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home : local blogs : ability and accountability November 25, 2015

8/7/2012 6:01:00 AM
How do you get a boy to start reading?
If you have a child - especially a boy - who may not be motivated to read, may I recommend any number of children's books by Roald Dahl.
If you have a child - especially a boy - who may not be motivated to read, may I recommend any number of children's books by Roald Dahl.

Richard Haddad

I was not a very honest child. I can confess it now, but at the time I thought I was clever when I cheated on book reports. I fooled teachers for years - but at what price.

In school, we were given books to read and asked to write a report to share what we'd learned from the experiences of the characters and the places the book had allowed us to travel.

But I hated to read and no one was going to make me.

To me, reading was a chore. I felt pressured to read and couldn't see the joy in it. I had an elaborate system that allowed me to appear as if I had done the assignment. Just before the book report was due, I would read the back cover, the jacket sleeves and skim the first and last chapters.

Sometimes, to make my reports more believable, I would open the book and pull out a character name or quote from somewhere in the middle. I made up the rest.

I got caught.

During an oral exam in middle school, a teacher began to suspect the truth. She named a character from the book and asked me how I felt about that person.

I was confident as I expounded on the character and their place in the story. The teacher folded her arms and gave me a denouncing look. She told me that no such character existed. She made the character up to test her suspicion.

Then she leaned forward and told me that, while I was cheating to pass her class, I was actually cheating myself from the incredible journey that is reading.

I didn't fully understand until years later when I met a girl, Debbie, who was an avid reader. She was obviously smarter than me and had knowledge of the world she had gained through books. (She was also very wise, kind and beautiful.)

For reasons I still don't fully understand, she later agreed to marry me and things began to change.

First, I was around a reader - a person who truly found joy in literature. She shared exciting moments from her books and I listened. Then Debbie shared something even more powerful by giving birth to two sons in the first few years of our marriage.

On Debbie's recommendation I started reading Roald Dahl books to our boys at bedtime each night. I remember asking myself, "Who is this guy?" He wrote wild, adventurous stories in a way that I found myself laughing out loud along with my boys. That's when it hit me - it wasn't that reading wasn't fun, I just needed to find the right books for me.

So with the help of my bride and Roald Dahl, I started discovering books I should have read in school - "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "War of the Worlds" and "Treasure Island," which is now one of my many favorite books. I continued to read to my children each night for many years. All five of my children have heard me read nearly every Roald Dahl book ever published.

These days, I can't wait to finish one book so I can start another. Along with fun escapes and adventure, reading has given me a more open mind and made me a better communicator.

Today, as I remember myself faking my way through book reports, I wonder how many children out there are just like I was. And I believe all the new technology we have is not helping children learn to love reading. By relying on the Internet for information, they are missing the benefits that come from an old-fashioned, hold-in-your-hand, page-turner.

I encourage parents to take their young children to bookstores or libraries regularly and let them pick out a book that you will read to them or with them. (Ereaders will also do, but I still prefer a traditional book.) Do what you can to get them away from the video games and computers long enough to discover the joy of reading. Find the books that will turn that key in their mind.

If you have a child like I was - especially a boy - who may not be motivated to read, may I recommend any number of children's books by Roald Dahl.

Some of these include The BFG, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, The Twits, The Vicar of Nibbleswicke and many others.

His characters are fun, different and very appealing to boys like I was, who do not yet know the wonderful journey called reading.

Related Links:
• See the Roald Dahl official Web site

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, September 06, 2012
Article comment by: Tracie Himes

I was labled at a young age as a slow reader and felt like I never needed to prove it wrong and hated reading from then on. With my children I leard two things read to them and let the bodies natural developement of being able to track across the page with both eyes take place before pushing reading. With some kids that can be as early as four or as late as 8. I am assuming that is what my problem was.

Posted: Sunday, September 02, 2012
Article comment by: Midge Baker

My mother encouraged me to read by taking me to the library every week beginning at age seven, and letting me borrow any books I chose.

I remember I couldn't wait to turn eleven years old so I could take out as many books asthe 'grown-ups."

Posted: Friday, August 24, 2012
Article comment by: Reading comes In many forms

Growing up, I never developed a love of reading fictional books hundreds of pages long (and that has carried into adulthood). I did enjoy learning and reading, but I just never liked reading things so long I had to pick back up the next day. My mom noticed this early on, and started buying me educational "fact" books or field guides when I was younger (about dinosaurs, birds, trees, minerals, volcanoes, space, anything educational), and subscribing to educational magazines like National Geographic and Scientific American as I got older. I did much better reading a 3 page article or learning about a new bird every day, than I did reading a whole fictional novel over several days/weeks. I still read educational magazines and am always researching all kinds of on things on the Internet. I spend about 2 hours a day reading up on interesting subjects I actually gain knowledge from. I consider myself an avid reader, though I haven't read a novel since i was in high school (and it was required). Parents need to be in tune with their children, and foster their individual likes. Not every child will be the same, and forcing them to read a style of writing that doesn't interest them isn't going to help them learn to love reading. Even if they are reading a cookbook while learning to bake, it's better than them not reading or learning anything at all and watching tv instead....

Posted: Friday, August 24, 2012
Article comment by: Hal OPinyon

Motivation is wonderful. I had a father and mother who loved to read. I was a speed reader at age 7.

One critical point. Have a good optomotrist check their eyes. A check for dyslexia is also good. You cannot read what you cannot see.

Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2012
Article comment by: Yukon Jack

The trick to getting a boy to read is to put something in front of him that interests him!

I don't know if Lil Chico was being facetious or not, but he makes my point. There are LOTS of magazines that boys can get interested in Hot Rod magazines, Sports Illustrated, Model Railroader, etc. can spark an interest if just to look at the pictures. Soon enough though, curiosity will drive him to read up on that 426 Hemi or that special airplane, etc. If all he's reading is an Incredible Hulk comic book, who cares? He's reading and he'll grow into books that are more sophisticated!

But you have to get him to start...

Posted: Monday, August 20, 2012
Article comment by: Pat W

I saw this story a while back about a survey that reported many children are starting school having never been read a story:
Many parents failing to read to children, survey shows
According to the survey, more than half of primary teachers have seen a least one child begin formal education with no experience of being told stories at home. The stories students did know often seemed to come from watching Disney cartoons. This is a shame.

Posted: Monday, August 13, 2012
Article comment by: Lil Chico

I always struggled at reading until I was about 14 and an older relative handed me a copy of Playboy magazine. Not to say my comprehension improved but from then on I was always eager for next months publication.
Remember, readers are leaders!!! Look at what Bill Clinton achieved!

Posted: Sunday, August 12, 2012
Article comment by: the wino

I would like to address this ?
I started using --CROSSWORD PUZZLES.
there is no greater gift to humanity to be able to READ+WRITE.

Posted: Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Article comment by: RJ Retired

Aren't good teachers also wonderful detectives?

Posted: Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Article comment by: Ellen d.D.

Thank you for the suggestion. My 6 yr old loves me to read to him, but does not like to read himself (yet).

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