Getting Kids to Love Reading


On the back page of today’s Los Angeles Times Calendar section is a full-page ad for James Patterson’s new book, which is geared towards getting boys to like reading. The message is effectively loud and clear: “We Can Get Our Kids Reading.”

The question is how.

My daughter always loved devouring a book, whereas my son reads what is necessary to write his English papers. He would rather do almost anything else than ‘get caught reading.’  Whether this is a gender issue or not is less important than finding the book that will turn the key for your child. A great librarian can light the fire by matching the right book to your child. And there’s always Harry Potter:  JK Rowling cast a spell that turned a generation of Muggles into believers, and for many kids, Harry is that magic key.

My own book club is celebrating our tenth year together, and most of us would tell you that it’s our favorite evening of each month. I eagerly reproduced this environment for both my kids between 4th and 8th grades. The cozy meetings of our Mother-Daughter sessions cemented my daughters good reading habits. The Mother-Son group encouraged my son to see reading as more cool than he might otherwise have thought… but, if I were being honest, he only tolerated these sessions because all his buddies were dragged there by their equally earnest mothers.

I spent years reading to both kids, cuddling up in jammies with hair still wet from the bathtub. My daughter transitioned herself to curling up with a book – probably when she lost interest in listening to what I was reading to her little brother. But did little brother get the short shrift in the transition? Or was his soccer ball just that much more appealing?

The list of habits that parents should instill in their kids is exhausting, for sure — from manners, to eating habits, to social media etiquette. But, I heed Patterson’s encouraging words: don’t give up on those less-than-eager readers, boy or girl!  Sometimes it really is about the book. Last year, Unbroken was that book for my reluctant-reader son. We listened to it together, in the car, during a drive up to Mammoth. He couldn’t get enough of Laura Hilldebrand’s incredible story, reaching to turn on the radio every time we got into the car. Just like a child who wants to hear Chika Chicka Boom Boom… again, and again, and again.