My son LOVES books. It might be a genetic thing. I was a passionate reader as a child. It began with The Hardy Boys series (I read The Hooded Hawk Mystery and have been collecting the books ever since). Then in Grade 2 I fell in love with The Hobbit and the love carried on for several years as I made my way through The Lord of The Rings. My wife reads EVERY…SINGLE…DAY of her life.
My son LOVES books.
So why does he hate reading so much?
For a long time, reading was the only time that my son would stay still. He is a VERY active young chap but, from the time he was a year old on, he would sit and listen to book after book after book. He would memorize sections which was great, until it meant we couldn’t skip ahead at all. If you’ve never had a kid tell you, three minutes after bedtime is supposed to happen, that you skipped an entire section where the bunny found its hat, you haven’t lived.
So, we sort of expected that when Vader got old enough to be able to read, that would just sort of take off.
Narrator: it didn’t.
Now, for a while we weren’t overly concerned because my son is in French Immersion and it’s very common with children in French Immersion that they might be late readers. Trying to navigate a brand new skill like reading while trying to also switch between multiple languages, neither of which you’re super strong in, is a challenge. I get it. So while we were concerned, we tried to relax a little.
This is also where our truly incredible doctor comes into play.
When you’re a first-time parent, you WILL regularly try to figure out where your child is in relation to every conceivable chart of development of kids that they’re around all the time. For example, my son didn’t say much until he was almost three. So we talked to our doctor about it. She asked if he was able to understand things and if he was able to communicate his needs to us, which he was. She told us to relax, which we tried to do. And then he started talking. And he hasn’t stopped since.
So we weren’t super concerned about his inability to read. However, when he started to not WANT to read, this sent up a red flag. Not only would he not read, he wouldn’t TRY to read. In our house, we have a rule: you have to TRY everything. If you’ve tried it, you’re good. This works with all of the weird food my wife makes, the various programs/classes/playgroups etc that we’ve placed our kids in, and a variety of other activities. If you try it, we’re good.
But my son wouldn’t TRY to read.
Now his teachers have also been pretty laid back about his reading, which has also helped us calm down about it a little bit. Their lack of concern has lead us to think that this is a pretty normal process. Finally, through a conversation with his teacher, we discovered something very interesting.
At home, Vader was telling us that the books he was reading were “too easy.” If you look up “infuriated” in the dictionary, you will find a picture of a parent whose child has told them that a book is too easy while simultaneously refusing to read it. What we discovered was that at, school Vader wanted to choose much more difficult books and fought his teacher on this subject desperately.
Why? Because Vader often judges himself based on the performance of others and some of his classmates are EXCEPTIONAL readers. So when Vader isn’t THE BEST, or CLOSE to the best, he often decides to just give up. Now this doesn’t carry over into EVERY activity but occasionally it rears its ugly head.
Something else that we’ve come to understand about Vader is that he does the things that he wants, when he wants and the more and more you try to force it the more and more the child will resist.
So what happens when we CASUALLY ask Vader to read? What happens when we just put a book in front of him and let him do his own thing? What happens when you head to a coffee shop and say “why don’t you read a book while we wait for your food”?
He just reads.
Vader has done this OVER and OVER again. Three years of swimming lessons? Nothing. Walks into ocean, starts swimming. Weeks and weeks of trying to get him to ride a bike? Nothing. Give him a bike and a push, watch him just go ahead and bike.
The lesson in all of this?
Kids will probably do their own thing. They will probably do it whenever they feel like doing in it. The more that you try to get them to do it, the less likely they are to actually do it. I understand that this is not easy. Trust me. And I understand that sometimes you need to talk to the pros and figure out if there’s something wrong. I have been a helicopter parent to the enth degree for a very long time. I get it. But my experience has been this: anything that you try to get your kids to do will likely have the oppoiste result. When you let your kids NOT be awesome all the time they are often much more likely to suddenly be awesome.
Let kids be awesome when they want to be.