5 Ways to Help Someone HATE Reading

I've often heard complaints and worries, from a wide variety of people, about how many people, especially youth, don't like to read.  Blame is placed on a variety of things, from texting on cell phones to uninvolved parents to class sizes in school.  But rarely is the actual way reading is taught and approached and looked at brought into question the way I think it needs to be.

I positively love reading, and have since I learned to read at 8 or 9 (and before that I loved being read to), so perhaps I'm not the best person to be writing this.  Maybe someone who actually hates reading should be writing this, instead.  But then again, people who hate reading often hate writing as well, so would probably have no interest at all in writing about why they hate reading!  Besides, I know all the things that I think  were done right to foster my own love of reading, so I figure I can just think of all the opposite things that could have been done, instead.

1. Regulated reading.  When it comes to things to read, there's an overwhelming variety.  Comic books and magazines and poetry, novels and non-fiction books and instruction manuals and textbooks.  Yet usually the only types considered Important are actual books, not magazines or video game manuals, and within the category of books there are ones considered far more respectable and important than others (for instance, fantasy novels and non-fiction books on fashion are not generally considered important to include in A Comprehensive Curriculum).  There's so much out there to read that it's virtually guaranteed everyone can find something they enjoy reading.  Yet if someone is required to read only a certain type of book, only the type of reading deemed most "educational" and "worthwhile" the one doing the requiring is infringing on whatever relationship the learner could find themselves with the written word.  Coercion breeds resentment, and deciding what someone else should be reading will likely just create resentment against both the enforcer of that should and against reading itself.

2. Required reading.  Similarly to the above, requiring people to read certain amounts or at certain times of the day or for certain reasons is a great way to make reading feel more like work.  If something can feel fun instead, that's always what people should be aiming for!  As with any forced teaching or forced "educational activities," making reading mandatory doesn't make it something fun, it makes it something to resent.

3. Book reports.  So often growing up I heard homeschoolers discussing the book reports they required their children to write upon completing any book they read.  A forced book report (something often a very unappealing thing to write even for people who usually enjoy writing) looming at the end of every completed book, is not a very good incentive to do more reading.  If you want people to like reading, it has to be something positive and enjoyable, and anything that's done to make it feel more like work is really not conducive to people learning to enjoy reading for it's own sake.  When people are most likely to not mind doing things that feel like work is when that work is freely chosen, and when it feels meaningful and important.  Book reports?  Don't necessarily feel very meaningful!  Critically discussing books can be (almost) as interesting and enjoyable as reading itself, but that discussion can happen verbally or in many different written forms (discussion groups and chat-boards, blog posts, Amazon reviews, essays, or yes, book reports) and is of course only enjoyable when the reader has freely chosen to do so.  It's also important to remember that it doesn't signify a lack of comprehension if someone is happy reading without doing any type of break-down or discussion afterwards.  Different people learn and process things in different ways, and deciding everyone is best served by writing book reports is just going to, once again, breed resentment and negativity towards reading.

4. Shaming reading choices.  Maybe a parent doesn't actually regulate as such what their children read, but exclaims upon seeing that horror novel or Superman comic in their children's hands "you're reading that??," with a healthy helping of disdain.  This can be a very passive-aggressive tactic, or it can just be a knee-jerk comment made without thought, but either way, it's not pleasant.  People want approval and support from those they share their lives with, from the smallest choices and quirks to the biggest life decisions and goals, and even those smallest comments can be hurtful.  If reading is something they have to anxiously wonder what their parents will think and say about it, it's not going to be nearly as much fun (not to mention how harmful that type of interaction is to the relationship between parent and child!).

5. Focusing on reading skill.  I say this as opposed to focusing on reading enjoyment.  Reading skills are certainly important, and certainly influence reading enjoyment (if the act of reading itself is a struggle due to learning dissability or some other reason, it's obviously not going to be very enjoyable and needs to become less of a struggle first). But when you're purely talking about reading enjoyment, as I am in this post, I'm going to say that as long as someone is able to basically read without extreme difficulty, I think it's really important not to focus on individual reading skills, and instead on enjoyment. If someone is being tested regularly, prompted to read faster, asked regularly to read aloud (as a test of ability, not for fun, since reading aloud together can be really fun, no matter what age people are!), or otherwise has a parent focus strongly on reading skills, they're turning reading into something to feel anxious and possibly inadequate about. If someone enjoys reading, that's what's important.  And if someone enjoys reading and wants to do more of it, improved skill in the activity will naturally follow!

Of course, some people will face some or all of the things on this list, and still come out as passionate and voracious readers.  This list is simply some things I think are a lot more likely to harm than help!

How is your relationship with reading?  Do you think I missed anything that should be on this list?  Chime in in the comments section and share your thoughts and experiences!

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