As a mom, there’s a lot of reading in my life. Not for pleasure, but for schoolwork, for research, for any number of things, many of which revolve around lighting that fire under my kids so that they develop a love of reading that, at least for me, was probably the single biggest advantage in my life. You literally cannot go wrong in teaching a kid to read and to find any way you can to get them that spark that develops into a need to ruthlessly devour the written word. And for every kid, the reading spark will hit in a different way–you can’t force it, you just have to expose it to enough combustible materials until it catches fire. And be prepared for false starts, as distractions are many and varied.
But the more I read as a mom, as an author, as a person who, being of a certain age, should be reading Very Serious Things and running the world, the less I’m willing to “follow my bliss” and just read what I want to read. This is puzzling to me, and more than a little heartbreaking, because, far from being a “social media thing” that there are many companies today attempting to make them, books for me have always always always been an escape. An escape from being misunderstood, or unpopular, or just a little too out there and awkward, a little too aware and concerned at too young of an age about where the money would come from for, well, anything for awhile there (which is why I get very angry when people conflate “poor” with “lazy” because it’s a full-time job in itself to attempt to keep a kid unaware of precarious financial circumstances, let alone get out and pound pavement for a job or even to try to collect some government assistance).
No, books are not social things for me. I’m like that hardcore alcoholic who drinks alone–I read alone, and I don’t really want to share that soft, squishy part of myself that so easily suspends its disbelief just for the chance to get in the ride. I don’t need other people to see me in the ride or waiting in the line. In fact, I’d rather sneak into the park after hours and go by myself. But when you’re trying to pass on that spark for reading to a kid, they have to see you reading. They have to see the books lying around, watch the parent half-letting dinner burn because it’s a really good part, and making that choice to turn off the TV in favor of the book.
Read in front of your kids. Not just to your kids, and don’t just make your kids read, show them your squishy inner bookworm willingly suspending itself on the hook of disbelief in hopes that a really big fish will chomp down and take it for the ride of its life.