“I hate reading.” Oh how I cringe and weep inside when a child says those words! Where have they missed the bridge between ink on a page and the passport of the mind? More and more often, I hear those fateful words, and I wonder “Why don’t the children read?”
There is a pattern that I have observed in children who hate or dislike reading. Commonly, the books they have been given to read are on subjects that do not interest them – do not capture their imagination. So while we may think that all children should quote Shakespeare and Milton by the age of 5; they will never, ever dare to test the waters if they have never read anything interesting. Reading is viewed by them now as a chore and an immense bore. They would never dream of picking up a book just for the sheer pleasure of reading it.
So let me encourage you that when you are introducing the world of the written word to a child, you should not view them as minds to be filled but rather as minds to be cultivated. Find what interests them, and start them reading there. If they like horses or dogs, give them books like Misty of Chincoteague or Big Red. If they like pirates, let them read Pippi Longstocking, Coral Island, Mutiny on the H.M.S. Bounty, and Kidnapped. If they dream of far off places, daring sword fights, and the days of yore, then let them read of the heroes of old in the fairy tales, give them The Princess and the Goblin and The Coronet of Horse; then work them up to books like The Three Musketeers and The Scarlet Pimpernel. If they prefer stories of home, then let them read books like An Old-Fashioned Girl, Farmer Boy, and Mildred Keith. Maybe they love mysteries; give them The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Father Brown, and, eventually, Sherlock Holmes. You may even find a child who would rather read a how-to book than a novel; that, too, should be encouraged. Find books that capture their imagination. And then slowly introduce books that hold the same elements, but introduce new ideas or ways of expressing ideas.
Do not be disheartened because a child has been captured by the simple story of Misty of Chincoteague. That can lead them in a million different directions. They might race across the Arabian plains in King of the Wind or experience the great love and devotion found in Lassie Come-home. And those stories can lead to others, as they might discover a fascination for Arabia or wish to do further research on working dogs. And so each book is a start to another story, another path, another discovery. And they build one on another. Encourage children to read those stories. I, however, must give a word of caution: the written word is powerful, so make sure that what they read is sound; good for both the mind and the character, as well as appropriate for their individual level of maturity. There are millions of books in the world, choose them wisely. As the children mature, both in mind and body, their literature will mature with them. And one day, you never know, they might surprise you with a quote from Hamlet.
*If you are no longer a child, but hate reading, here is a note for you: you are never too old to read a children’s story. C.S. Lewis once said, “some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” So don’t feel silly reading fairy tales and children’s stories. There is no shame in going back to tap into that wellspring of wonder.
“…if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”~C. S. Lewis. Be progressive! Read a children’s book and discover the joy of reading.