Sometimes they did, and sometimes they didn’t. Every kid was different.
The reality is that not everyone loves to read. While book lovers (and, especially, book lovers who are also parents) have a very difficult time understanding this, it’s not the end of the world.
A child might not love to read, but that doesn’t mean they have to hate it.
And so we’d tell parents to let their kids read what they like: magazines, comic books, newspapers, and so on. Reading is reading.
My daughter, who is just shy of two, loves books. She brings book after book to pretty much anyone who’s not the dog, offering a smile and a “Read dis” request. She sits alone in her crib and lines up her stuffed animals and baby dolls, tells them to sit down in her fierce, almost-teacher-y toddler voice, flips the pages, and shouts, over and over again: “No more monkeys jump on BED!” While she’s not really reading, she’s reciting from her little-girl memory the parts of the books she likes best with such passion and enthusiasm that it makes me want to read my own book right then with the hope that I can share at least part of her excitement.
This little girl will probably be a passionate, ravenous reader. She can’t get enough. And she wants her friends (even the inanimate ones) to love her books, too. Maybe someday she’ll bring bags of coins to the bookstore to buy the latest book in a series, like I did when the newest Baby-sitters Club book came out. I was that kid.
My son, a very active and highly imaginative four-year-old boy, likes books and loves to be read to, but if given a choice between Legos and sitting down to read, like most boys I’ve known, he’ll go with Legos 99% of the time. He’s become particular, too, about the books we read, preferring plot-less stories about a Lego town or books that have no story but come with Legos. When he receives a book as a gift, he’s always looking for what toy might come with it and looks so sad when there isn’t one. As a former teacher and lover of good books, this hurts me a little. And I love Legos.
I want my son to love books. I want him to get lost in a beautiful story and think about the characters and why they do what they do and what he’d do if it were him.
I don’t want to spend money on the silly nonsense books, no matter how much he begs for them.
But then I remember that while he might not love books right now, he likes these ones. In fact, he begs for them. That should be enough, at least for now.
Just as we should allow children to write what they love, we should let them read what they love, too. Even if we don’t necessarily love it, too.
Pushing too hard or pushing too much “just try this instead” just might turn that tiny bit of existing interest into disinterest, or, even worse, dislike.
While not (at least in my mind) anywhere near the caliber of Where the Wild Things Are, Angry Birds Star Wars books just might awaken in a child the excitement of turning the page to see what happens next. While the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles picture book might not be quality children’s literature, it might be a tiny doorway into a future full of reading. And maybe that future will include books with a bit more substance. But we have to get through that doorway first.
So, I’ll buy the books I wouldn’t want to read. Even the ones that make my writer/reader/teacher nose wrinkle in disgust at their utter nonsense and lack of mainstream literary value. And I’ll read them to my son because he wants to read them and I want him to want to be a reader. I want him to love books, so I’ll try not to get in the way.
Because when it comes to getting kids to like reading, anything should count.
Here’s to writing, reading, smiling, and knowing when to get out of the way.