Let's just start this post by saying I don't know anything about anything.
I like to think of that as my standard disclaimer, particularly when I'm about to launch into a "how-to" or opinion post. By and large I try to be pretty live-and-let-livey, although Mr. CR tells me this is not the case in my home or with my immediate family. (Boy, you tell a guy he's loading the dishwasher wrong one time--which he was, by the way--and he never forgets it.) But in the course of my life of being a reader, being a bookseller, being a librarian, being a sibling and aunt, and being a parent, I have amassed a few ideas about how and why kids read. So take this all with a grain of salt, would you?
Last week I came across this article: This is the absolute worst way to teach your kids to read
And it's not a bad little article. Although it did make my head swim with the sheer number of apps, devices, and technological terms it referenced. Christ. You're telling me I have to use an app* to give my kids reward points for doing chores? How about this: do it because I said so? Because it's part of your responsibility for being in a family, not to mention for having a physical body and needs like food and housing and basic standards of cleanliness, so let's start to think about why it's really its own reward to help around the house and in our own care? Or, how about if you do good for a while, and I define "a while" because I'm the parent here, then we go get some ice cream as a reward for everyone?
But I digress. Back to reading.
After reading that article, and having two discussions today with my siblings about reading and their kids, my head's rather been churning about reading and kids and all that jazz. And, I think this is my list of best ideas for "getting your kids to read over the summer" (or anytime, really):
1. Stop caring quite so much if your kids read, or want to read. I'm not very far into the parenting thing, but I notice a surefire way NOT to get CRjr to do anything I want him to do is to push him too hard to do it. This of course depends very much on your child's temperament in general, but by and large I think we can all agree that we remember sometimes it was fun to do stuff without your parents constantly telling you how or why to do it.
2. Show that you enjoy reading, or find it helpful. I'm somewhat conflicted on this one, because frankly, I don't know that I ever really saw my parents read when I was little. And you know what? Not everyone does enjoy reading for its own sake, so it can be hard behavior to model. But I think what I mean is, if you like reading, or if you want your kids to read, at least show some interest in it as a behavior or a lifestyle. Have some books around your house. (My parents always did have a lot of books around, which, now that I think about how seldom I saw them read, is interesting. I will have to ask them some questions.) Read the back of your cereal box. Keep some books and magazines in the bathroom. Do some craft projects or cooking out of a book. Buy some old books at garage sales and cut them up for crafts or use them as outside books to keep in the garage or car.
3. For chrissake, don't let your kids use the children's computers at the library. Really. I believe in this one very strongly. I have been using aversion therapy on CRjr since he could walk at the library. If he ever went near a computer, I barked, "Get away from there! We do not touch computers at the library!", or "If you touch the computers we have to leave the library immediately." Now granted, CRjr is a remarkably compliant little boy. He is challenging in other ways, but for the most part he listens pretty well when we are out and about, so perhaps I have had that easier than most. And mostly the "don't touch the computer" rule was because I believe library computers are even bigger bastions of filth than are doctors' waiting rooms. But really? We do not go to the library to use computers. We have computers everywhere else. What we do not have everywhere else is a huge room of books on every subject. Or a train table. Or a little lizard named Norbert in a cage. A library is a place to be out in the world, to see other children, to see other adults, to wander in a nice facility that doesn't want to sell us anything. I promise you, once the kids start playing games on the library computers, that is ALL they will want to do at the library. And that is NOT what the library is for.
4. Give your kids time to read. I was out at the playground the other day, and another parent was telling me what she had all signed her son up for this summer. He literally had something scheduled for every single day. Now, how the mother stands that, I don't know (I am WAY too lazy to schedule daily events for the CRboys), but more importantly, how the kid stands that, I don't know. No wonder kids don't want to read--they're probably either tired from constant activities or jittery from needing the constant stimulation. Reading is the kind of thing you need a little time and space to settle into. Keep plenty of all sorts of books around your house and then give your kid some quiet time where you're not directing his activities. Put him in his room with a toy and some books and some time. Eventually he'll work his way around to looking at a book out of sheer boredom. And that is not a bad thing. Like anything else, you get better at dealing with boredom when you are forced to deal with it periodically.
I have some other thoughts on this, but the post is already too long. What do you think? What are some of your ideas for getting your (or anyone's) kids to do some reading?
*Not likely, as first I'd have to purchase some sort of smartphone.