My Kids Don’t Like Reading: What we are doing to change it

When we were notified by our kids’ school that they were reading below grade level, we got serious about getting our kids to enjoy reading.

Family Reading

We received the dreaded email that no parent ever wants to receive.  Your child is reading below her grade level.  The first reaction is “What?  MY child?  Doesn’t know how to read well?  How is this possible?”  But it doesn’t take more than a few seconds for the reality to set in and for it to become painfully obvious how it is possible.

Our girls are 6 and 7 years old, and I have probably read them a total of 4 books.  More importantly, Sina and I do not model behavior that would lead them to think about reading as an option for spending their free time.  In today’s world of endless options for binge watching, once we are done feeding the family, bathing the kids, feeding the dogs, and taking a moment to breathe, the only thing we want to do is watch the next episode of (insert title of latest Netflix Original here).

That’s it… our dreams are shattered.  How will our girls ever grow up to be President of the United States unless they are intelligent, well-read, cultured… oh wait, I guess the bar really isn’t that high anymore.  Well how will our girls ever grow up to be the next Notorious RBG unless they are intelligent, well-read, cultured, strong, confident women? Then we remembered that they are only in 1st and 2nd grade, and that maybe it’s not too late to save them from becoming professional couch-potatoes.

I thought about what books I enjoyed when I was younger.  The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was one that stood out.  After Tuesday afternoon’s ballet class I was on a mission to get my girls to start enjoying reading.  We went straight to Barnes & Noble and I found The Narnia Chronicles.  I thought that maybe if I read them something that they could get excited about, they would see that reading is fun.  “Bob Books” may be good to get them started with reading but the stories have no substance.  I also bought something that we could take turns reading.  The Narnia books are too difficult for their reading level, so we stocked up on several “Magic Treehouse” books.

When we got home yesterday I started to read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to the girls.  I decided to skip the first book entitled “The Magician’s Nephew” which apparently was written later as a prequel because the guy in Barnes & Noble said it wasn’t very good, and I believed him.  I wasn’t going to take the chance of reading something boring to the girls and losing their interest.  It was hard enough to get them to sit still when I started reading.

It only took one chapter for them to be hooked, and they kept begging for more and more.  At one point Luka said “Papa I’m not sure if I want you to keep reading… I’m scared.”  That’s when I knew it was working.  I offered to stop but she insisted I keep going, and before we knew it I had read 40 pages and it was past 9pm.  They found themselves not wanting to go to bed, not because they wanted to watch yet another episode of My Little Pony (just kill me now), but because they wanted me to keep reading.

Today after I picked them up from school and as we made our way through the rain back home, they said “we know what we’re going to do when we get home!”  They were excited about continuing the story.  Before we continued though, we started to read Book 1 of The Magic Treehouse, each of us taking turns reading a page until we got through 2 chapters.  Then it was back to Narnia…  First with a big bowl of popcorn, then as I cooked dinner, then as we baked chocolate chip cookies and then as they had their bath.  As Luka was in her bed about to go to sleep, she exclaimed “Aslan is so awesome!”

It seems to be working, and the crazy part is that I’m enjoying it as much as they are.  Why did it take the email of doom from the teacher to wake us up?  I don’t know.  But hopefully it’s not too late.  Our impending move to Paris is a great opportunity to replace TV time with reading time.  We can get a fresh baguette or maybe some hot chocolate croissants, lounge in the Tuileries Garden and read a great book.  If it’s not too cold and rainy that is…

I also started to think about alternative ways that I might get my girls to practice reading.  I showed them ‘funny’ feed on Reddit and had them read the headlines (the ones that were appropriate for kids anyway!).  But I found the pictures and videos were too distracting.  I went onto Amazon today and bought the Amelia Bedelia books.  I remember thinking those were hilarious when I was little.  Are there any great books that you have found that your kids can’t get enough of? If anyone has had similar experiences, or has any advice, I would love to hear it.

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