I have been encouraging, pushing, and prodding my 13-year-old son for years to read more. He has declared numerous times that he hates to read because it is boring and a waste of time. I have countered that reading allows you to travel to times and places you could never actually visit, it helps you understand the world around you, and becoming a better reader will eventually help you land a better job in the future. The last argument seems to attract the most attention.
He has brushed off my arguments for years as typical parental blather. But maybe, just maybe, my persistence has paid off. Last night, he called me while he was visiting cousins at a lake house up north. “Dad, I read ten pages!” he announced over the telephone. “And I plan to read ten more tonight.” That is a small miracle for him.
His uncle had chastised him for not reading more, and recommended he start with a book called The Power of One, a beautifully written coming-of-age novel that I read years ago and had passed along to that uncle when he was a teenager.
The optimist in me is excited about this new development. But the pessimist in me is worried that my son will lose interest before he reaches page 50. Too many kids (and adults) no longer have the patience to read anything longer than a text message unless they are required to, raising concerns that our superficial reading habits are turning us into intellectuall skimmers with little capacity for depth of understanding. A fascinating article in the July/August issue of Atlantic Monthly (Is Google Making Us Stupid?) examines why we might be devolving into a nation of information skimmers and what that means for our intellectual development. It’s worth reading--from beginning to end.
My goal is to get my son to finish The Power of One before Thanksgiving. What would be the best methods or rewards to help him make that happen? What has worked best to get non-readers in your schools to read books?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.