Raising a Reader- Mission Impossible?

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There’s no doubt by now that the world knows I’m a lover of books, of words, of writing. I’ll read anything I can get my hands on if I’m bored enough. I’ve read through every bottle, box, & can in my pantry, all of the hair care products in the bathroom, every sign on every building & road between here & Timbuktu….. well, you get the point. I’m very ashamed of Cliff Notes, they’ve taken magic out of having to read a whole book, word for word.

I started off reading Dr Seuss at 3.5yrs old. By 2nd grade I had devoured the entire Boxcar Chidren series. I was introduced to The Babysitters Club in 3rd grade, which kept me occupied between classics like Judy Blum & Old Yeller. By 5th grade, I had finished off the entire fiction section of chapter books in my elementary school library.
By middle school, my love for books developed into a love of writing words, shaping them into short stories & poems. I read every book in my house, including my stepmom’s collection of Stephen King novels & my dad’s Physician’s Desk Reference book, all 6,000 pages of it.

No matter where life has taken me, I could always escape into a book or my own writing. It helped me get through several deaths of friends, the verbal abuse of my father, the rejection I felt from classmates or my stepdad’s extended family. So when I found myself pregnant the first time, I jumped on the “Please bring a book to start my baby’s library” bandwagon when I filled out my baby shower invitations. How could I not pass down my passion to my own child? And sure enough, this kid growing inside me had a pretty envious library before he even entered the world! Dr. Seuss’s entire collection of stories filled an entire bookcase. Another was filled with chunky, chew friendly books & classics such as Goodnight Moon, Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, & Just In Case You Ever Wonder. There was even a shelf full of old fairytales & Brother’s Grimm stories. I was so geeked to show my son the wonders within each bound cover. From the moment he popped outta me, I would read to him as I rocked him to settle him down. When his brother joined us barely a year later, I found it relaxing to plop em both on my lap & spend our time reading the day away together.

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So here we are, ten years later, & struggling with those same boys who loved to hear me make up silly voices for each character we read. Struggling to keep them focused on school, keep their grades acceptable, keep them at their appropriate grade level for all things. Math is a piece of cake for the oldest & comes naturally to him. The younger one grasps it almost as easily. What is it that they are floundering in most? Reading, writing, & spelling! It’s like living in a waking nightmare. How can it be that I did everything in my power to raise reader’s yet I have two boys with refusing to touch a book on their own accord, with levels two grades behind?

When they were in kindergarten & first grades, I attended every seminar our school district & our intermediate-school district held about sharing the love of reading with your child & I would roll my eyes & scoff under my breath at some of the implications in their teachings, because I had already surpassed those stepping stones with my boys. I’d bash other parents in my head while listening to the spiel, thinking I had this all downpat, that it would never be my kids that needed the intervention programs within the school program for at-risk kids. I never, for a second, contemplated the fact that my kids would be classified as at-risk one day.

Here we are in fourth & fifth grades with that dreaded label attached to them. I’ve tried every bribe, every punishment, every suggested technique, to get them to pick up a book & read. They cry. They scream. They storm throughout the house, slamming doors, pushing the younger siblings about, & destroying toys, being angry & bitter because they have to read for twenty, pathetic, minutes. I cry. I scream & yell. I feel like a parenting failure, because I can’t do one of the only jobs required of me to prepare my children for adulthood. How can they be successful in life without good reading skills? I wish someone would tell me to go find somewhere quiet & lose myself within a book for any amount of time. Reading is a reward for me, so how can it be that it’s a painful chore to my own flesh & blood!?!

Even their dad is a reader by nature, a seeker of written knowledge & power through words. They see us reading constantly. They accuse us of ignoring them sometimes because we’ve been so absorbed into the world created by the book in hand that we were unaware of them standing in front of us trying to catch our attention. They have public library cards, a book exchange program at school, plus access to the school library to allow them to find something, anything, that they’d be interested in to read. We still have the library quality collection of books from their babyhood that has grown beyond my house’s capacity as we added to it throughout the years, as we also added two daughter’s into our encompassing family unit. They have all the skills within them, imbedded by my example & teaching from the moment of their births. Yet, they have come to hate written words as much as I hate child abusers. I’m at a loss with this. I don’t know what to do, how to fix it. It almost feels like my boy’s are broken somehow, because I just cannot see past my own passions to understand their immense dislikings. It’s one of seven great wonders of the world to me. If I ever found the genie’s lamp & was granted three wishes, without a doubt, my very first wish would be to grant the boy’s the ability to love reading & writing, gain a desire to excel in each.

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Already, I can see the same passions I failed to pass onto my son’s, developing in my daughter’s, which only compounds my frustrations. How do they inherit the gene, but my boys did not? ‘What did I do differently’ or ‘where did I go wrong’ are questions that plague my thoughts constantly. I search for answers, for advice, for understanding. To read is to have power- power over others through word manipulation, power to absorb written  knowledge through vision, power to change someone’s perception through explanation, power to express thoughts, feelings, emotions, & situations, & power to escape into another world when life gets boring. So much power is held within words, written, spoken, & read. If my boys cannot read well, they will never know the magic of this power, one that I have mastered & always assumed that they would as well.

So I continue to drudge along, seeking a way to break through their barriers & open their minds. I pray to God, I wish upon stars, I beg them directly. Deep inside myself, I look for acceptance in the fact that they are not like me or their father in their passion for reading. Acceptance to the fact that they will still be alright, that they can still succeed as adults, have a wonderful life without a love for reading. I will still read aloud to them, hoping that the magic in my voice will speak to their soul & change their perceptions. The pages continue to turn, the chapters continue to grow in number, as we write the story of our life, & maybe, just maybe, I’ll stumble across the part where the boys discover their desire to read all the things on their own. Until then, I have willing & able girls to work with, & somehow that’s gotta be good enough for now.

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Sunday Confession: Read
This blog post was brought to you by the wonderful, More Than Cheese and Beer, thanks to her prompts with her Sunday Confessions series. You’ll find more great blogs with the prompt Linked In with hers & anonymous confessions from her page followers on FB. You can follow me on FB at The Daily Rantings of an Angrivated Mom.

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5 thoughts on “Raising a Reader- Mission Impossible?

  1. I’m the same way about books. they’ve always been my escape from the hard times and now reading is pretty much stress management for me. I was dismayed when my son didn’t want to read the first few years of school. I think part of his problem was the way school forcefed it to him making him read so much every day and he thought of it as a chore. It was getting him interested in books he actually wanted to read that started the transition… Books about Minecraft, for instance, because he’s obsessed with it. Then I found a series he really loves and his own love for books sort of took off from there. He’s still not the way I used to be about them but he no longer complains every time. There’s also a website called Book Adventure that you may want to look into. Advanced Reading programs in school force children to read for a grade and it becomes a source of stress. Book Adventure has quizzes for hundreds of books but allows your child to earn POINTS for a rewards system. Point based rewards systems have been really good for my kid in both doing chores and his reading. I’m homeschooling now and we use it all the time… You can even set up your own rewards. Setting some low bar rewards (like 5 points for a huge squeezy hug and 50 points for hot chocolate) got him motivated into saving for bigger prizes. (Also, choremonster is the app I use for chores based rewarding). It’s free to use, too!

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    1. Thanks for such great ideas, I’ll be checking into both of those websites! A choice in reading material has never been an issue, they know I’ll settle for reading the backs of 5cereal boxes, a comic, or even sales ads. I agree that the amount of reading done in school is way more daunting than it was for us as kids & plays a huge part in their refusal to read for me. Thank you for taking the time to read, I really appreciate it!

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  2. I can only imagine your frustration, as I too am a lover of books who has read to my children since birth. I do understand feeling like you have exhausted all options when dealing with school, though. My oldest son is super smart but absolutely DETESTS homework. It is like pulling teeth getting him to do it and then getting him to turn it in. He is 16 and we still fight this same annoying fight. So, instead of advice, I am sending hugs. You are a great mother. You will figure this out. And if not, you will keep battling, just like me. That’s what moms do. One day your sons will thank you for your persistence. One day.

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    1. Those hugs are exactly what I needed. Caught up in the moments, you feel totally alone in the battle with your child, as if it’s unique to just yourselves. Then you open the door & let your feelings out only to find that everyone else gets it somehow, someway too. That the struggles of being a mom cross all borders & we’re really never alone, not the first, nor the last, to go through whatever struggle we face. Thank you for coming over to read my blog, I really appreciate it!

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  3. As you know we both share the love of the written word. My son loves to read on his own but not when he has to fit school. He lacks that confidence in reading aloud after being teased in school. I use a reward system like Jenniy does. And my sons payoff is mine craft. He completes his 20 minutes a day reading assignment he earns a Mine Craft book. We had a reading program in my sons former school called the Accelerated Reading Program. The kids in school read books with a point value and then earned rewards like certificates. And the more points earned the better the prizes. We have a great book website as well called Tumbler and they have games which is definitely my sons super hero power. I also use this sensory based program called the Mozart affect. I have my Captain jump on a mini tramp for minute while listening to Mozart. The effects are instant and the saccadic activity in his eyes increases and he’s able to read with fluency. I trained children with learning disabilities for 7 years and this was the greatest improvement I’ve ever seen. My greatest accomplishment was teaching a 7 year old boy how to read using this approach. I wish you all the best in your sons journey to reading. Feel free to ask any questions and I help you all out the best I can. 😃❤️

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