by James McCann, former reluctant reader, former bookseller, now library digital services technician and author of teen books. Excerpted from Jump-Starting Boys by Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill (Viva Editions).
Reading is important because it opens up your mind to new possibilities. The imagination allows us to think outside the box. If I had been an avid reader as a kid, I would have achieved things a lot sooner in life—better grades and such.
In making reading a chore, parents are making their kids into nonreaders. That’s the number one thing parents do wrong. Do they have a misguided sense that if they force the kid to do it, eventually he will like it? The best thing you can do to make your kid read is to read yourself.
And boys need men in their life who are reading, because boys want to be men. Remember that when your son is the only one reading and everyone else is watching television or going to a movie or playing outside, he feels like he’s being punished and that is the wrong way to encourage reading.
As a bookseller, I see the problem as being mostly the parents. Moms come up to me and say, “I don’t know what to do; my kid isn’t reading at all. How can I get him to read more?” And I ask them what their kid is reading and they say magazines, and I say, “Then your child is a reader.”
Often when a parent says their child is not reading, it’s because they’re not reading what the parent wants them to: the classics. Your child might pick up classics as an adult, and he will have the life experience by then to enjoy them. But if he gets turned off reading before then, maybe he won’t.