More and more I am conflicted about this series of posts. Because you know what? Not everyone is a reader, and not everyone has to be a reader. Of course it's important to know HOW to read, but beyond that? All this fuss over trying to make everyone a reader really takes all the fun out of it. Yesterday I came across this nonsense:
Now, I am aware that some parents are neglecting their children's needs. But my parents never read to me, and I never set foot in a public library until I could drive myself, and you know what? I was probably one of the least neglected children in America. I also became a reader, so you can see why I'm ambivalent about getting kids "interested" in reading. Sometimes I think you just are the way you are.
But once again: I digress. Here's a couple more ideas to encourage your kids in their reading endeavors:
1. Pay attention to what your kids are reading. Take an interest, would you? Go to the library and wander around with your kids. Do not follow your kids around the kids' section, or act helpless yourself. Explore the kids' area with them, and then take them to the adults' section with you, and show that you expect them to either look at stuff with you there, or behave themselves while you get some library materials for yourself. (It used to make me nuts when parents just followed their children around like they were little gods, carrying their materials, and then leaving without getting anything for themselves.) If they grab anything for any reason, take it with you, even if you think it looks boring or age-inappropriate--it's all free and you can always take things back unread. Learn a bit about using the library yourself, teach your kids to teach themselves or ask a librarian for help, and for the love of all that's holy teach them the basics of looking where they removed an item and properly returning it to the shelf.* The library may be free, but that doesn't mean its staff members are your child's personal nannies.
2. Don't pay any attention to what your kids are reading. Really, for the most part, they're not going to come across anything too scary or terrible in a library book, and if they're teenagers, as long as they're reading ANYTHING and not engaging in some far riskier behavior for reals, take it as a win. Let them know they can ask or tell you anything, particularly about what they're reading, and then get out of their way. Let them wander a bit, let them check out a few things on their own (although it's not a bad idea to have them check stuff out on your card, or know their barcodes, so you can at least eyeball what they've got out). Take it from no less a personage than author Judy Blume: kids will largely ignore what they don't understand in books. And consider giving them enough chores to do that it becomes ever more attractive for them to try to sneak away and read--and then don't catch them right away. Some of my happiest hours reading were spent hiding from my mother when there were outside and gardening jobs to do.
So there you have it. One reader's idea on how to "get your kids reading."
*I know some librarians will disagree with me on this, thinking that they would prefer to tidy up themselves and make sure things go back in the exact right spaces. Just use some common sense. If you have no idea where something goes or where your kid got it, hand it to a librarian to re-shelve. But the piles and piles of picture books your toddler dumped off the shelves? Be a love and put those back, would you? Then library staff can concentrate on their real jobs of unjamming the printers and trying to help grandmas sign up for Facebook so they can see pictures of their grandchildren.