But He Doesn’t Like to Read!

Nov 06, 2020 | Posted by Jennifer


For me, one of life’s greatest pleasures is cracking the spine on a delicious new novel. And one of the times I feel the most contemplative is right after I turn the last page. Books engage my mind in ways that visual media cannot begin to replicate. The images created by words in a book somehow feel more alive, more personal, and more real. So I have to confess that it was in no small part a disappointing and daunting discovery that not all of my children shared my unabashed love of literature.

One of my children, out of love I won’t mention which one, decidedly did not like to read. He would much rather have watched a show, built with LEGO®s, or worked at hard manual labor than delve within the pages of a book. I was mystified. What about literature was there not to love? The conflict, the twists and turns, the time and setting. All of what delighted me about reading seemed to not inspire him at all. Do you have a child like this as well?

If so, don’t despair. Perhaps some of the things I did to engage my child will help you inspire yours. With that aim in mind, I will set out some ideas that may help. But before I do, I feel I need to be real with you. My child had too much unfettered access to electronic media. I had failed to establish healthy boundaries in that regard, and as a result he had developed quite an addiction to video games, in his case, Minecraft®. I wish I would have had the benefit of hearing from Andrew Pudewa as he addressed the topic of technology addiction in podcasts Episodes 51 and 52: Nature Deficit Disorder (discontinued). As it was, I did the best I could on my own. Before I could begin to build up his interest in literature, I needed to get a handle on my own parenting and provide more structure to his game time. Once we got to a better place in that situation, I was able to begin building a love for literature.

To begin with, I realized I needed to hit a few home runs with books. I couldn’t risk a read that was slow and uninteresting. I read through IEW’s Recommended Reading List, paying close attention to the section marked “Books for Boys & Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day.” I began to spend regular time reading aloud to all of my kids, paying particular attention to selecting books I thought would interest him. A Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli was a big winner, so I moved from that one to Avi’s Crispin: The Cross of Lead. Daily I prioritized read aloud time with the kids. We made it all the way through Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, traveled out West with Laura Ingalls Wilder through her Little House series, and ventured into the wild, barbarian lands of England with Rosemary Sutcliff back in the days of the Roman Empire. On days when nothing else seemed to go right, reading aloud got us through.

Along with reading aloud I began to bring bags of books home from the library on topics that I thought would interest my son. If he ever wondered how a book on volcanoes showed up on his bedside table or when exactly that book on the Yukon territory had appeared in the commode (Yes, we kept books in there too!), he never commented on it. If he mentioned passing interest in a topic, I would head to the library to find books on it and scatter them around the house for him to find. Occasionally they weren’t opened; often they were.

In the meantime I continued to model my own interest in literature. Previously I had cherished my reading time as something I did just before bed. I moved it out of that remote space into the heart of the house, where I read for information as well as pleasure, making certain he saw me do it. The aphorism “Do as I say, not as I do” works both ways. By modeling daily my own love for reading and literature, he began to take more and more notice. Sometimes he asked for me to read to him. On rare occasions he would pick up his own book and read silently next to me on the couch.

Over time I was able to introduce more robust and resplendent literature. To this day, my son affirms that his all time favorite novel is Dickens’ Bleak House. We listened to it together over a period of many weeks. The paperback copy is nearly seven hundred pages long! But it didn’t matter to him. He loved the chapter cliffhangers, the rich characters (Inspector Bucket was his favorite.), and the tension of worrying about what would happen next. We would talk about it together throughout the day, making predictions of what evil Mr. Tulkinghorn would do next. Sharing that book together drew us even closer.

My son continues to enjoy reading to this day. Recently he told me he’s started Herodotus’ Histories. He’s nearly through college, and I know he has many course pressures on him, but he decided to read this one out of a simple interest for the author and his subject. I am so happy that he has found joy in reading.

If you need ideas for book selections, IEW has a fabulous resource. Timeline of Classics presents a long list of classic literature arranged by time period. I highly recommend it.

I hope you were able to find a few tips that will help you with your own reluctant reader. I am glad I persisted in helping my son discover his own joy for reading. I encourage you to stick with it as well. The rewards are worth it!


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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