My (Non)Reader

reading photo
Photo by ZapTheDingbat

One of my students is a big reader. Since we started our independent reading project in December, she has read seven books. The last book she read was All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. She said the book was so good she can’t even explain it. She comes in and chats about her books, and she loves the independent reading.

One of the things I enjoy most about independent reading is putting the right books in the hands of eager readers. Students are starting to swap their own recommendations, which is really amazing. I have tried to share a book with them each time class meets, and I received a very nice thank you from one of my students for sharing so many books with them.

The truth is, as much as the independent reading seems to be working well with my students, I can’t seem to figure out how to get my daughter to read. I have tried buying books I think she would like and recommending favorites. I stay up on what teenagers are reading and what they like to read. If anyone is poised to raise a reader, I should think it would be me. I did all the right things. I read to all my children. I model a love of reading for them. I made sure they grew up surrounded by books. I’m just flummoxed.

Several years ago, I recommended Twilight to a girl I was teaching. She wasn’t a reader, but I thought she’d enjoy it. She loved it, and she talked her mother into a late evening trip to Barnes & Noble to buy the next one. Her mother was in tears of gratitude at the next parent/teacher conference because her daughter was now a reader. By senior year, she showed me she was reading a fat Alison Weir biography of Henry VIII. It was her own choice. She wasn’t reading it for class.

The year before, a student in my class discovered a love of reading after we studied The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. In his senior year, he was reading Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, which inspired the 2007 movie There Will Be Blood. It was his own choice. He wasn’t reading it for class.

I’ve been successful convincing my students to give reading a chance. One of my most reluctant readers just finished his second book. He read Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild and just finished a Derek Jeter biography. He admitted at the beginning of the year that he really dislikes reading unless it’s a sports article or is on Twitter.  But now he’s read two full books of his own choosing.

I suppose partly it could be that teenagers will often listen to anyone except their parents. Perhaps my students’ parents tried to get them to read more and weren’t successful. I’m just not sure how to help my own daughter discover a love of reading, even after I’ve helped so many of my students discover the magic of books. What am I doing wrong?

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17 thoughts on “My (Non)Reader”

  1. In my experience, you hit the nail on the head with this statement: I suppose partly it could be that teenagers will often listen to anyone except their parents.

    Most of my friends have teenagers right now. I hope you are comforted by knowing that you are not alone in your struggle. 🙂 AND I’m certain you won’t give up. You will try until it happens…it’s what we do! 🙂

  2. Sometimes it’s hard being the kid of a teacher and the teacher to our own kids. Has your daughter met some authors? She might get star struck and have to read if she were to meet some.

  3. Dana, You are not alone in your struggle with your daughter. I too have had literary successes with my students, but a few of my children….no matter what I suggested….

    It sounds like she has yet to begun the passionate interchange between characters and readers. As you know….it takes just the right book. In time….it will come.

  4. Hi Dana,
    I think you are right in that our own children don’t often listen to us in the same way they may listen to others, particularly their teachers. Maybe it’s worth your while to have a talk with your daughter’s teacher? But, either way, don’t despair. Sometimes leaving kids alone and making quiet suggestions is the best way. I believe that she’ll figure it out on her own.

  5. So, as a former school librarian and current English teacher, who, like you, prides herself on getting the right book to the right kid, I’m curious. What books has she enjoyed? Did she read them on paper? Device? Audio/aloud?

      1. At the risk of encroaching, may I ask what level she is (middle school, high school)? Both books are a lot about school, so might she articulate what is appealing about the titles? (e.g., Does she like that Wonder is a weeper or an underdog story, or maybe about a small private school? Is the appeal of HP the magic/world-building/characters/school intrigue/Britishness?)

        1. She’s in high school (9th). She has Asperger’s Syndrome, so I think she connected to Wonder because of feeling like the main character sometimes—different. Our whole family love Harry Potter, and I’m not really sure which aspect of that series drew her most.

          1. Have you or she read Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork? Do you have clearance to read aloud still?

          2. Clearance? I’m not sure what you mean by that, but yes, we read aloud together sometimes still. She hasn’t read those books that I know of.

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