Encouraging Reading


Are you a parent, a teacher, a friend, a co-worker, a student…a person? Chances are you fall into one of these categories. That being the case, then you most likely know people. Among those people are probably persons who have, at one time or another, admitted that “I’m not a reader” or “I wish I liked books” or “I HATE reading.” It’s OK, don’t be too shocked.  It’s true.  There are people out there who do not like to read. In fact, maybe you are one of these people.

But I have a theory! I think that those folks who fall into the “I don’t like to read” category just have not found WHAT it is they LIKE to read. I believe that in school the books they read had the joy sucked out of them by projects or detailed tests. (I’m a teacher, so I know that does happen. In fact, I was most likely a joy-sucker, myself.) Perhaps some people had such a small exposure to reading growing up that they don’t realize that the genres and reading material is infinite. I think that, unfortunately, there are some people who have had the idea planted in their heads that they aren’t “smart enough” or “intellectual enough” to enjoy certain types of literature. What?! Preposterous!

I’m a mom of three beautiful kiddos….or creatures that pass for children. Sometimes I’m not sure.  But anyway, my little ones are growing in ways that surpass my understanding.  And part of that is that they are starting to become interested in things individual to themselves.  One of my great joys are our frequent trips to the library. Oh the library – what a glorious place. We can spend quite a while walking up and down the aisle together trying to find the perfect companion to accompany us home. But the thing is each one wants a different adventure. Annnnnnnd!!!! part of it is that they are so young and so new to this magical thing we call reading, that many times they choose books that fall into such contrasting genres that it makes me joyous to remember that time of discovery and learning who I was through story.

So what does that mean for us and encouraging others to read? Well, it means that we have friends and children and co-workers and neighbors that might love a bookish adventure, but would never know! First, we need to be aware that there are so many more genres and mediums than there used to be. Graphic novels are extraordinary reading material (Amulet, manga The Fullmetal Alchemist). There are so many talented writers of non-fiction who tell the story of a person’s life or history in a way that we feel like we could have lived it with him. (My hat off to Ms. Laura Hillenbrand!)

Not to mention magazines.  Yes.  I said magazines.  I’ve had many a student come through my room with a mother distraught because her son wouldn’t read.  Guess what he would read – hunting magazines and articles.  Why is that not acceptable? If he likes reading those there are books on hunting. Or novels about young men who survive in the wild (Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, Into the Wild). I am passionate about exploring new genres with kids or my friends and seeing them get excited when they stumble across one that they really fall in love with.

Audio books!!!!! What a great way to help struggling readers follow along with a book. Or to help non-readers learn the excitement of a story by listening first. There are so many well produced audio books (Harry Potter series read by Jim Dale -wow!) that we cannot exclude them from our discussion.  We readers are lovers of story! The beauty of a book doesn’t come from a page with a smattering of letters on it. It comes from the world that materializes when those words are strung together in precisely the right pattern.

So for heaven’s sake! Let someone read to you from your car stereo while you’re on a long drive. Show your kids to the graphic novels shelves…or you go look in the adult section. Pick a fun read you think your friends would like to discuss and try a read along. If you’re a non-reader, experiment at the library.  Take home a plethora of new finds and give each of them a go.

There are millions of worlds out there, waiting to be explored, let’s not keep them to ourselves!