Forcing Your Kid(s) to Read

Updated on November 28, 2010
G.F. asks from Long Beach, MS
22 answers

My 12 year old son handed me his report card last night. Needless to say, I wasn't exactly thrilled with the 2 C's he got (I guess it could be worse). The first C was in Math, but I'll probably post another question just for that issue!!! His second C...for reading. It wasn't for any tests he took or what he's done in class, it was due to him not turning in his Reading log. Basically, his reading log keeps track of every time he reads, for how long and has to be signed by a parent nightly. it's my fault for believing him when he says, " homework tonight again mom!" I have a hard time keeping track of all my kids' school stuff, activities, etc. Plus, I didn't think I needed to track my son like his 9 year old sister! So, in the middle of my "You're grounded" speech, my son yells, "Yeah..well I HATE READING!!!" and storms off to his room.

So here's my son, who was moved to a 1st grade reading class half-days because he was the only one who could read in his Kindergarten class. A kid that went through pratically all the books his older sister had in her room that she outgrew..and then passed it on to his baby sister for her to read (with reviews)! Now after being forced to read to meet Accelerated Reading goals every year (which by the way, doesn't always have a great selection of books for kids) now HATES to read! Is this going to happen to my 9 year old who decided one day she just wanted to read her brother's books even tho they were a bit above her reading level because she LOVES to read? Is she going to hate it too because schools are no longer encouraging reading, they're force feeding it!

I remember when my oldest got an "F" in her 6th grade reading class. I marched in and wanted to know why. I was told she did not meet her Accelerated Reading goal for the month. My daughter happened to be reading "The Hobbit" and did not finish it in time to take the test. So I asked her teacher, I understand she did not meet her goal, but she should be given a better grade for reading and understanding a book that is beyond her grade level! So this teacher looks at me and says, "Well I told her NOT to read such a difficult book!" I was floored and said that children should be encouraged to read especially if it challenges them! She wouldn't change the grade to even a D. So I turned to my daughter and said, "Well baby..looks like you have to read those boring books to make sure you get all your points because that is all they care about here!" She didn't take up reading for pleasure until she was a senior in high school!

So how do I get my son's reading mojo back??? He's still grounded and I'm still going to "make" him read but I 'd like to make it a little less painful! Please don't suggest getting him books he's interested in. He has them but just refuses to read them at all!

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So What Happened?

Love everyone's suggestions and feedback. Krista, I will talk with my son about the other "reading" options. I'm sure he'll find them much more entertaining. Workin: I will explain that sometimes we have to do things we don't always like. Shira--ur right, he should be able to keep up with the log regardless. yes, I will set up a routine for ALL my kids (i'm sure my daughter will love it too).

Thanks everyone. Sometimes I get so irritated that I need someone to give me a different perspective on things!!!

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answers from Springfield on

Keep in mind that just because he stormed off to his room and yelled "I hate reading," after being punished, doesn't necessarily mean he really hates reading. I can remember yelling "You don't love me," at my parents. I didn't really believe that.

Also, yes you probably do have to do more than just ask if he has any homework. Each evening go through a list of all his classes, ask him what they did that day, do they have anything due tomorrow, any test coming up, any projects to work on, etc. This will help him develop good organizational skills.

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answers from Philadelphia on

My daughter went through the same exact thing... reading log and all... she use to love reading, and now it seems like she would rather have spikes driven under her nails then pick up a book.

I was thinking about getting her a kindle for christmas, maybe if she has a cool new do-hicky to read with, it will spark her interest again... I know having a laptop for school has sparked her ability to complete and hand in homework this year (she is a freshman and the school provides the students with their own laptops for class and home use)

I am very interested in reading the responses you get! Good Luck

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answers from Los Angeles on

I'd consider suing the school system.
For damages.
For taking children who love to read
and turning them into children who hate to read.
I don't think you can force him to read.
I do think you can get him to keep the logbook up, however.
Just check off each book, after reading the back inside flap.
How very very sad.

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answers from Chicago on

I was surprised when our child's second grade teacher told us, "I don't care what they read for their reading logs, just GET THEM TO READ." She actually said that comic books are wonderful. They are fun, illustrated and have difficult vocabulary and concepts.

Maybe it's time to "step back" from the pressure of what to read and focus again on time spent reading, every day. Maybe for the time after dinner EVERYONE reads? Take your kids to the library weekly. Ask for recommendations from the librarian - they often know the new, hottest books for any age group and interest level.

For our kids, my older one reading TO my younger one counts for BOTH their reading logs. My younger one loves hearing the stories and my older one loves getting to pick the book they read.

We don't watch TV on weekdays. Partially because of the "reading logs" we need them to get done. We do other homework and a few extra cirricular activities too to round out our days.

I am the first one to agree, reading because you HAVE to sucks. Reading a book you really don't like because it's a class assignment is awful.

Although our child's teacher's comments about not making a big deal out of WHAT they read shocked me, it made me think. I do draw the line at "baby books". However I've also found that by modelling reading, by letting the kids pile into bed with me, all of us reading, makes it a lot more enjoyable. (I read my mysteries and they either read to each other or quietly alone.)

We do go to the library weekly too. They are allowed to pick out 2 movies and 5 books each. The librarian has really helped us find some great authors, good science books and even backyard fun (like how to attract bees into a jug, identifying animal tracks, stargazing, etc.) and cookbooks where the kids and I made dinner or after school snacks.

It sounds like your son has lost "the joy of reading" - and who could blame him? Get creative mama, and you'll spark his interest again. Especially if YOU lead the way.

One last suggestion, why not buy him a magazine subscription to his favorite thing? You could get him Sports Illustrated for kids, car mags, or anything HE's interested in?
Best wishes

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answers from Cincinnati on

AR stinks!! My son is only in 2nd grade. Reads well than a grade level above himself but can't take an AR test to save his life. He leaves class to read with the librarian twice a week so he can do things on his reading level. He does an excellent job and our teachers have the scores JUST BC THEY HAVE TO but don't use them to make the actual grade sent home. He is graded on his reading level. They should still be taking time to listen the parents and understand that children read at different levels and harder longer books take more time. In case I haven't said it yet...I hate AR.
:) I do talk to his teacher reguarly and she knows my opinoins and I like the way our school handles all these "standarized" test. I'm not sure what to tell you, just know that you're not the only one that isn't a fan of the testing.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Another thought.... I have my kids go to bed at around 9:00. They do not have to turn their lights out but they do have to be resting. They always choose to read and usually I am the one who has to tell them to stop reading and go to sleep.

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answers from Atlanta on

You have to understand that in public schools all kids are going to be "herded" toward the "average." I say that because you would probably be SHOCKED at how many kids are never -ever -encouraged to read by anyone and at how many kids were showing up to middle and high school in the 90s functionally illiterate -so many reading requirements were added to school curriculum. Programs like Accelerated Reader are really supposed to be used for extra credit or prizes and shouldn't be used as a hard grade. When I taught, I would swap out one AR test grade for a low class grade per semester, but we were told to never base grades on AR.

I will say -your son should be encouraged to read books that he likes to read, but he's going to have to also get used to reading books that are "required." If he wants to finish high school and go to and get through college, there will be many reading assignments he finds less than thrilling. I know some books were like pulling teeth for me to get through, and I'm a life-long avid reader! YES -your son needs to be reading every day. It's his fault he didn't keep up with his reading log and basically lied to you about having homework. Now he's getting the repercussions. As his mother, it IS your job to know and understand what your children's course requirements are. Yes, they need to be personally responsible, but you need to look over his syllabus at the beginning of ever semester and ask him about things like, "Are you keeping up with your reading log?" "Have you started researching that project that's due next week?" -that sort of thing. Put it on your calendar if you have trouble remembering. He's not 18 -he's 12.

You just need to tell him that often in life we have to work through things we really don't like in order to achieve what we want. Encourage him to read things he may find interesting, but stress that he has to read assigned material whether he likes it or not. I absolutely DESPISE trigonometry, algebra and geometry. I have never -not one time -used any of it in my life after high school and the basic math I had to take in college. I knew I would never need it, but I still had to do it!

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answers from New York on

First, reading every night is absolutely essential for students to practice fluency and comprehension. Reading at home should be done ONLY at a child's instructional level, not for a "challenge" unless the parent will be sitting right next to the child and cuing both word recall, phonics and comprehension.

Second, if the reading log was an assignment that wasn't completed each week, he probably got "0" for homework which will impact his grade. Having said that, the teacher really should have been in touch with you after a couple of weeks to make sure you were aware of the requirements. For the time being, you should schedule a meeting with the teacher and ask to see the "regular" assignments.

Third, be creative in what he's reading. If he likes to check out website, let that count (as long as there is real reading involved). He may "hate" reading b/c it's an assignment and has to be done for 20 minutes straight (at least his impression). Be creative in your interpretation (in conjunction with the teacher). Again, schedule a meeting with the teacher and talk- don't unload on him/her. Bottom line, your son didn't do his work. Now you need to work together to find a way through it. Suggest allowing him to read online, attend a "tween night" at the public library, help his younger sister with her homework... reading doesn't have to happen only in a book!

Side note: Please don't belittle your child's teacher infront of your children. The teacher wouldn't belittle your parenting. Give them the same respect for the same reason. Your daughter didn't follow the instructions given and reading a book too far above her level resulted in an incomplete assignment.

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answers from Chicago on

What does he love? Baseball? Hockey? Science? Then find books, magazines, etc., about those subjects to nuture his love.

It sounds as if he never made the switch from learning to read - to reading to learn.

Find what interests him, and then hit the library or book store. Good luck.

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answers from Chicago on

It is actually very common for kids, especially boys to stop reading at this age. Sports, other activities, etc. all eat up more time. I've worked at a children's bookstore for over a decade and have worked with hundreds of 'reluctant readers' and their parents and here is what I would do:

1)First, be sure that it is not a skills issue. If you and his teacher are confident that he CAN read at grade level and just is choosing NOT to, that is one issue. If he is actually having trouble, that is another.

2)Assuming he can read at grade level- the key thing to getting kids to read is getting them to LOVE IT. You absolutely must make sure he has things to read that he really is interested in. Some things boys that age love are
Ripley's Believe It Or Not
Statistics books (baseball, etc. if he is into sports)
Biographies of sports figures or other people they admire.
and of course all the fiction that is out there.

3)Comic books- comic books and graphic novels are a GREAT way to get reluctant readers interested in reading. With manga out there, there are more things than ever that a kid his age can feel 'cool' about reading.

4)Go to a good bookstore or the library and take your son. Find someone to help you who will LISTEN to him- Ask him what he has read in the past that he really liked? A good librarian wants to encourage readers and will suggest similar things that might catch his interest. If you can get him hooked on ANY kind of series, that is great, because he will have to keep reading to find out what happens.

5)Make READING TIME a priority. Just as you have dinner time, homework time and tv time, set aside a half an hour every night before bed for reading. My son loves to read in bed and will often ask for just a few extra minutes to finish an exciting chapter. But the important thing is to do this EVERY NIGHT.

6) Do you like to read? Lots of studies show that families where the parents read are much more likely to raise kids who like to read. Find some books or magazine articles that your family can read and discuss! Get a subscription to National Geographic or something else that might interest all of you and read things and talk about them at dinner. The more books, magazines and newspapers that you have in your home, the more likely your children are to read. Also, as he gets older, it is a great way to keep the lines of communication open.

7) Organization! I have a son who is almost 11 and I totally feel your pain about the whole 'No, I don't have any homework' thing!! It is so frustrating to have to be the homework police- but, in the end, it is worth it. I email my son's teacher once a week to check and make sure that everything got turned in- including the silly reading log! It's a pain, but you have to mom up and just do it! Have a routine of reading time, tracking the reading and parental sign-off on it. It will really help!

The only other thing I can say is: believe it or not, kids are never too old for reading aloud. With the holidays coming, it is a perfect time to sit together and have some hot cocoa and read How the Grinch Stole Christmas or some other special story. One reason for the popularity of the Harry Potter books is that both parents and children, whole families were reading the SAME books together. I know many families that read a chapter out loud after dinner together. Your kids may pooh-pooh it at first, but they will enjoy it.

Or if you are too shy to do the honors yourself, check out and download books directly onto an iPod. Lots of amazing actors read every book you could ever want to hear. They are great for holiday car trips, but my son also listened to several books, then went on to read the book himself. Try them out!

Good luck- you can do this! Your whole family will get into this new reading groove if you lead the way. :)

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answers from Denver on

I suggest you talk with him, and ask him what he wants to read. Explain that he has to read his assignments but that you will make sure he has an opportunity to get (check out or buy, depending on your finances and what motivates him) whatever he wants to read too, plus some additional reward for making it through the assignments (like a day out with dad doing something they like).

Good luck!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I understand what you're saying about the material he likes being "there" and not being read. My second grader is doing the AR now. We're just incorporating 15-20 mins of reading each day as part of his homework routine.....or TRYING to.....

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answers from Dallas on

He's also at that pre-teen age, he may not get that "love" to read until he gets older unless he finds a series of books that he loves. Maybe one way to get it going, is to get books or magazines he likes and would read. So what if the magazine isn't accelerated reading, he's reading and maybe loving it. There is a lot going through their heads at that age, a lot of peer pressure too.

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answers from San Francisco on

Welcome to how the need for administrators and legislators to quantify learning ends up killing any love a child might have for learning/reading. I don't have any specific advice for you as it seems that you will need to deal with the rules for your school. I am a community college literature professor (so is my husband) and I read many "reading biographies" from my students. Many of them start out loving reading but right around 6th grade they begin to hate it because they are forced to read books that are tied to other curriculum (social studies especially) and they are required to keep reading journals or logs or take AR tests. None of these techniques are bad in and of themselves....but think about what you enjoy reading...if you had to write a log entry or take a test each time you read, how would you feel?

BTW, my son read the original Gulliver's Travels (18th century version, hard book) and failed the AR exam because it was on the abridged/watered down version and for his grade level (5th) they did not have access to the unabridged test.
He also failed a quiz on the first three chapters of a novel that was tied to the civil rights movement (social studies tie in) because he did not pick up on the fact that the characters were black and white. He did not know how to pick up on words like "nappy hair" for example. He thought it was about gang violence (we live in a community plagued by gang violence) because one of the characters had red shoes that he was proud of. I though it was a brilliant, interesting reading, but he still got the bad grade.

Have your son try reading The Hunger Games trilogy. I will bet that he likes it.

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answers from Boise on

I remember hating to read because the books were boring, and the "test" on them were ridiculous in my mind. I could tell you what the book was about, I may have really liked it , but the analyzing of the stories took all the joy out of it for me. I would talk to him and let him know that you realize it sucks that he has to read in a certain way for school, but that that is the way they do it. Help him realize that this doesn't mean the end of reading, just that you sometimes have to do some things you don't like for school. For example, I could give the answer of a math problem, but was required to show my work. Well, my work was in my head, BUT, I had to write it all out, and take 2-3 times as long just to make the teacher happy. Sucks, but I felt better that my dad understood and explained it to me in this way instead of punishing me for it.

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answers from Norfolk on

Not reading is not a problem with my son. I have a hard time getting him to put a book down. When he was in 1st/2nd grade we read a lot of different kind of books together till we found what he liked - basically anything with wizards, dragons and or magic.
Since your son has books he likes, it's time to take away the things that are entertaining him while he's not reading like the TV, games, cell phone (if he has one) and computer.
Plug locks and confiscating batteries will help a lot.
In my house, my son has to ask to turn on the TV or computer. Reading is the only thing he does he doesn't have to ask if he can (and sometimes I'll tell him if I see him spending time on recreational reading before his homework is finished I'll confiscate the book till the work is done). He reads if he can't sleep. He'll read on the bus, in the car, in the orthodontists waiting room, etc. He'd read in the bathtub if we had water proof books.
In my son's elementary school they started toning down the Accelerated Reading program a few years ago. Earning points was nice, but it wasn't a major requirement. My son's problem was he was reading books that they didn't have tests for at the elementary level. Now that he's in middle school, he's re-reading some books and cleaning up on AR points. He just brought home an award for gaining the most points in a 10 week period for his entire grade level. For his birthday I got him 8 Shanara books that are on the AR reading list and these are books that are right up his alley. I have no trouble telling him 'no' in a toy store, but he knows good grades and good behavior means I'll never tell him 'no' in a book store. He makes us very proud.

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answers from San Francisco on

The story about the teacher and your daughter reading The Hobbit (one of the greatest books ever) makes me crazy. What a dumb teacher.

Anyway, sadly, some kids just don't like to read, and probably never will. That's been something I've had to learn, because I was an avid reader when I was a kid, and each of my kids went through some reading phases, but not one of them reads like I did. And it's hard for books to compete with modern media.

Keep pushing the books, because language is the most important thing we have, IMO, but don't expect miracles.

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answers from Detroit on

If there isn't a specific list he has to go off of for reading at home, let him read something that HE picks out (age appropriate of course). Magazines (car rebuild magazines are AWESOME!), Readers Digest, the newspaper... Anything really.

I had a 4th grade teacher tell me that I couldn't read a book (more advanced than most were reading in my class but it wasn't anything that I didn't understand) that I ended up loving... On my own time. It was about time travel and there wasn't anything naughty or anything about it. But she was nasty with my mother... IN FRONT OF ME, about the books I was chosing to read. She gave my mother a list of books that I was forced to go off of... I was the only one she did that to. I hated that grade... I was so not fond of that teacher... Mrs. Scott.

But like I said, if there isn't a specific list he needs to follow... get some magazines. You can borrow them from the library too. If he finds one he likes, you could subscribe or just keep borrowing from the library.

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answers from Washington DC on

Ouch! Hating to read?!

Try finding out what exactly he doesn't like about reading - there might be more to it - dyslexia, other issues - try Kumon Learning Centers or some place that has a "neutral" person to help him out.

Also find books that interest him - even if they are comic books - it will encourage him to read!

Set up a routine at home - homework done in the same place, back pack in the same place, etc.

Make this a routine EVERY NIGHT for EVERY CHILD in your family.

My son reads while he's pooping on the toilet. I make him write in his log himself. It's not easy. I'm a stay at home mom and staying on top of their homework isn't always fun. But get into will make everyone's life easier.

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answers from Detroit on

You've gotten plenty of good thoughtful responses back - the only thing I can add is regarding knowing about homework when he claims he doesn't have any. In many school districts now, the teachers will post on-line the homework assignments for the day and parents can view them to see exactly what has been assigned. I would check into that if it is an option, then there is no way your son is going to lie to you and get away with it.

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answers from Chicago on

It looks like you have already received lots of helpful advice so I'll try not to repeat too much. Hopefully the dislike of reading is just temporary and may be a result of the combination of feeling like he is being forced to read rather than pleasure read & being grounded. Unfortunately there are times in school (and life!) when we have to do things we don't want to do. I can remember thinking some of the books I was "forced" to read for classes in high school & college were completely boring and not wanting to read them at the time. But that did not take away my love to read as I still enjoy it regularly as an adult. Maybe try telling him that after he reads his required reading for school, he can read a chapter of a book of his choice. Our middle school encourages reading out loud to our children and my 12 year old daughter still loves it. In fact, I am reading a Harry Potter book to her. It helps her relax before bed (she has already read it so knows what will happen) and it helps me understand the movies when I watch with her, which she appreciates. She is in a gifted education program at school & has always loved to read. There are times when she gets sick of it though as accelerated and/or gifted classes are not offered for every subject in our district. Since she, and other students like her are so bored, the teachers allow them to read books of their choice in class so she sometimes gets tired of reading for the majority of her day at school, or finishes a book & has nothing to do. Unfortunately the district/teachers can't seem to come up with anything else for them to do but that is a whole other issue! Also, our district has an online system where parents can theoretically check for homework. Many of my daughter's teachers do not use it though & it is frequently down for repairs. You could try emailing the teacher but I know at our middle school, the teachers are huge on the student taking responsibility, not the parents. I emailed once earlier this year about my daughter's homework as she was home sick. Many of her textbooks are online. Only one teacher even bothered to respond; the rest expected my daughter to take care of getting her missed work when she returned. Good Luck to you with your son - I hope he rediscovers his love for reading soon!



answers from Honolulu on

Does he have vision problems?
Sometimes kids need glasses... and then 'hate' reading....
is his vision fine?

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