Growing up, especially in my elementary school years, I loved to read. I consumed a ton of Gary Paulsen and Roald Dahl books, which were practically in the curriculum in my school so I can at least say my school was successful in that area. But there came a time, early in my adolescence, where it seemed like I spent more time sitting on the couch and watching Talespin than I did reading classic books. One summer, I assume this was the result of him noticing, my father forced my sister and I to read an hour a day. I don’t even know if it worked. I seem to remember just staring at the page, waiting for the hour to end. My father worked only 10-12 minutes away from the house, and tended to come home every day for lunch. One beautiful day, my sister and I were swimming in our pool, enjoying our time away from school. When our father came home for lunch, he insisted we complete our reading hour, so we sat on the pool deck with books in front of our faces. When he left to return to work and began to drive up the hill on the road along our house, he slowed the van, stopped and presumably stared at his children for 20-30 seconds (he was far enough away that we couldn’t see his face), who were sitting quietly on the pool deck, doing as they were expected, or in my case, just staring at the words. I still wonder if he heard the splash from the pool when the van was clear up the road.
Mom and Dad Set the Tone
I never fell in love with the hour-long reading chore, for lack of a better word, because that’s what it felt like, a chore. I was being forced to read. However, I do credit my dad, and my mom, for my love for reading (Mom was the one who would read to me at bedtime when I was younger). He set an example. My dad is a voracious reader to this day, and now that he’s retired, he reads even more.
Not my old man, but you get the picture, literally.
Now that I’m a father, I’ve been trying to think of ways to get my daughter to engage with books more without forcing her all the time (sometimes I just have to as a parent). I don’t want her to resent reading, and I don’t want her to think we have to make a deal every time I expect her to read (“if I…will you play Roblox?”). My wife and I did read to her nightly up to the age of around 4. Being so young and innocent, she loved the time with Daddy or Mommy, listening to the words, examining the pictures, pointing at objects, being shocked or surprised by a ridiculous turn of events. Now, we still read, but it’s not a nightly affair, even though it should be. Because she reads for school, and last year read for personal pan pizzas earned through the Pizza Hut Bookit! program (she has 3-4 certificates that haven’t been redeemed since the start of the pandemic), reading for pleasure seems so foreign to her now. After thinking I should start a Youtube page that presents exciting and engaging summaries of children’s books and books for early readers, I crawled out from under my rock and discovered that there are a bunch of Youtube channels devoted to reading (though I still might move ahead with the Youtube page for young readers).
The Strategy: Subscribe to Channels About Books and Reading
I’m going to subscribe to a few of these Youtube channels through the profile that my wife and daughter share. The way I see it, an algorithm is manipulating my baby, so I’m going to manipulate the algorithm. In school, my daughter, who turned 7 in August, is just now beginning to learn about the main idea of a story and has to put it in writing, followed by supporting details. The next step, after introducing her to some of these Youtube reading channels, is to buy some of the books she comes across on the channel. From there, “What’s the main idea of the story?” might become a weekly writing assignment tied to the allowance she gets for doing dishes on Wednesdays. If that doesn’t work, I might ask her grandfather to force her to read for an hour every day next summer. Just kidding, maybe.
If you have any strategies to share that encourage children to read, please let us know in the comments.