Yeah - But What if My Kid Doesn’t Want to Read?

For so many kids out there, the reality of reading isn’t nearly as pretty as what we’ve talked about this week. We’re blessed to have kids who (at least for now) are passionate readers, readers who actively seek out their own book adventures. Maybe your kiddo has never been into books, or maybe that kiddo just isn’t there quite yet.

For some, reading is that “banging-your-head-against-the-wall” kind of frustration. Whether that’s because of a dislike or a disability or self-efficacy in development, the reality is that we can support kids to adjust their mindsets about reading. Have you heard about Growth Mindset? It all started Carol Dweck and her idea that one’s own assumptions or expectations are what limit or launch learning & success. So many others have embraced the reality of this thinking. WHY? It’s simple - when we learn to shift our mindsets from “I can’t” to “I can’t yet,” we move beyond self-fulling prophecies to meaningful opportunities.

When it comes to anything challenging, including reading, kids (whether they’re 5 or 35 or 85!) can get stuck in THE WASTELAND OF I CAN’T. As reading coaches (and yes, parent/teacher, you’re a reading coach!), we have to get our kiddos out of that wasteland. We have to make sure we’re not sending the message that our kids don’t like to read. We have to make sure we’re painting reading as the incredible journey that it is. We have to stop that ‘I can’t” or “I don’t” language. We can start by adding that “yet” vocabulary, but we can’t stop there. We have to help our readers to develop GRIT.

Alright now, I can feel some of your eyes rolling at what many see as nothing more than a buzzword, but I am absolutely passionate in my belief that building grit is what allows all of us to find our MOXIE. Hang with me, guys - GRIT is more than a buzzword, it’s a game changer.

Ok - so in 2016 Angela Duckworth published Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. In her book, she defines grit as “passion & deep motivation to achieve a goal,” and as “perseverance to stick-with-it, no matter the challenge” (Duckworth 2016). (Want the 6 minute review? Check out the TED TALK!)

When we coach kids (or ourselves) toward being gritty, we teach them to do three things:

  1. Find what you’re passionate or curious about.

  2. Create a plan for perfecting your skills.

  3. Practice!

We can use these three framing concepts to help our kiddos who aren’t into reading. Here are some ideas…

  1. Find what you’re passionate or curious about. This is good advice for every reader, but it isn’t something we just know to do. It’s something we’re taught. Help kids select books that excite them. Help kids select books that are a good fit (right level of complexity, length, topic, etc.). Not sure how to do that? Connect with teachers & librarians! Your kid’s teacher can guide you on how he/she guides student reading selection. Local children’s librarians are EXPERTS! Ultimately, we want kids to feel empowered in their choices, so we need to give them good criteria for making them!

  2. Create a reading plan. Well that got UN-FUN super fast. :) But seriously - create a plan! Together plan to go to the library or the bookstore and choose 5 new books using the criteria you’ve decided on above. Plan to set aside small chunks of dedicated reading time - time to connect as readers. Plan to talk about what you’re reading. And remember - empower your child to abandon a book if they don’t like it! They won’t always get that opportunity in school. Reading for pleasure means constantly re-evaluating that first framework above. And for uninterested or struggling readers, it can be super difficult. Allow for choice, but set a plan for when and why a book is abandoned. And remind kids they can always come back to it later!

  3. Practice! Becoming a reader, even for those of us who are book obsessed, didn’t happen in one day. Becoming a good reader takes persistent, planned, and structured practice. But that it doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. It’s about a constant reflection on framing principles 1 & 2. And it’s about teamwork - doing this reading thing TOGETHER. Because with practice we move from “I can’t” to “I can!”

Don’t get me wrong - grit isn’t the cure all solution for a kid who isn’t interested in reading (or for anything else!). But building grit and building toward any goal go hand in hand. Reading is a journey, and I admire every parent who makes it a priority for their kids. Remember that no one is going to truly advocate for your kid but you - use your resources and education partners to together grow the kind of reader who will be a lifelong learner! Hang in there - this community knows that parenting is tough - and it takes GRIT!

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