How I got my son to love reading

How I got my son to love reading

I was an obsessive reader since early childhood, the kind who hides in the bathroom to sneak a few pages when her best friend is visiting. This passion for books dictated my major in college and laid the cornerstone of my career.

When I became a mother, I knew from the get-go that I would do whatever it took to make my son fall in love with reading. In my opinion, a person who reads a lot and loves it, can learn (almost) anything else.

Since I come from a family of voracious readers who never needed any prompting to bury their noses in books, I thought that recruiting my son into the Order of Mencos Book Geeks would be a piece of cake. But it was a struggle.

Not that I didn’t try. My husband and I started reading a bedtime story to him when he was only six months old. We never missed a night. Soon one story grew into two and then three. I took over this task because I loved the precious bubble of cozy intimacy and “firewords” it created night after night: laying in bed with him, reading each character as if acting a play, and seeing my son’s eyes light up with excitement at every plot turn. I also read to him during the day when I could.

The trouble started when he entered kindergarten and had to start reading by himself. He had a hard time learning the letters. In first grade, concerned that he was falling behind, I found him a reading tutor. He caught up, but it was still harder for him than for most other kids to read at grade level.

Once he finally got it down, a year or two later, he refused to read alone. He still loved to hear me read one chapter after another of his favorite books, but if I left him alone with a story he would drop it in one minute flat.

I finally devised a strategy that worked. I had tried to read Harry Potter to him when he was seven, but he found it boring. At nine years old, I thought he would be ready for it and I started again. He loved it.

Every evening I read to him for a long time, around half an hour. I was careful to stop at the most interesting point in the middle of a chapter. He always complained: “Mom! Please, read more! Mom, please, don’t leave me hanging!” “I’m tired. I’ve read for half an hour already. You’re welcome to keep reading by yourself if you want, but I can’t go on a minute longer. I’m hoarse and I have to cook dinner,” I would reply (or I have to work, or whatever else I needed to do.)

He knew it was true that I had read for a very long time, so he relented. He grudgingly took the book from me, like if it were some poisonous creature. But he couldn’t stand the suspense, so he had to keep reading.

At the beginning he’d read only until the end of the chapter, but after a few days of using this tactic, he got so into the book, that I didn’t need to read to him anymore. He would come home from school, pick up the book and devour it.

During the next few years, he went through 500 pages books in two or three days. Weekly trips to the library were a must. I couldn’t keep up with his thirst for stories.

Mission accomplished. Or… was it?

A couple of years ago my son became obsessed with video games, and, more recently, with Netflix series. He has let go of books altogether, except whatever reading is assigned in school. At least, he developed great reading, writing and critical thinking skills from the intense reading sessions of the last few years. But now I need to devise a new strategy to get my 14 year old reading again.

Tips and recommendations of irresistible books for teenage boys will be greatly appreciated.

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