What’s that saying about the cobbler’s children? No, I’m not talking about a peach cobbler or any other such tastiness. I’m talking about the cobbler, the shoe maker, whose children are walking around barefoot. Have you heard that one? I’ve always thought it was a funny saying… until it became reality.
Dunh, dunh, DUUUUNNNHHH!
Hi. My name is Jennifer, and I read books. I write books. I breathe books. I live books. I love books. And my children are barefoot. And by this I mean that they…. they don’t like to read.
I know what you’re thinking. Sure, you figured that Emma hated it because whatever psychedelic apparition that’s going down in her overactive ADD brain is WAY better than anything in any book (and how), but you sure didn’t think that Ana could dislike reading. I didn’t think she could either until halfway through her summer reading list when she told me, “These old books are boring.”
Excuse me while I take a couple of deep breaths.
“What do you mean, old books?” I asked.
“To Kill A Mockingbird,” she answered. “Old. Of Mice and Men. Old. And Jane Eyre? REALLY old. They’re boring.”
I tried to keep my wits about me when she said this, but, y’all, she insulted JANE. EYRE. So, I answered in kind.
“Ana, you’re crazier than that wife that Mr. Rochester was keeping in the attic,” I said. No, of course, I didn’t say THAT, because I wouldn’t spoil a good book, even if my child is being a ninny and deserves to have her reading ruined.
No, here’s what I said.
“I feel like all of us are getting progressively dumber and dumber this summer, Ana.”
Harsh much? Probably, but it’s the truth. I sense it with my kids lately, that on these lazy summer days, they’ve become… well, lazy. And not just them. I’m just as bad as they are! What little time they do have this summer away from the different camps and events they’ve got going on has been time that I’ve wanted them to enjoy, allowing them to relax and recharge for the school year. But in between sleeping in and swimming in the pool and just generally taking it easy, they’ve become giant lumps on logs, and reading has been a chore.
I don’t want to take all the joy out of reading. I’ve heard the arguments – if they hate something, I’ll only make them hate it more by forcing them to do it. Maybe so. But they also hate going to the dentist. (Who doesn’t? That’s another blog post for another day.) I’d be a horrible mother if I applied that same logic to the dentist, doing away with all of their sixth months check ups simply because I don’t want them to have a lifelong hatred of the dentist. Either clean teeth with grumbling or rotten teeth when they’re adults, right? I do what’s best for them. And reading? It’s the same thing. Wes and I have told them countless times that no matter what they choose to do with their lives, reading and reading well will play into it, and the communication skills and basic literacy they’ll pick up through reading at their ages is invaluable.
So, I’m forcing my children to read this summer. Yes, even here at the end when it’s no longer new and fresh and they moan and complain every time I tell them to get their books out. (I know, y’all. I can’t even fathom this as someone who loves reading!) I told Wes that I’m not sure that either of them even read one book last summer, and at this point this summer, Emma’s read six books and Ana’s read seven. And they’ve been challenging books that have pushed them to read beyond their levels. The goal is ten for each, and we’re on schedule to get there. But in the meantime, there’s been so much griping…
And as a clarification, it wouldn’t matter what books I picked for Emma. I’ve found books about dogs and Walt Disney World and all the things she loves – still a chore. With Ana, I could pick different books that she would probably be more eager to read, but the problem there is that she gravitates towards books that are below her reading level. Comic book types of stories, Dork Diaries, things like that. She read To Kill A Mockingbird and understood the deeper themes in it, carrying on conversations with me about how the issues of race and inequality are still prevalent in our culture today. She’s not reading beyond her comprehension skills. She just doesn’t want to challenge herself, which is why I picked her reading list for the summer and why she bemoans my “old” book choices.
So, what would you do? How would you help your kids through this? Is it just a matter of powering through and doing it at their ages?
Let me know what you think!