a conversation about reading (soLs)

This conversation unfolded last night, as I read just one more book with Hannah (age 10), Stephanie (age 8), and Sam (age 6), even though it was past bedtime. (Natalee is our babysitter who stays with the kids every morning for the 75 minutes between when I leave and the bus comes.)

Sam: You know Natalee hates to read.

Me: I’ve heard her say that. (I’m constantly suggesting books she should read, and encouraging her to find enjoyment as a reader. I do this because I want everyone to love reading and because she wants to be a teacher and I think all teachers should love reading.)

Stephanie: No, Mom, like she really hates reading. She tells us she thinks it’s crazy that we like it.

Hannah: She’s the crazy one, though. Who wouldn’t want to read?

Sam: It makes me sad she doesn’t like reading. I told her she could like to read too, but she said some people just don’t like it. That’s not true though.

Me: It’s not?

Sam: No, I told her you say everyone can be a reader. They just have to work hard.

Me: That’s true.

Stephanie: A good book doesn’t hurt either.

Hannah: Why would anyone read a not-good book?

Me: Beats me.

Hannah: Well, sometimes you have to read one for book club. Like right now, I told you I’m a little confused about my book club book. But I tried that stuff you said, like imagining the characters talking back and forth and that helps the dialogue make more sense. I gave them different sounding voices in my head and that helps too. So even if you think a book is not-good at first sometimes you have to stick with it. Usually it gets better, I mean why would teachers make us read not-good books?

Me: I wonder that all the time too.

It’s a bittersweet conversation, isn’t it. I love how my three kids have accepted that they are readers and they have become readers because they work hard. Reading isn’t about being easy or smart, but about working hard. I love that they know when you have a book you’re interested in reading is enjoyable. I like how Hannah (a fourth grader) realizes sometimes you have to read things you’re not interested in at first, but you can use strategies to make it bearable.

It breaks my heart, though, that a senior in high school, who wants to become a teacher hates reading. Last night, there were five high schoolers in my living room. When I asked them who the last teacher was that made them feel excited about reading, they looked at me with blank faces.  “High school isn’t about enjoying reading, Ruth,” one of them said. Maybe if we follow the advice of Hannah, Stephanie, and Sam, there’d be more readers graduating from high school. It really is simple:

  1. Everyone can learn to read and enjoy it.
  2. Books you’re interested in are the best.
  3. Stop making kids read not-good books.
Yes, it’s bittersweet.
Read more slices at Two Writing Teachers.

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  1. This one strikes close to home. In high school, my daughter “hated” reading and thought the books she had to read for English were awful. She could not figure out why anyone would spend time reading 🙁 Very sad.
    Then she went to college and learned about books that were good and thoughtful. She read Operating Instructions for a class and LOVED it! And now she is generally reading 3 books at a time so – there is hope.

  2. I hate when I hear that students think high school isn't about reading. I work so hard at creating that book friendly atmosphere. But I know it's true. High school is where love of reading goes to die….

  3. The way you let the conversation tell the story–and express your feelings and thoughts on a larger issue–was really effective. Thanks for giving us another way to think about things and keep coming back to the idea that we have to keep trying with reluctant readers or kids who don't think they can be readers. It's kind of same as how we keep telling them to keep trying, use different strategies and keep searching for the right book at the right time…that's what we should keep doing for those kids.

  4. I love how through your slice, I am able to consider once again the messages I send about reading both to my kids and students. Even one word can make so much of a difference, so it is great to read through your kids' voices the ideas that have made a difference for them.

  5. My sons hate, hate, hate to read, and I think a lot of it is because all they have read since they started middle school is stuff that other people have chosen for them.

  6. “High school isn't about enjoying reading, Ruth.” Well, why the heck not? I can tell you that is one BIG thing I would have included in the common core standards if I had helped write them.

    This conversation is so loaded with insights about reading, about attitudes, about curriculum. Thank you for capturing it to share with us.

  7. Why would they make us read not-good books? I wonder about that all the time – Yes, why do they? For passionate teachers who have commented above, they,us strive to make reading fun. Love your three points.

  8. You can only lead a horse to water, right? But isn't there something about leading the horse to a cool, refreshing stream with glorious surroundings? Perhaps that is the part missing in high school.

  9. Ruth -I love that your kids noticed that Natalee wasn't a reader and felt bad for her. They had such great suggestions! My high school daughter is only turned on to reading because of her friends, not her English teachers.