professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Forcing the issue

As I mention often here, I had two generations of teens that I helped care for over the 40 years I have been wed to my BH. I learned just how effective the argument that begins or ends with "because I told you so" is. It is NOT effective unless there is some awfully punitive consequence attached. And I do know that as a teen myself, my mother could offer a wide array of dire consequences, and so I did as commanded at least while I lived at home. So, while it can be a stopgap method, it is not highly effective in the long run. Why has this thought been running around in my brain? You know the answer: it was a post I read.

This post recounted a story of a mother who was also a teacher. She handed her child a copy of a book which the child promptly deemed BORING. Mother/teacher insisted child read at least 50 pages. Child's verdict? BORING! This piece ended with a reflection on how sometimes we need to find a way to make sure kids get to the good books. To the credit of the author, reading aloud was mentioned. But the final sentence indicated that if time were lacking we needed to find a way to make the "because I said so" argument more palatable.

With all due respect, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! When it comes to books, this rationale/argument/demand is never ever going to lead to lifelong reading. If it did, I would love those books forced upon me in 4th and 5th grade. I do not. I still get my hackles up when someone tells me I should read something because either they said so or because it will be good for me. I think I beat that horse in a post earlier this week. So let me instead offer some alternatives.

1. Read that book aloud if it you deem it so important. But be ready to back off and admit defeat if it does not work. Do not stubbornly persist with the reading if it is clear that kids are not loving it too. And perhaps when you read it aloud, you will have some insight into why kids hate it? This happened some years ago when Career Girl had to read HEART OF DARKNESS for school. My BH insisted it was a great book and she should love reading it. Then, I picked it up and read passages aloud and BH admitted maybe it was not such a great book, at least for College Girl.

2. Let kids see you reading it and enthusing about it. Be specific. What do you love? Why are you reading it? How is it touching your life? How do you think they will like it? Be honest here.

3. Play it in audio or make it available in audio and e format. See if it is available in GH or abridged form as well.

4. Booktalk it and let those who find it interesting select it. CHOICE is essential here.

5. And perhaps this should be #1: examine why you think this is a book worth battling over, worth forcing. Is it because it will be on the AP exam? Or because someone put it on a list years ago and never reconsidered it? Or because it is from a new list (say, like an Exemplar List)? Are these good enough reasons for making a kid hate to read?

The CHOICE is yours. Force a child to read and he will read for a day. Allow the child to SELECT the reading material and he or she might just read for a lifetime.
Tags: choice, force
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