Developing the Love of Reading

I am a school librarian and I have a son who doesn't love to read.

How did this happen?

Ever since I can remember I dreamed of having a child who would nestle next to me at night excited to read together. Some of my dearest memories from my own childhood were cozed up under a blanket with my sister listening to my mother read the adventures of Laura Ingalls, Ramona Quimby, the Five Little Peppers and so many more.

I know that passionate readers are created. I have that have read to M every night since he has been born. It was so easy when he was a baby. Not being able to talk meant he could not argue with me about putting on pajamas, brushing his teeth, reading books, and going to bed. In the last couple years I confess I more than occasionally would substitute a tv show before bed because I was too exhausted to fight with a child who did not want to read. (Note: We always watch television with closed captioning turned on...not exactly reading but at least shows the importance of the printed word.)

I tried not to worry because M knew his letters and sounds. However, he showed no interest in learning how to read words. As a librarian, a mom, and an avid reader, I feel like a failure. We took trips to the library, I let him choose whatever books he wanted, despite my own lack of enthusiasm for another Avenger book. I let him check out chapter books that I knew were over his head because I know that saying "no" to a book further dampers any flicker of interest in reading and books. Together we would choose a few books that I knew would be appropriate for reading together. When we got home, we would unpack them and maybe read a couple but it was a struggle, far from the serene mother and son reading experience I dreamed about.

And then we discovered Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie and things started to look up. Oh how we both LOVED the characters and stories. The simplicity of the story and ability to act out the character allowed us to read together (I whispered the words to him because he could not read them). We talked about empathy and how facial expressions and body language show emotions. We them again and again and again. We scoured the library and bought our favorites. Matthew even got to meet Elephant & Piggie with his preschool class. 
Two of M's favorite characters.

When Mo Willems ended the series, we branched out and enjoyed the Pigeon books, but my son's interest was waning again. Part of this was due to us being displaced from our home for several months so our routines were out of whack, the other was that we were living with his older cousins. The cousins LOVED to read out loud to him but my son preferred to play with them and did not sit still well, especially with other kids around. Then I blamed transitioning back to our house. Through it all I kept offering books and always had plenty of books available around the house. 

My husband and I also model reading as an enjoyable activity.  We both always have a book within reach. We talk about books with family and friends and my son witnesses these moments.

My son is 6 now. He just started kindergarten so I have hope that his love of reading will grow. He is learning site words through movement and gets excited when he recognizes one. He is so proud when he can read a site word book. I see a flicker of reading love starting. 

My sister recently gave M a gift card to the local book shop for his birthday. Again, I held my opinions and let M choose what he wanted. Because of his new interest in football he chose The Football Fumble by David A. Kelly. It is a chapter book that I knew he could not read himself. When we got home, M was so excited about the book HE picked out and purchased, he nestled in to my side and we read for two hours. I used my finger as I read pointing to each word, and his eyes followed, excited when he recognized one of his site words! What is even better is that this is part of a series which we have now been devouring. 

Would M prefer to play Legos, use the iPad, or run around outside over reading? Absolutely! But I know that "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents" (Emilie Buchwald). 

It would be easy to give up and hand M the ipad and turn on an ebook but an app will not replace the experience of reading together. I will not give up because the love of reading is too important. Not just the ability to read, but the desire to devour books. I want M to want to read for fun, for intellectual gains, to develop empathy, to understand the world. I want M to be filled with excitement each time he opens a book.  

Creating a reader is not something that happens overnight, it takes a lot of work with some children, M is one of those children. 

I am a school librarian and I have a son who doesn't love to read...YET.  
I am committed to the YET!


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