Friday, January 06, 2006

Readers: Born or Made?

After yesterday’s post, I got to thinking, why am I a reader? Was I born that way? Or were there influences which created me?

I thought about this also after reading Michelle’s blog entry about the triumph she felt with her son’s reading progress. As a parent, I think this skill concerned me more than any other. What if my children didn’t like to read? The thought truly terrified me.

I know, you are probably thinking I’m paranoid. I’m a reader. My husband is a reader, how could we not produce anything but a reader? My stepson is not a reader. I was shocked when I married dh to find my stepson didn’t read. He could read, but never for pleasure. So I instituted an hour a couple of times a week where we all sat down to read together. He could choose what he read. At age twelve, he delved into his bookshelf and pulled out Dr. Seuss books. I was not amused. I knew his reading level was at least his age. I realized then that you lead a horse to water but you couldn’t make him drink. He doesn’t enjoy reading. He also didn’t graduate from high school and has no ambitions beyond working on his car. So you can see there is a basis for my paranoia.

When I met resistance with my son at age 4 & 5, I could feel the panic kick in. What if he followed in his brother’s footsteps? I bribed him, begged him, threatened him. You name it. Then one day, when he was about 8, he started reading the first Harry Potter book (I told him he had to clean his room, he thought reading would get him out of it) and I lost him to books. He reads all the time. He sneaks books in class to read when the teacher is boring him. Whenever we go someplace, he has a book in his hands. Sometimes he even does some creative writing on his own.

So what is the difference between these two kids? Is it genetic? I don’t know. I’m not so paranoid with my girls. They already show a great interest in books. I do not know what my stepson’s formative years were like. I’m not sure if his mother reads or not. I think she does. My husband’s family reads and I know he spent a lot of time with them. My FIL barely graduated from high school and yet he is one of the most well-read people I know. I don’t think education means much when it comes to reading. You don’t have to be educated to enjoy reading. I sometimes think school can make us not enjoy reading. I know all those years of high school English took the joy out of Shakespeare for me. But I still loved books.

What do you think? Are readers born or made?


There are a couple of new posts over at Search for the Good Life