by Katy M. Clark
I saw it again. Another post on social media from a friend singing the praises of her child who couldn’t stop reading.
How lucky am I? she wrote. My son finished Harry Potter and he’s only in second grade!
You are lucky, I thought, damping down my jealousy. My son hates reading. He loathes it with a passion unseen since he lost a game of Candy Land to me when he was three years old.
I can’t exactly post, “My son hates reading!” on social media, though. He’s a teenager now, and I’ve waited years to admit publicly how much he hates reading. I felt that my son’s lack of interest in reading meant that I was a bad mother, that I had failed somehow.
However, the truth is kinder to me than I am to myself: reading is a pursuit that he is not passionate about.
He can read.
He doesn’t like to read.
There is a difference.
Ever since he was born, I tried to instill in him a love of reading. In no particular order, here are the word-nurturing, pro-book, literature-lovin’ experiences I exposed him to:
• I read in front of him. I love to read!
• I read to him. Daily from birth until third grade.
• I took him to the library.
• I took him to story time at the library.
• I signed him up for the summer reading program at the library.
• I took him to the bookstore.
• I bought him books from the bookstore.
• I bought him books from the school book fairs.
• I made sure his daycare was a developmentally-appropriate, NAEYC-accredited child care center that was chock full of book nooks, story times, and language-enrichment activities.
• I signed those homework reading logs that came home every night from kindergarten through sixth grade.
• I chatted with him about books.
• I bought him a Kindle.
• I downloaded books for his Kindle.
• Did I mention I read in front of him? I love to read!
For years, I’ve felt bad about his lack of fervor for reading, especially during the dreaded “March is Reading month.” Until one day I stopped.
It was the day a mom came over to pick up her child from a play date with my youngest (who loves to read, by the way). I don’t remember how the topic of my son’s lack of interest in reading came up, but she shared her thoughts.
“I hate reading, too,” she commented. “It was never social enough for me. I always wanted to be doing something else.”
Here she was, a successful Vice President at an international company with three lovely children, confessing that reading wasn’t for her.
It was a relief. It was the first voice I heard that defied the cacophony telling me that I must get my child to love reading. That day I allowed myself to believe, to embrace even, that my son could succeed in life even though he doesn’t like to read.
Reading is not for my son. However, what is for my son is socializing with friends and family, chatting with anyone he meets, participating in classroom discussions, being a leader, playing sports, and being pretty great.
Maybe I should put that on social media. He can’t be embarrassed by such a post. Chances are he won’t even read it.