Kill Me Now

by Marinka on June 12, 2008

My 9 year old daughter does not like to read for pleasure. I’ve tiptoed around this issue long enough, I pretended that she was jut busy, tired, distracted, asleep. But when she told me tonight that she doesn’t want to read if she doesn’t have to, I put the pieces together. She would rather knit. Or play cards.

I’m furious. I’m furious because I love reading so much and she doesn’t and I don’t understand people who don’t love reading and now one of them is my daughter.

This seems unfair.

I have always loved to read. Always. I do recall a period when I was about 12 when my parents would beg me to read something other than “Cosmo”, but really, what literary masterpiece could hold a phallic candle to Helen Gurley Brown? But still, I read. By the time that I was my daughter’s age, I had read most of Alexandre Dumas. Sure, there was a parental gun pointed at my head, but still.

I read through college, and when I entered grad school, I was warned that the demands would be so great that I would not be able to read for please. Pfft. I never let up. I loved bookstores, I especially loved “Three Lives and Company” in the West Village. I loved the way the woman who worked there would guide the customers. “That’s not a good book for you right now,” they’d warn someone who had obviously crossed the barrier to friendship. In the 1990s, I heard Toni Morrison read from “Jazz” there. To this day, it has my favorite passage about NYC. I loved Rizzoli downtown, too. That’s where I heard Kathryn Harrison read from her first novel. She was nervous, gorgeous and she blushed easily. I had no idea that she would become such a major talent and that I would so often turn to her books.

I belonged to book groups. After college, I belonged to a book club started by a woman I met in writing class. One of the women in it looked like Susan Sarandon and everyone was smart. Another woman belonged to two book clubs at the same time, but the second one, the fancy one, for which one woman flew in from London every month, disbanded over a fight about Huck Finn. Confession: I never read Huck Finn.

Now I belong to a book group, made up of other moms from my children’s school. My daughter knows this. She knows that I love it. She knows how much fun we have. She couldn’t care less.

She doesn’t like to read.

Do I force her? Half an hour a day, whether you like it or not. Do it, like practicing the piano!

Bribe her? $10 for every book read! 10 books and that Nano is yours, engraved!

Or do I let it go, recognize that her strengths are elsewhere and rejoice when she knits hat #18?

One year ago ...

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

sdl June 13, 2008 at 7:30 am

I know you will be shocked to hear that *I* think she should have to read 20 minutes a day. And maybe get a small (aka not a Nano) regular (weekly?) reward for it since it is work to her?

She does need to keep her reading skills up over the summer–it’ll just make reading harder in the fall if she doesn’t, and then she’ll like reading even less!

Love the new blog!


P.K. June 14, 2008 at 1:58 pm

My younger sister didn’t like to read for pleasure, either, and it really worried me when we were younger. And in addition to not reading, it seemed like she spent all her free time watching Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie reruns!

I have always loved to read, and I recognize the fact that people who read for pleasure are clearly intellectually superior to people who watch 60s sitcoms for pleasure. I remember talking to my mom (who also loved to read) about my concerns for my sister, but she basically told me to mind my own beeswax. But I worried about my poor, possibly-slow sister so much that I started going to the library for her and hand-picking books that I thought she’d like, books that I’d read a few years earlier and had loved. She read them, and she did enjoy them, but not enough to make any effort to read on her own. Sure, if I went to the library and picked out books for her she’d read them. Otherwise, Jeannie and Samantha were enough for her.

I went on to college and got a degree in English that has never made me a penny. My poor, possibly-slow sister? She went to medical school and is now a successful doctor. And she still doesn’t read for pleasure.


Wendy June 14, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Not a mom (you all know!) but I have a dear 12-year-old neighbor who doesn’t like to read. Granted, she’s “developmentally-delayed,” and her mother is a mess, but I lent her Harriet the Spy because it’s about a girl who’s “different” (like my neighbor), and who is interested in her neighbors, to the point of spying. My neighbor is like this. She polls everyone to see what they’re cooking for dinner. She’s sweet.

But she didn’t read it.

I then tried Nancy Drew–I loved mysteries and still no. No go.

My 16-year-old nephew also doesn’t like to read for fun, and though his mother is a monumental mess, she’s a big reader. (Not that there can’t be reading messes.)

I’m sad when I see kids who don’t like to read–when I see adults who sit in doctor’s offices, staring straight ahead. Where’s your book? I want to ask them.

I can’t imagine not loving to read.

I remember my own college experience as having to read dull, dry textbooks on dull, dry topics, plus all this stuff in French (I was a French major). I had no time for fun reading and I vowed the moment I graduated I’d be reading nothing but fun stuff.

So far, so good!

Have you tried really “trashy” kid stuff? All that babysitters’ stuff? Mysteries? Fantasy? Books with lots of facts?

I feel your pain.


sofie June 14, 2008 at 6:31 pm

Okay, here’s another round of Let’s Fix Your Kid! (Not That She Needs Fixing.) If she doesn’t like to read, does she like to be read *to*? Or is that something that I’m going to realize is laughable to a 10-year-old once I actually HAVE a 10-year-old?

If I sound totally freaked out by your problem, I am. I spend the better part of my day reading aloud to kids who like to be read aloud to, and while I am all for everyone having his or her own skills and talents BLAH BLAH BLAH, if my kids don’t end up LOVING to read all day long once they are confident-enough readers, I’m going to make them sleep on the porch till they lie to me and read 70 hours a week. I have EARNED their love for reading, and I demand it as repayment for all the times I’ve had to make the Cat in the Hat sound like Carol Channing.

Hm, perhaps you could try this strategy! Whining, and then petulantly insisting that your child change! I bet nobody’s tried it before. Make sure you give me all the credit!


wfbdoglover July 17, 2008 at 6:02 pm

My son doesn’t like to read – or didn’t for the last three years. He loved reading in first grade.

I made him do the required reading for school, but as hard as I tried I could not get him to read. We went to the library, tried to find books he liked to read. They were all fact books. Reading is reading, so if he reads facts ie: dog care, golden retrievers, snakes, boy scout magazines, world guiness book of records – reading is reading and they will find their way on their own. 🙂


Z September 5, 2008 at 11:29 am

I, too, LOVE to read. I am not a book lover, I am a book devourer. Always have been, always will be. Just who I am.

Mu husband? Not so much. He reads – if it’s on the computer. Or he’s studying. And you know what? He was forced to read by his parents as a child. I was not. Go figure.

That being said, if our children turn out to not want to read? They will immediately be taken to a hypnotist and re-programmed. Because there is NOTHING like a good book. Nothing.


Tina :) June 18, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Okay, so I’m late to this party, but if she still doesn’t read? Hide books. Pick out slightly inappropriate books (nothing to naughty, but things she’ll *think* you don’t want her to read) and hide them in weird places where you know she’ll find them, but where she won’t know you did it on purpose. Now those books are forbidden and therefore significantly more interesting!


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