Today I want to shatter the stereotype of the bookish homeschool kid. Guess what? Not all homeschooled children like to read.
Yes, it’s the truth. And my daughter is one of those.
My daughter doesn’t like to read.
Making it a big heading like that makes me feel better, like I’m confessing a dark secret that is too shameful to be spoken aloud.
The fact that Emma dislikes reading is a huge disappointment of mine and sometimes makes me feel like a failure as a homeschool mom. We assume that surrounding our children with an environment rich in books, magazines, newspapers, and maps will result in a child who loves to read. I read to Emma from her birth, and she had her own bookcase full of board books before she could walk. I honestly did my part.
And yet the truth is that she dislikes reading.
My daughter has many talents and strengths, and she can read just fine. She is not a struggling reader. But she does not chose to read for recreation. Reading is not her preferred method for learning.
As I child, I was a voracious reader, and it’s hard for me to understand how she does not enjoy such a simple pleasure of getting lost in a good story. She loves being read to and listening to audio books, though, so it’s not as if she hates books altogether.
I’ve offered all kinds of books through the years thinking that she simply hadn’t found the genre that suited her — fantasy, mystery, adventure, historic fiction. In early years, I even allowed her to even read a some twaddle to encourage that love of reading. But it never clicked. She has never chosen to read of her own accord without my prompting or forcing. Emma is going into high school this fall, and I have finally come to accept that she is simply not a person who loves to read.
But let me tell you the revelation I’ve had.
It’s Okay Not to Like Reading
I confided to my friend Stacey Lane that Emma doesn’t like reading. She said, “I like Emma!” I was surprised and asked if she meant that she liked her because she didn’t like to read. Stacey said something very profound.
Yes, I like her because she is like me. I don’t like to read either. What’s wrong with not liking to read? Everyone doesn’t have to like to read.
It was as if she had smacked me with her radical thought. I froze for a minute thinking of what she had said — it’s okay not to like reading.
After all, my daughter doesn’t like sports, and I feel no sadness over that. She prefers foreign language, art, and music over history and science. And I’m okay with that. I feel no shame or sense of failure there. So why does it bother me that she dislikes reading?
Stacey’s words helped me realize that I harbor a prejudice against non-readers. And it’s silly. I can let her not like reading without interpreting it as a failure on my part or thinking she’s less intelligent.
She is unique. She is wonderful. And who she is does not include (right now) reading books for pleasure.
Maybe one day she will awaken to a love of reading. She certainly loves literature and books. After all, she spent hours on the road to Cincinnati Great Homeschool Convention listening to the audio version of A Tale of Two Cities. She understood it, enjoyed it. It’s just the task of reading that she dislikes.
If you have a child who dislikes reading, do not consider that the scarlet letter of homeschool failure. It is not. Not at all.
How to Handle a Child Who Dislikes Reading
Require Daily Reading Time
I still think that “readers are leaders.” And just because Emma doesn’t like reading doesn’t mean that she gets a free pass. She must read. In fact, I am probably more diligent to enforce reading time because she dislikes it. I make her use a reading log to record her time or pages.
Allow for Modifications
I still read a good bit of her history and science to her, and we rely on audio resources for teaching (Teaching Texbooks for math, for example). I will not allow her distaste for reading to keep her from learning. There are other ways to absorb content besides reading it.
Keep the Flow of Resources
I still take her to the library and buy her magazine subscriptions to encourage leisure reading. I’m not giving up, but I am releasing my prejudice and shame.
Recognize and Invest in Passions
My daughter has other talents and passions that are equally as important as reading. Instead of harping on her distaste for reading, I need to invest in her love of art, music, and foreign language. (And I do!) I need to build her up as the creative, brilliant young woman that she is instead of worrying about reading as if it is the single factor of academic success.
Yes, I realize that children who are strong readers do better in school, but that is because school is set up to be based on reading. Our school looks different. We homeschool precisely for this reason — to make her education work for her strengths not against them.
I have explained to Emma that not enjoying reading may make college a huge challenge. She will have to compensate with great note taking skills during class lectures. And I often remind her that God chose the written word to reveal himself to mankind. So we have a duty to read well so that we can enjoy the Bible independently of preachers or teachers.
If you have a child who doesn’t like reading, by all means, keep trying! But in the meantime, accept your child for who he or she is. It’s okay not to like to read.