Reading isn't magical

I have assembled a great list, from actual live experience, of what not to do to engage a kid in reading:

  • Do not tell them reading is magical
    or good for them
    or important
    or something they better do for an hour before bedtime or goddammit they will end up like shiftless Uncle Dave who is always asking to borrow money.

  • Do not denigrate kids’ other activities – video games, texting, talking to friends, watching TV, sleeping… as stupid in comparison to reading.

– Do not insist they read “classics” because you had to.

– Do not refuse to get a book for them because it isn’t up to their reading level.

– Do not tell them (or me, or anyone) that they are “reluctant readers.”

Jon Scieszka has a fantastic list of things that are likely to make kids dislike reading. It's a good reminder that there is no such thing as a bad book when it comes to children.

I'm not a huge Ben Ten fan, but I recently bought my son a Ben Ten comic. He can't read yet, but he sat by himself with it for a good thirty minutes going through it, page by page. When I finally read it to him, he already knew the outlines of the story and asked for specific parts. "I want to read until he flips off the boat."

I'm better at reserving judgement at my son's choices of books, music and movies than I thought I'd be, but I still try to be careful.

Before I was a parent, I was the master of the snarky comment when it came to things that were not to my taste. I do that less now. To my surprise, I've learned that much of my snobbery was misguided. I've spent more mornings dancing to Happy than I can count. I would have dismissed it as crap before, but I've found that I love it.

In the end, suspending judgement (or at least keeping my mouth shut) so my son can discover the things he likes (rather than trying to force my tastes on him) has meant that I actually enjoy more of than I ever did before. To be honest, I think I was a pretty miserable snob (and probably still am to some extent).