Reluctant Reader: Why Read?

The Reluctant Reader, Pt. 1

When I was a little girl, I watched my parents and my grandparents read . . . a lot. If you're as old as I am, you probably had the same experience.

Now I adored both my Father and my Grandfather. I wanted to be just like them. To be just like them meant I needed to be reading so I taught myself how to read before I trotted off to kindergarten. (I didn't know that my grandfather never read anything beyond the classified ads for hunting dogs and rifles.  I didn't know my Grandfather never graduated from high school.)

Fast forward 2009: Our grandson Caleb spent last year with us. He's 2-3 years behind in reading. Sees no reason why he or anybody else would need to read, must less WANT to read. Anything beyond short abbreviated text messages is clearly a waste of time and BORING.

Unfortunately, from his perspective, the Denver Public Schools think middle school kids should read . . . every night. They suggest 30 minutes. Caleb's teacher and I agreed that maybe in Caleb's case 30 minutes was extreme so we settled on 15 minutes and he would choose the books.

He balked. He whined. He cajoled. I won on the condition I would set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes. He certainly wasn't going to be "cheated" and accidentally read for 16 minutes!

After the first two nights of this reading regime, he announced that he might die from all this reading. I asked what would help? He suggested that I should read with him at the same time in the same room. I agreed. While he read his book, I would read the newspaper which I hadn't gotten around to earlier in the day.

Now I'm guessing he thought it wouldn't work. That I, too, might worry about death caused by reading. It never crossed his mind that someone, his very own Grandmother for example, might actually ENJOY reading.

After a couple of nights of this, he asked "Grandma, are you really reading the paper or are you just pretending to read it?" To which I answered, "Of course I'm reading it. Why would you even have to ask?" And he says, "Grandma, you're weird."

Sadly in Denver and around the country, lots of kids agree with Caleb and lots of them are a couple years behind in reading . . . or more.

If you'd like to help your kids get into the reading habit, sign up for the FREE Smart Kids Smart Parents TeleClass on Tuesday, February 23. It's called "Get "em to Read." Or sign up to listen to the replay.

And please leave a comment. Let us know how reading is going at your house. If you've got kids who read well and love to read, tell us what you think got them into the reading habit.

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About Dr. MaryJo Wagner

MaryJo Wagner, PhD, helps you help your kids transform ADHD behavior for success. Sign up at Coaching & Accountability to get your questions answered with a complimentary Transformation Session.


  1. Great idea! Hope your teleclass goes well.

  2. I enjoyed your story, and have heard similar reactions from numerous children who struggle with reading in general and/or specific academic subjects. Parents and schools need to do all they can to keep kids reading. Without motivation, reading interventions will have little hope of suceeding.
    Good luck with your grandson and best wishes for success in you efforts to help others in need.

  3. Dr. MaryJo,
    I guess it's a "Jo" thing we both have in common, plus we're grandmothers who love to read. I guess I'd qualify for the "weird" part too. I'm raising my 8 yr. old granddaughter, in 2nd grade, and she is required to read each night also. We have been reading to her since she was really a baby. I have found that when you read to children, when they are really young, as young as babies, they tend to want to read or be read to when they get older. I just hope that other parents take heed with your likes, and mine, and read, read read. Read everything you get your hands on, read to your kids, to your grandkids, just out loud! If that doesn't get you your "fill" of reading, go to a nursing home or a children's home, start a reading hour for those who can no longer see or see well enough to read. Read to those that are too young to learn to read, yet. There are many opportunities for people that know how to read to read! If all else fails, heres a great place to take your reading abilities to, your child's school or your grandchild's school. A lot of young and older kids now a days need help in reading. I'm sure you wouldn't be surprised, but some would be, on just how bad the kids are reading now in school. Some are passed to other grades, but yet, aren't up to their own level grade of reading. You can help, and in a big way. I'll get off my soap box now, but you have a wonderful subject here and I do hope a lot of people sign up for this. I'll try to put this on my Facebook page so others can see it and sign up, if you don't mind. Try to connect to Facebook, and you'll see just how many people will want to come and learn just how to do it for their own kids or grandchildren.
    Thank you so much for your generous offer,
    another "weird grandmother" reader!

    • Loved your comment. So glad your grandkids love reading. Yes, studies show that kids who have books at home and who watch their parents read are far more likely to love reading themselves.

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