I love to read. It used to bother me when people would say that they didn’t like to read. I didn’t understand their reasons for why they didn’t like to read. But I think I get it now. At least a little.

I’ve learned a few things about how our brains work when we communicate with people. I’ve spent some time with family therapists and psychologists. I’ve read articles about how our brains process information from reading words, decoding images, and listening to others speak. Even though we’re not making things up, we use our imagination to picture things.

To put it down simply, we visualize things in our minds. Some have illustrated this process by describing our mind and imagination as a movie screen. When someone tells us a story we can visualize the details in our minds. The more information that we are given, the image we create is clearer, more precise.

Have you ever noticed when you ask someone a question they pause? They obviously know the answer to the question, but are trying to remember details, or maybe someones name. Often, the person will look up and shift their eyes side to side as if they’re scanning a visual screen for information. There isn’t anything there physically, but we visualize things as if they are.

Let’s try it out. I’m going to try to communicate to you an image by describing it to you.

Picture a spider.
Got it? Are you imagining the same spider that I am picturing in my mind? I doubt it. You don’t have enough information for us to be thinking about the same type of spider.  Let me give you more details.
The spider I’m picturing is black.
The spider is also shiny, almost like it’s wet.
The spider is the size of a nail head, and it’s on the wall.
Now the spider is the size of a golf ball.
Now the spider is as big as a dog.
It has dagger-sharp legs.

Are you still with me? Sorry if you have a fear of spiders. Did your spider change with every detail added?

So what does this exercise show? I think that some people have a more active imagination than others. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think that’s why some people don’t like reading. Their imagination isn’t as active, so visualizing details in a story is boring.

Can it be fixed? I think so. That’s why I’m addressing the issue. When reading with someone who doesn’t like to read, ask what they see when reading a story with them. If there isn’t a lot of detail in the story, almost anything visualized works. But if there are specifics like brick houses or red cars, ask them what they see. How tall is the house? How many doors does the car have? Is it a convertible? Or a race car?

Now, this doesn’t work with picture books. This exercise can be done with text only stories. The more that you read and imagine, the easier it becomes.

I hope this helps you with your resistant reader.
If you find these articles helpful, please share them with people who could use the help. Thanks!

Read on,

-Dave

Really. It’s Okay. Your kid isn’t broken. If your child hates reading, it’s not the end of the world.

But, I have a question for you. Do you hate reading?

You don’t have to reply out loud, or type your response in the comment section below(though I would love to have a chat with you sometime).

Reading comes in different forms, not just novels. Business news counts, a biography counts. There are many types of books, magazines, and web print that counts.

If you still hate reading, did you ever love reading in the past? Did a teacher in elementary school read a book to your class every day after lunch recess? Is there a book in your life that you remember with fondness at all?

I have noticed that among all of the students that I have taught; even the kids who say they hate reading, don’t really hate reading. Everyone has a book, though they might be ashamed to admit how long ago it was that they read said book.

There are different types of readers. These are all generally true, there will be obvious exceptions so don’t freak out.

  • Young male readers (8-15 years old) typically enjoy picture books, and books with  facts, data, machines, and pictures that explain them. Animal books, sports books, world record books, freaky facts, and did you know books. Their attention spans grab the data, and process what they’re seeing spatially. Some boys will enjoy big novels like The HobbitThe Chronicles of Narnia, Michael Vey, Hatchet, and the Percy Jackson series, but it’s ok if they don’t. One that my boys loved reading with me is The Watsons Go To Birmingham. It’s funny, and full of opportunity for conversation.
  • Young female readers (8-15 years old) typically enjoy picture books, and books with facts, data, machines, and pictures that explain them. Animal books, sports books, world record books, freaky facts, and did you know books. My daughters particularly like the Fancy Nancy series of books. Pete the Cat, and Elephant and Piggy. Those might be a bit young for 10-15 year olds, but I laugh at them. Again, novels like The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, are good. One novel that has a great female protagonist, and horse riding is The War That Saved My Life.
  • Frustrated and edgy teenagers don’t like to admit that they like reading, but they do. It just has to be a book that is edgy and challenging just like they are. Books that these readers enjoy will often have themes or language that caring adults might not agree with. These books include The Outsiders, Twilight, The Fault in Our Stars, several different manga titles, and many things horror. I don’t specify anything for the last two genres because there are so many titles and authors. You’ll know it if you see it.

I definitely don’t want to tell you what content you should allow. You have your rules and expectations. You have your own understanding of what is right or wrong. I wouldn’t want you to censor me, so I won’t censor you. Do a little research. Check out Goodreads. There are several reviews and ratings when it comes to content. If you’re worried about a book, read it for yourself first.

But do yourself, and your kid a favor.

  • Don’t force your child to read through books that you might have enjoyed as a younger reader.
  • Do give her time and space to find what she likes to read. That includes frequent trips to the library, or the bookstore.
  • Make time for him to read. Turn off devices. Expect that he reads.
  • Demonstrate that you enjoy reading. (Note to self. Find something I like to read.)
  • Take turns reading out loud. This obviously depends on the age of your reader. It can be a great experience to read something with your child. You’ll also have something to talk about later.

If there’s something I’ve learned teaching English to teenagers, it’s that we mess things up trying to help them do the thing we love. Kids learn to hate reading because they are asked questions about the book when they don’t know if they understand it yet. Kids learn to hate to read because there isn’t enough time to do it, or there always seems to be an interruption. Kids learn to hate to read because they don’t know words and don’t want to feel stupid. Kids learn to hate to read because they hear negative things about reading from people they look up to. Kids learn to hate to read because the movie or game or music is easier and louder and better, meaning it takes too much effort for the reward they receive.

Ultimately, it’s about time. We all go through phases. Put the important things in. Cut the distractions out. If your child struggles, help him exercise the skill that needs the work, don’t avoid it. Reading can be a rewarding experience when the right book is found.

Read on, even a little bit at a time counts.

-Dave

 

 

 

 

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