I wrote yesterday about a blog post written by a book lover who lamented her non-reading spouse. Today, a story serendipitously crossed my inbox on a similar topic: a book lover who laments their non-reading child.

book-loverOur friends at Book Riot shared the anecdote of attending a book event and meeting a dad who was attending it without his non-reader wife. And he had made peace with that, just as the blogger in yesterday’s story did. But what he still could not get over was the non-reading child who had inherited his mother’s habits.

The article got quite a few comments which affirmed this double standard. A non-reading spouse was fine. Adults are free to make their own decisions on how they spend their leisure time. But a non-reading child is still a bit of a tragedy. Isn’t it?

I have to admit, I am a bit torn on this. On the one hand, as a teacher, I do know first-hand that educational outcomes, in all curriculum areas, are improved when the child is a reader. I also have two lawyer stepbrothers who both at one point confessed that they regret not reading more as kids—there is a lot about vocabulary, spelling, grammar and writing skills that you can obtain via osmosis from reading great books. Their fluency as writers, and their comfort level with writing tasks, would be better if they had this experience bank to draw on.

book-loverBut I also think that Kellee from the Unleashing Readers blog post I cited yesterday touches upon a key point when she acknowledges that there are worthwhile things to read besides novels.

I have seen my share of boys come into the library at school and take out nonfiction books week after week. I have also seen my share of well-meaning teachers try and steer them into the storybooks again.

But is it such a bad thing for your dinosaur-obsesssed five-year-old to spend his reading time amassing encyclopedic knowledge of all things dinosaur from well-produced, information-laden science books? Is is such a bad thing for them to learn about volcanoes or dolphins or Medieval times or any of the other typically ‘boy’ topics for which our school library has a well-stocked special area?

I do think it is important for kids to be exposed to all writing types, and I do think that a passing familiarity with the major works of the English canon is an important part of a well-rounded education. But beyond that, reading is reading to me. If the kids in my life want to develop their fluency and comprehension skills—which are important things to develop—reading non-fiction, I have no problems with that. I’ll assume that their required readings for school will cover the bare essentials of the canon which they may not choose for fun. And I’ll let them pick their own materials for the rest of it.

I do think children should read something, though. And I do think that, until they are adults who have completed a basic education and gone off into the world to find their own paths, they should be encouraged to make reading—of something—a part of their lives. I would push it with a child in a way that I wouldn’t with a spouse who has done his required learning already and now is on his own. But I don’t think I’d be too picky about the material. Read fiction, read non-fiction, read graphic novels, whatever. Just read something, kids!

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. My mom loved novels. She named my sister and I after characters in novels, hence our unusual names. My dad read the newspaper and piles of magazines.

    But I didn’t get the reading bug until one particular novel woke me up to the joy of reading, and I haven’t stopped since.

    I agree that all kinds of reading material including comics, graphic novels and magazines should be offered to kids, and reading shouldn’t be made into a nasty cod liver oil dose that’s good for you but is a horrible experience.

    Instill the joy, and you have a reader for life.

  2. I’m living this. Right. Now.

    My wife reads on occasion, but isn’t what I would call “a reader”. My oldest child takes after his mother, while my youngest takes after me and is already reading at the same grade level as her big brother (even if her tastes differ). I give my son comic books, non-fiction, fantasy, sci-fi–anything that could spark his imagination and motivate him to want to turn the page. Like his mother, he reads but isn’t “a reader”. She has to frequently remind me that it’s okay, that not all kids are readers. Maybe not, but I know how much my life has been enriched by being a reader and I want those things for him as well.

    I did experience a small victory just a week ago. I got my son hooked on the audiobook edition of the first Percy Jackson novel but I told him he would actually have to *read* the subsequent books. (Yes, the ol’ bait and switch.) He just finished the second, and to celebrate I took him to the movie currently in theaters. He kept leaning over and whispering to me how scenes differed from the book. As we left the theater he said, “Yeah, it was good…but the book was better.”

    I nodded sagely and we continued on our way, but inside I was doing a fist-pump and shouting “Yesssss!” Maybe there’s hope after all.

  3. Even though my husband isn’t a reader, he did like to read to the kids when they were young, as did I. All of our kids were readers throughout school, however, the bookworm didn’t click for my daughter until around 6th grade. Something or some book just turned her on and she’s been a bookworm ever since. My eldest son is the opposite. He loved to read until he graduated from high school, but hasn’t picked up a book since – any book. It’s very sad. My youngest still likes to read, but is always busy with other stuff so he doesn’t read as much as he used to. I still have hope for him.

    I say for kids, just don’t give up. Always exposed them to a variety of reading material based on their interests. You never know when the right book will come along. Also read with your kids. We did throughout elementary school. After that, I read some of their books just to connect with them. Twilight – yuck!

    It works the other way around too. My youngest loves military non-fiction, not one of my genres. While he was away at basic training, I picked one up, again just to connect with him, and became addicted. They are far better than any fiction stories and everyone should know about our real-life heroes.

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