Oh, today's question is near and dear to my heart:
How can you encourage a non-reading child to read? What about a teen-ager? Would you require books to be read in the hopes that they would enjoy them once they got into them, or offer incentives, or just suggest interesting books? If you do offer incentives and suggestions and that doesn't work, would you then require a certain amount of reading? At what point do you just accept that your child is a non-reader?
In the book Gifted Hands by brilliant surgeon Ben Carson, one of the things that turned his life around was his mother's requirement that he and his brother read books and write book reports for her. That approach worked with him, but I have been afraid to try it. My children don't need to "turn their lives around," but they would gain so much from reading and I think they would enjoy it so much if they would just stop telling themselves, "I just don't like to read."
This touches so close to home with me, because it is one of the MAJOR reasons that we started homeschooling, and is the very base on which we built our homeschooling curriculum.
The Zman attended kindergarten and first grade at our local public school. While I had briefly considered homeschooling when it was time for him to enter kindergarten, I was still working and there was no real way for me to stay home quite yet. We had a plan in place for me to come home, but we had some financial goals that we wanted to meet before we cut our income by MORE than 1/2.
So, we put him in school and started the process. He began learning to read, and seemed to enjoy school. When he was in the first grade, I worked only part time--starting to make the transition to home--and volunteered a couple of days a week up at the school. My dream volunteer job was working in the library, and I did that quite a bit.
It was there I had my giant revelation with kids and books. In a media saturated culture, books and reading were dropping further and further down the list of "things to do." Really, really bright kids were coming into the library looking for recommendations for books for book reports. But when I would pull out a book that was a favorite from my childhood, or even a good new book, the kids would look at it and say, "Oh, I can't read THAT. It might be good, but it's just too long."
Too long? What? We won't try unless the book is under 100 pages or something? My unease built. Teachers were trying, but they were up against it. When kids have soccer 3 nights a week and scouts 1 night, youth group at church one night and reams of math problems and "projects" to do (can you catch my absolute *love* (not!) of most of the "projects" sent home? You can?), there was simply not enough TIME for reading. And when you couple that with the hours spent watching television and playing video games (neither of which I am completely opposed to in priniciple), well, it just wasn't good for reading.
And I could not BEAR to raise a son who was a nonreader. It's too much a part of who I am.
So, when other events conspired to make homeschooling possible, even necessary for his second grade year, we came home.
And started to read. And read. And read. And read.
We read everything. Zman had a long and lovely reading affair with the Tintin graphic novels. He read books on Tasmanian Devils and fairies. And I read TO him every single day after lunch while he colored or played with cars on the rug or just sat on the couch and listened. For an hour. And sometimes for more.
We used Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook to get started and then we a million other things that were recommended by the librarians at our local library. We read the Taryn series by Lloyd Alexander. We read Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. We read Lord of the Rings (yes, all of it). We read Narnia. We read Undaunted Courage about Lewis and Clark. We read. We read. We read.
And that's what I'd tell a parent who had "nonreaders". Start out by spending your time turning off the TV and video game and read, read, read to them. And then let them listen to books on CD. And then let them pick what seems good to them.
And I think it'd work. It did for us.