. When my daughter was born. I was committed to raising her with all the knowledge and best practices I had been taught. And it worked. We read daily, she had an extensive vocabulary and entered school ready to read. She learned quickly and progressed in school the way she should. Then at the beginning of second grade, she rebelled. She hated to read. I went back to the research, trying everything and anything I could to bring back her love of reading.
Nothing worked and it carried on for three more years, she still hated to read. Her teachers tried everything and we all worked to find the spark she needed to want to read again. I continued to buy her books and even included her when she would as I read to her younger brother. We listened to audio books in the car and one day it was like all of the pieces fell into place. She saw me reading a YA series one of my high school students suggested, and asked if I would read it to her. I jumped at that chance and we spent a few hours one Wyoming winter weekend cuddled up reading. On Monday, she asked if she could take the book to read during class, and I said yes. From that point on she was a reader and is still to this day
What changed? I asked her why she hated reading for that few years and she told me it was not reading she hated but the books and stories she was expected to read. She also let me know that although she did not like to read, she continued to watch me and her brother reading. But not only reading but talking about what we read and sharing the joy we were experiencing through reading about different worlds, cultures, people, etc. Even when she complained about listening to audio books, she secretly liked that it would lead to sharing stories about our family and conversations about what was happening in the world.
So, I go back to the question “How can I get my child to read” and here is my advice. It is not about the how but the why. “Why do you want your child to read? The easy answer is we need to read to actively participate in society and to understand the world around us, but is this really why? Has reading brought you peace during a difficult time? Do you feel it is a requirement as a parent? Does reading remind you of special times and places? These are some of the questions we can ask ourselves and when you answer “why” you will know how to get a child to read.
My why’s are easy, I read as a child and young adult to have experiences outside of my own area of existence. As a teacher, it was to find the stories and books that I could share with my students to lead them on the path as readers. As a librarian, it has become more about sharing my passion for reading and creating connections with my students, so that I have an idea of why they would want to continue to love reading. And as a parent, it is 100% about the connections my children and I make as we share with one another, through the stories and books we read alone or together.
Reading is part of our lives and will be well into our children’s future. Why not share these reading experiences. Whether we read fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, YA romance, or a manual on how to fix a car, use these books as a way to connect with people and you will no longer need to ask “how do I get my child to read?” because they will want to read because of the joy and memories it brings to them.
Connie Poulsen-Hollin is the K-12 District Librarian for Platte County School District #2 in Guernsey, WY. She has taught students of all ages and abilities from preschool to college over her 24-year career. Her passion is teaching research and STEAM as she has developed innovative lessons and courses around both topics. Connie is a member of the 2020 Printz Award committee has represented Wyoming as a member of MOM Congress (advocating for libraries and literacy for school-aged children) and spends her free time running the local chapter of Girls Who Code. Connie is the mother of Aylianna (12) and Charlie (11) and their favorite pastime is listening to audio books while traveling around the state.