For those of you who know me, you know that I have a houseful of boys. Well, two really. Three if you count their dad. I say houseful because they literally fill up my house, just the two of them. My oldest is 18 and will be off to college this fall and my youngest is 9.
My oldest devoured books like they’re water when he was younger. He would stand and wait for the bus with a book open in his hands. He read in the hallways and at lunch. He had a frequent flyer card at the library. He loved books. So, I was thoroughly dismayed when I realized that my nine year old hated to read.
Yes. There’s my big old confession. My nine year old hated to read.
I was devastated when I realized it.
I’m a writer, for heaven’s sake. I’m also a reader. I devour no less than five and sometimes more than ten books a week. I admit it. I’m hooked on books. My husband is a reader. He and I lay in bed at night and read by the light of the iPads. Granted, his usually hits him in the face long before mine does. But he loves books.
So, where-oh-where did I go wrong? Why did my nine year old hate reading so much? And what could I do about it? It’s not natural not to read. It’s just not. Right?
We tried everything. We read with him. We got him special books. Had outings about books. We exhausted every opportunity. He had no interest.
Now, keep in mind that my youngest had some processing problems when he was younger. He didn’t hear for first two years of his life, and it was really tough on him when he was smaller. When he was two and a half, he had surgery on his ears and went home hearing that day. But at that point, he had no spoken language. He frustrated easily. Tasks that were easy for others were hard for him. He had a lot of catching up to do. And he did it. He’s officially on the same level as other kids now, and he’s doing great.
But there was that one last hurdle. He didn’t like to read.
I had just about given up hope and accepted that he wasn’t going to be a reader. But then I saw an ad for a cheap, used Kindle Fire. It was $50 and although I already had one, I thought it might be nice to have a spare in case mine breaks (or I wear it out). I bought it and took it home.
“Can I use it?” he asked.
My heart leaped. Absolutely leaped. I asked my dear friends on Facebook which series might be good for a nine year old and I got tons of wonderful recommendations. The first book – I sat and read that one with him. I did the voices and oohed and ah-ed over the pictures. And he enjoyed it. But he was listening rather than reading. (Remember the processing problem?)
When we finished, I tentatively asked, “Do you want to try another one?”
He shrugged. I deflated like a big old balloon. But I bought another book. At bedtime, I passed him the Kindle and made the offer that he could sit up and read if he wanted. He shrugged again and took it with him. An hour later, under the cover of darkness, he was still reading. I sneaked out of his room, because he didn’t even hear me come in, and pumped my fist in the air, absolutely giddy about the fact that my kid was reading.
The next day, he wanted to talk about it. And boy did he talk. He recounted the whole story. At bedtime, he asked me if he could have another book. He has been reading chapter books ever since. He’s devouring them like they’re water. He’s cutting into my book budget and I DON’T CARE. He’s reading.
Apparently, he really, really likes the Kindle medium. He does not like paper books. He may never like to hold a paper book in his hand, smell the glue or dog ear pages. But he loves reading on his Kindle. Yes, he took over the new Kindle. And I don’t care. I’d buy him a brand new one tomorrow if anything happened to his.
My kid is a reader. He’s exploring new worlds and taking journeys I never thought he would be able to enjoy. And it’s all because of a $50 Kindle Fire I just happened to pick up for cheap.
A book is a book, right? I assumed that he didn’t like books in general. That they were hard for him. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. So, I am sharing my suggestion in case any of you are bumping your heads against the wall with regard to your kids and the ways they learn. Sometimes it’s not about the book, the level of intelligence, or even the desire to read. Sometimes it’s about the platform in which the book is presented. And with all the new ways there are to read, are you making sure your kids can choose their own medium?
Books unlock doors to new worlds. But sometimes you have to find the key as well.