Why Reading Stinks!

Have you ever wondered why some kids love to read while others seem allergic to books?  Today’s post will not make every kid a reader overnight but it may give a few insights as to why kids feel as they do about reading.

When I was an elementary teacher, I had to assess kids immediately so I could know where their reading skills were compared to where they should be.  What I also informally assessed were their attitudes on reading and I came up with some common themes.

First though, let me clear some misconceptions to make sure we are on the same page.  There is a line I draw between reading and decoding and this difference is important.

Decoding is when a child pronounces words properly from whatever they are reading.  When I worked with kids though, I defined reading as decoding plus “knowing what the heck you are talking about.”  A simple example would be when a child reads a stop sign.  A child who decodes that word (like my youngest son) has no idea why the sign is there or what to do.  An older child though could decode the stop sign, know why it is there, and have a clear picture in his/her mind as to what is going on.

Now, let’s get to why reading stinks.

Cover of
Picture was found after writing my Space Shuttle point.  I couldn’t resist.

1.  Reading stinks because sometimes the material is either too hard to decode or comprehend.  It would be like giving many people a book called “How to Fly the Space Shuttle.”  I’m sure there are some adults who couldn’t decode all of the terminology (including myself).  Others may decode it but really wouldn’t have a firm grasp on how to do it.  Just like children, if your space shuttle manual was too long, complicated, or confusing, you would probably get tired of it as well.

2.  Reading stinks because there’s no one to share it with.  In a classroom, I didn’t have this issue but at home, any parent could.  If a child is forced to read at home while the adult watches TV, talks on the phone, or plays on the internet, it appears to the child that reading has taken a backseat in their life.  To make matters worse, if a child doesn’t have a nice quiet area to read and has to watch their siblings playing while they are working; their concentration would be so far gone, it would make reading nearly pointless.

3.  Finally, reading stinks because the material is boring.  When a child is forced to read material they don’t like, it can turn them off from the process all together.  While I will grant you sometimes kids have to read things in school they don’t want to, I would hate to think we make children read so many boring things that they despise reading all together.  That would be a shame.

Remember in the beginning of the post when saying that I informally assessed attitudes about reading?  Here’s why.  In the beginning of every school year, my job (as I perceived it) was to get a child’s attitude in the right direction concerning reading.  It was more important than even the subject itself.  Some kids had a negative attitude about reading or a complete lack of confidence.  I had to get these things turned around as quickly as possible because if I didn’t, teaching the subject would have been useless.   

As adults, we choose what we want to read but when working with kids, we should be mindful of our choices.  If, as adults, we pass on to our children “reading stinks” by our actions, our kids are much less likely to be good readers. It’s really important to take an active role in reading because our children are always watching us.  A parent can take an active role by reading themselves but they can also help by taking an interest in what their kids are reading.  

I found this out recently when I was sitting on a couch reading a book.  My oldest son walks up to me and says “I thought only mom read books.”  The reason my child said this is because I don’t read a lot of books.  I wasn’t aware though he was observant of this.  I explained to him I read books occasionally but I like newspapers and magazines more.  Kids are much more observant than we think so it’s important to give the best impressions possible.   

The truth is reading really stinks for some kids but it doesn’t have to.  There are things we, as parents and educators, can do to help kids if we choose.  Though reading is not a skill learned overnight, it is one that will last a lifetime.

This Wednesday, I will be back with my behavior blog.  The title will be “Competing for Mama” and I think you’ll find it pretty interesting.  All my best to you and the ones you love.  

10 comments

  1. @tessasdad says:

    Great insights Clay! I'm going to retweet this from my @Book_Dads account as well. I don't know if you know this but I also manage the BookDads.com site. Please visit when you get chance, I'd love any contributions you'd be interested in making to the site!Thanks,Chris

  2. Diane and Chad says:

    As a teacher for 41 years (gulp), I totally agree with you about the importance of attitude. When kids have a hard time with grade level reading they need to be encouraged to read something fun just slightly below their instuctional level. Success breeds success, and having a caring parent share that reading time with them makes a huge difference.

  3. Heather M says:

    Hello Clayton!! Im sooo sorry it took me so long to get over here and vist you!!! I hope you have had a great start to your week!!! Im following you back!

  4. ArmyMustang says:

    I love to read! I realized that I wasn't making the time to read either because life was just too busy for me. My middle daughter started 1st grade below grade level and now in 2nd grade she is reading above grade level. My love of reading came from living in the bush of Alaska and not having a TV or electronics. My daughter had so many distractions that she didn't get a chance to love reading until I stopped and realized that I was cheating her out of the wonderful world of books. Now I make a point to take the kids to the library every Wednesday to pick out new stories. I even found some fiction books in Spanish for my husband and he's turning off the TV and reading more. I'm so happy that books are back in our lives!

    Krystal

  5. Mommying On The Fly says:

    Hmmmm Very good points… (= My gremlins are still a little young, but I will definitely keep these in mind.. BTW.. Thanks for swinging by my blog today and leaving a comment.. Following back.. (=

  6. Sara says:

    I love to read and it was important in our house. We were lucky to have a dad that also loved to read. You are spot on with how it has to interest you first though. My brother would not pick up a book until my mom found video game magazines that he would not put down and read from cover to cover understanding every word. My daughter is 1 and we have been reading to her since she was in the womb. I still read her whatever I happen to be reading while she is playing. She has over 30 books and brings them to me all the time. Today she even was saying "ook, ook" while she was walking it to me. I noticed today that if I read to her Sesame Street books she pays attention through the whole thing same thing with animals and dogs. Anything else she does not care at all. She's 1! Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Bethany {3SonsPlus1} says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog…I'm happy to be following you back. I can't wait to read more!

  8. Valeen says:

    Sorry… let's try this again! ÜWow! Great post! I love your writing style! I'm glad you stopped by my blog (Sunshiney Daze) so I could follow you back! I'm hooked!

  9. Esther - TTByM says:

    Hi,I am your new follower. Would love for you to stop-by my blog and follow back :)Have a great day!

  10. Megan (Best of Fates says:

    Reading is all about attitude – and though it would be cool to know how to fly a space shuttle, I probably couldn't make my way through that book!