August 24, 2012

My Son Hates to Read and I’m OK with That

Hate might be too strong, perhaps dislike is a better word.

I love reading.  Reading is my favourite hobby.

When I fell pregnant, I read to my bump and I dreamed of the day we would cuddle up together to read stories.

But, if there is one thing I’ve learnt as a parent, it’s that children have their own minds and you can’t make decisions for them.
I read to my son from birth. I knew all the strategies for raising a reader.  I read all the time.  Our house has books everywhere – my husband begs me to throw them out.  I read everyday to my son.  My husband reads to my son.  My husband reads for his own purposes – although he always reads for information and not for pleasure.

And as he got older and more mobile, my toddler (in fact, both my sons) would no longer sit still for a story.  But I followed advice, and I read anyway.

My son got older, I still read to him.  I pointed to words.  We talked about the pictures in the books.  But my son showed no interest in the text.  He had no interest in learning letters.  He was a great talker from an early age, with a large vocabulary and plenty of opinions and ideas to share.  Counting he enjoyed.  Building, problem solving, creating, moving he enjoyed.  Letters, words and reading did not interest him. 

He started preschool.  I started to worry.  Other children knew letters.  Other children showed reading-like behaviours.  My son - not so much – he rarely picked up a book just for fun.  He didn’t remember and recite familiar books.  He didn’t show any interest in the words on the page.

Learning to read became more of a focus at school.  Readers and reading were hard for my son.  The story in school readers was boring.  Enjoyable books were too hard for him to read.  I put pressure on him to practise and learn sight words – but it made no difference (and made our relationship worse).

I reflected.  What’s important?  Why am I so anxious about his reading?  I let go (not without difficulty) of wanting him to love reading like I do – he’s not me.  What was important was that he learn to read to access information and participate fully in a society that relies on literacy.  He doesn’t have to love reading as a hobby.  He simply needs to find reading (as an adult) easy enough that it makes his life easier.

So, I kept the message – if you want to find out information, reading helps – and chucked out the stress and anxiety. 

Where are we now?

He’s nearly 7.

He’s an average reader in his class at school.

It turns out the more sight words he knows, the easier reading is for him.  He has an excellent memory.

It turns out that phonics helps him a bit, but his memory and ability to read pictures helps him more.  It turns out that, if I feed him the unknown word, so he can keep the meaning of the text he wants to read more.

It turns out he is somewhat interested in reading non-fiction.  It turns out, he wants to be able to read the messages and hints that the video games are showing him. 

It turns out that writing and spelling work help him to read better (because they aid his memory. my analytical mind says).

It turns out he’ll do just about anything to avoid having to read something himself.  So, I had better be too busy with my own life to read everything for him.

It turns out that he has his own learning style that I can’t change.  It turns out that, I can’t make him do something he doesn’t want to do just by wishing. All I will do if I try too hard is make reading a chore he does to please mum.

It turns out he’s going to be able to read just fine, if only I relax and let him do it his way.

What remains to be seen is whether I can learn my lesson and be OK with how his brother approaches reading.

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