Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Reluctant Reader

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I've always loved reading. It's very relaxing to me to curl up with a good book and lose myself in a story. I'm an English teacher because I wanted to share that love with others, and naturally, I assumed that all of my children would love reading as much as I did. I've read to all my children from the time they were babies and we celebrated when they were finally old enough to get their own library cards. We know the library ladies on a first name basis and have a family book club. Yet, out of my six children, I have two that do not love to read. I couldn't believe it! How could they not love it? It took me quite a while to understand where they were coming from, and see their point of view, but once I understood, I was able to do some small things to help them see that reading doesn't have to be something to be dreaded. I thought I'd share a few of those things with you today.

My reluctant readers will read articles, whether they're from the newspaper, the Friend or the New Era. The articles are generally short, have an ending they can physically see, and we discuss them. I am a mother who uses car and meal times to my advantage. They are my captive audience when I'm driving them somewhere or when we are at the dinner table, and that is the time I use to discuss interesting newspaper articles or whatever they've read in the magazines.

For example, we had a really interesting discussion when that 82 year old woman in California was given a $114 ticket because she couldn't get across the street fast enough and held up traffic. The policeman who was watching her charged her with obstructing traffic and ticketed her. When I brought it up to my children, we looked at it from each person's point of view. The older woman had a walker and couldn't walk very fast, but no one offered to help her either. The people in the traffic were anxious to get on their way and frustrated that she took so long. The policeman didn't help her and instead charged her with breaking the law. Then we talked about choices and how it could have ended better. So in the space of this little discussion we've talked about point of view, world perspectives, and choices and consequences, giving each child a chance to voice their opinion and think through their answers and I was surprised at what they had to say. I liked my eight year old's solution best when he thought that the policeman give the older woman a piggy back ride next time since everyone loves a piggy back ride. But the point was we discussed something that we had read about and had a good time doing it.

We also have a book shelf in every room and I try really hard to look for books that might interest them and to have lots of different genres--short stories, poetry, non-fiction, etc. We have times where I ask my older children to read to the younger children (we still visit the library often) and there is always the bed time story. Some of our most happy memories are the bedtime stories we've made up using our family members as the heroes and heroines.

President Hinckley said, "If we could follow a slogan that says, "Turn off the TV and open a good book," we would do something of substance in strengthening another generation . . . If you cannot find good heroes and heroines for your children on television, help your children find them in good books." I think we are at a time when reading, literacy and gaining knowledge is so important, not only because knowledge is one of the only things we will take with us beyond the veil, but because the young people around us need us to help prepare them to make right choices, to see other perspectives and to think with empathy and compassion, forming their own opinions and world views, especially with our knowledge of the gospel. What better place to plant those seeds than within your own families? The ripple could affect several generations and is of great worth. Every effort and encouragement can make reading fun---or at least tolerable---for the reluctant reader, they will see how important it is to you and perhaps start to find something they enjoy about it, and you will be making lasting memories with your children with eternal rewards.


At 5/25/2006 11:04 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

What a fun blog, Julie! It really brought back memories.

During summer vacations I used to pay my kids to read. Every afternoon we had SQUIRT. (Super Quiet Uninterrupted Independent Reading Time.) They each had a Squirt can with their name on it. For every ten minutes they read to themselves or each other I gave them a token to put in their cans. Later they could redeem the tokens for extra time playing video games, a sleepover with a friend, a trip to the water park, or some other privilege or treat they really wanted.

I know experts say it's wrong to bribe children, but all four of my adult children are readers. (And, no, I'm not paying them anymore.)

Anyway, I love your "reading" blogs. We're kindred spirits.

At 5/26/2006 3:37 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Hey I think I'm going to try SQUIRT! And you have a cool name for it, too, I love that. We bribe our kids to read the classics, but we didn't do it with money. We also have a summer reading family book club that we do as well, and go out to lunch to discuss our respective books. Books on tape are great, too, when we're in the car, or to have downloaded on an MP3 player. I also think it's important for the kids to see Dad reading, too, and that it's a priority for him. Dads have so much more influence than people think.

Did you have any more good ideas you did with your kids?

At 5/27/2006 2:18 AM, Blogger KB said...

Julie, I'm like you. Reading is my favorite thing to do. But you have a better child reader ratio than I do. I have two readers and two rather nots.

I bribed my kids with cold hard cash to read in the summer. They got $1 for every book they read of their choosing, and $5 if I picked the book. (I picked big books, so it would usually take them a week to finish them.) This worked pretty well until they got old enough for summer jobs.

Any ideas on how to really motivate teenagers when they make more money than you do? :)


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