When the English Teacher’s Kid Hates Books

I have Julie Gardner this week! Yes, I’m bragging. Julie is one of my blogging and writing idols. She has such a loyal following and for good reason. If you haven’t read her blog, please take my word for it and click through her archives. She’s truly an original with her blend of humor and insight. We’ve developed a wonderful and supportive writing friendship off of our blogs, which is kind of amazing considering we’ve never met.

Julie brought her more serious side to my “Hobbies and Habits” guest series to tackle a problem we share. We are both English teachers (well, I was an English teacher), and we each have a child who doesn’t love to read. We’re like the shoemakers with the barefooted children. Luckily Julie has had some success, and that’s what she’s going to share with us today.


Every year, the parents of my students sat listening to my Back-To-School-Night presentation. And every year, when I finished, their hands shot up.

  • How can my son improve his SAT scores?
  • Will studying word-lists in isolation increase my daughter’s vocabulary?
  • What writing methodology do you embrace?

Varied topics, all worthy of concern; and my recommendations always circled back to one core belief:

The more we read, the more we learn. Period.

Then I became a parent.

I fostered a literature-rich environment for both my babies, born 24 months apart. Their father and I read to them from an evolving selection of age-appropriate children’s books and by pre-school Jack and Karly had well-used library cards.


My son devoured reading from his first taste of board books. The minute he learned to sound out words, he insisted on independent reading. Soon he was tackling Harry Potter with a dictionary to check unfamiliar words. At fourteen, he still needs reading limits set so he can complete other homework.


My daughter disliked reading from her first taste of anything else. The minute she could crawl off my lap, she preferred activities that didn’t involve books. At thirteen, she’s creative; loves art and fantasy and stories; just not those written by other people. (There. I said it. Without crying, even.)


I’ve had to learn to make reading a non-negotiable (non-torturous) pastime in our home; and today I’m sharing some tips for instilling in reluctant readers the habit of sitting down not just with an open book, but also with an open mind.

#1. If your pre-readers are averse to passive listening, have them illustrate scenes or let them act out the story as you read. Before beginning a passage, offer to have them re-tell what happened in their own words when you’re done. Your child may pay more attention if he/she feels like an active participant.

#2. Yes, go to libraries and bookstores; but also Play LIBRARY and BOOKSTORE at home. Sounds contrived, right? But when they were young, my kids loved sorting through our books selecting several for the “librarian” or “bookseller” (me) to read. They invited stuffed animals as co-patrons, made signs and decorated for Story-time. This activity emphasized the playfulness in reading.

#3. As your child learns, take turns reading pages out loud. This practice rescues young mouths, tongues and brains from long stretches of oral reading. Plus you’ll model fluency and inflection. When they make mistakes, ask questions instead of pointing out the words they misread. “What did Kimmy give Kate?” If they discover the correction on their own, they’ll feel empowered.

 #4. Do not ask if they want to read; ask where and what. Ask who will go first. Resist the urge to set a time – “just ten minutes” – so they focus on the clock, not the experience. If reading’s a consistent part of every day, they won’t question it.

#5. As they become independent, read the same books they do. (Hello, Hunger Games!) If buying two copies is burdensome (yep) try the library, share with friends or catch up when your children aren’t reading so they see your interest. Then engage in conversation about the stories.

#6. As a free bribe, I sit by Karly in the spot of her choosing and tickle her back or feet while we read because she loves it. Ideally, she’ll associate books with pleasure, a physical reinforcement of mental enrichment that satisfies us both.

#7. Set an example by reading, too. (Thanks, Captain Obvious!) I know it’s tempting to check dinner or email; to sneak in a quick text. But if your kids see you treat reading as an impediment to “more important things,” you’ll lose them.

#8. Outside of schoolwork, let them select their reading content (even magazines). Karly’s re-reading The Hunger Games series for the third time; but she’s improving her comprehension, making new discoveries and gaining confidence with each round.

#9. Don’t compare your kids’ reading abilities or interest-level. (More advice from Captain Obvious!) But I highlight this because the “competition” might be unintentional. If one child is a quick-study when it comes to reading, be mindful of public praising; your other children might feel ill-equipped to compete. I believe I inadvertently discouraged Karly by making Jack appear to be a seemingly-impossible act to follow.

#10. Be flexible when carving out reading time for your family. Parents are conditioned to think bedtime is optimal, but morning or after school may better fit your schedule. Make reading a priority but be realistic. Kids sense adult frustration and won’t enjoy the “togetherness” if you don’t.

The truth? Karly still doesn’t love to read; but I’m doing what I can to promote a positive attitude about books in our home and I’d welcome any advice that you can share.

I’d also like to hear your opinions about the impact of e-readers on kids’ reading habits. Are they positive additions to their technology-hungry brains or do they detract from the beauty of bound books with pages and spines?

What do you think? How do you encourage reading in your family?


Follow Julie on Twitter and check out her blog!

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Nina is a columnist at The HerStories Project and a contributing writer at Kveller.com and Greatnewbooks.org. Her essays have appeared regularly at Brain, Child Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward and have been syndicated in Jewish newspapers across the country. Her short stories have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines, and she loved participating in the 2013 cast of Listen to Your Mother. Nina is a co-founder of The Twin Cities Writing Studio. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

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97 Responses to When the English Teacher’s Kid Hates Books
  1. Marilyn
    April 24, 2012 | 8:19 am

    Love this! We love to read and have hundreds of books but with five kids? Three loved to read and two not so much. I wish I had this post to read 7 or 8 years ago – my kids loved creating plays but I never thought about having them act it out while reading. God bless the Harry Potter series as my two sons who didn’t like to read inhaled them. And now the youngest who didn’t read? He’s inhaling Dostoevsky and Kerouac and Hemingway and the list goes on. The turn came at 16 years old. This should be published in a parents magazine!

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 9:22 am

      Thanks so much, Marilyn. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that your two reluctant readers made that turn; I think the key here was that you found something they DID enjoy (for your boys it was Harry Potter, for my daughter it’s Hunger Games) and then were patient.

      Neither my sister nor my husband (two of the smartest people I know) enjoyed reading as kids. But post high-school (exposed to reading by choice instead of academic obligation) they found their way to books. Both love to read now and I can only hope this will be my daughter’s experience.

      To that end, I’ve avoided making books a punishment or chore.
      Sounds like you did the same…congratulations.

  2. mommytanya23
    April 24, 2012 | 8:41 am

    WOW! What a fantastic post! I love all your idea’s Julie. I can’t wait to get off of work and go home to play library and book store with my girls. They’re 5 and 3 and currently really enjoy listening to me read to them. Although the little one is starting get squirmy during our reading sessions. I plan to try having her act out the story next time this happens, she’ll LOVE that!
    I honestly worry that my kids will HATE reading just because I do it so much. I don’t watch TV so I spend a lot of time reading. Sometimes they’ll come lay down with me and ask what various letters or words in my book are and it takes a huge amount of effort to answer them without being annoyed (or letting my annoyance show). I want to foster a love of reading in them, but sometimes I just need 10 minutes to myself and for me that means reading in peace.
    I love your tip on reading what your kids read. I LOVE young adult fiction and nothing makes me smile or preen more than when my friends ask me for book recommendations for their kids. I’ve put a number of young minds on the path of the Hunger Games and Divergent. I had one friend who posted a concern about The Giver, which her child was reading for school. I explained the scene in question to the best of my ability but in the end I told her she needed to read it for herself before she passed judgment on it. I can’t WAIT until my kids and I are reading the same books together.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 24, 2012 | 3:41 pm

      Oh, it will be SO fun when your girls are old enough for YA. You’ll have a library for them.

  3. mommytanya23
    April 24, 2012 | 8:42 am

    Question for all you mom with older children, when did you start moving away from picture books?

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 9:16 am

      As with most “when did you” questions, I find myself wondering HOW I don’t know exactly; because when you’re in the moment you can’t imagine you’ll ever forget these milestones right?

      I will tell you my daughter who is TWELVE still picks up picture books to read at night when she’s having trouble sleeping. Maybe this is weird?!? But I maintain a shelf with all their favorites from every stage of reading; and when she’s lying awake, she’ll sometimes grab a handful and bring them into bed with her.

      I know. A girl who doesn’t like to read? But it’s because they are nostalgic and easy and happy (when her brain is probably processing stress from her middle school day).

      My son was done with all picture books by first/second grade. Not that he wouldn’t sit for them if I was reading to Karly, but Jack was already reading Harry Potter independently by then.

      So it varies between kids, but I’d say let them take the lead first; don’t expect all kids to have the same desire to move beyond picture books; and keep a selection of family favorites on hand forever.

      If nothing else, people visiting your home who have young children will appreciate it!

      • Nina Badzin
        April 24, 2012 | 3:43 pm

        I kind of like the Wimpy Kid books for Sam (7) because there are some pictures, but it’s definitely more a “big kid” book as opposed to what he views as a little kid book.

        That doesn’t really answer your question. I don’t know!

    • kelliefish13
      May 3, 2012 | 10:06 pm

      Can’t answer as a Mum just yet, mine is still a baby. But when I was teaching we used to start reading simple chapter books to the class at 5-6 years old, and encourage them to start reading themselves at 7-8. Though adapt for individual children. The school librarian used the five finger rule for choosing books for independent reading – every time you come to a word you are stuck on put up a finger, if you get to end of page with 5 or more fingers up then its too hard and to find something easier. The slim easy chapter books are great to start on like ‘The Magic Finger’, ‘The Twits’ and ‘Georges Marvellous Medicine’ by Roald Dahl, there are heaps more but I can only think of New Zealand Authors which wont help you.

  4. julie gardner
    April 24, 2012 | 9:09 am


    Thanks again so much for allowing me to share these thoughts here. Reading has been one of the great joys of my life (NOT an exaggeration) and it is my hope that even Karly grows to love it (my sister came to her appreciation of books after high school; fingers crossed).

    Beyond loving books, reading is a crucial learning tool (dare I say the most important we have?) and we simply must have our kids reading…whether they like it or not; how to keep it from an “eat your vegetables or you get no dessert” type of threat is the challenge.

    I look forward to seeing what has worked for everyone else here today. And as always, I am so thankful for your friendship.

  5. Mary Sheriff
    April 24, 2012 | 9:15 am

    Crazy coincidence. I just posted a blog asking for suggestions like these. http://silverbellsncockleshells.blogspot.com/2012/04/book-day.html I can’t wait to try out numbers 1 and 2. Thank you so much!

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 10:14 am

      My pleasure, Mary. Good luck!

    • Nina Badzin
      April 24, 2012 | 3:44 pm

      Mary, I’m printing out this post and saving it. Such great ideas.

  6. Alison@Mama Wants This
    April 24, 2012 | 10:06 am

    Julie, you’re as always, wise and concise. I love your tips. My boy is too young for me to tell if he’s going to be a reader like his Mama – but all signs point to yes. However, I will keep these tips close at hand, just in case!

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 10:16 am

      Thanks, Alison.

      Monkey and Scrumplet are lucky to have you…AND that awesome couch.
      Who wouldn’t want to cozy up on that expanse of greatness with a good book?

      I swear I don’t think I’d ever get off of that thing.
      (For better or worse…)


  7. ramblingsfromtheleft
    April 24, 2012 | 10:15 am

    Thanks so much for this post, Julie. I am actually a grandmother these days, but back in the day I had one that could not get enough to read and another who preferred loud music and chatting on the phone. As a toddler the one who loved to read would sit for hours, the other one would roll her eyes and slip off the sofa to find something more interesting.

    What happened to them? Well the one who loved reading still does. He instills this in his three children and two of them love to read and the third one prefers to play sports. He reads everything they read the way we did. It’s like a beautiful legacy. The one who preferred everything else, became a returning student to finish her BA. In the process she discovered she loved to read and began writing to me about titles. “Hey mom, you should read this.” Did I like her selections all the time. Actually, no. But I read them anyway. It was an opening and I was grateful to walk through. This one is still my multi-media kid who studied photography and has a Flickr account and a photo-blog. I used her photography for the header of my blog and two more on my side bar. She still listens to music of all kinds, loves movies and analyzes TV shows.

    I am pleased that the second one found reading a joy at last, but I am not sure it was anything I did. It was more her love of the image and the sounds of her other passions that drew her to books. I guess in the end, the best we can do is set a good example and let them find the word on their own terms and in their own time.

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 10:20 am

      “I guess in the end, the best we can do is set a good example and let them find the word on their own terms and in their own time.”

      This is exactly right. I do think that kids raised in a literature-rich environment are more likely to develop the taste for it later – even when reluctant in their youth. So my goal was to provide this in the first place and then TRY not to put so much pressure and negativity surrounding the OBLIGATION of reading as to turn Karly off of it…

      My hope is that once she is free to read more for pleasure (outside the realm of academic requirements) she’ll find her way to books. I am so glad that’s been your experience and I LOVE the fact that you read your daughter’s recommendations even when they wouldn’t be your first choice.

      That right there tells me a lot about why your daughter reads now…You were and more influential than you know.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 24, 2012 | 3:59 pm

      Such a great perspective, Florence!

  8. Anne Greenwood Brown (@AnneGBrown)
    April 24, 2012 | 10:58 am

    Great advice – I took to heart the point about not (unintentionally) creating a competitive environment among the kids. And I’d love to have someone rub my back while I read; how awesome is that??

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 11:20 am


      I’ve come across so many book-loving families in which the second child doesn’t enjoy independent reading. I can only imagine there’s some correlation between early success with the first child being intimidating to the second – who then decides to find his/her own area in which to shine.

      Thanks for weighing in and cheers to finding someone who’ll rub your back while you read.

      It’s the little things…

  9. ksluiter
    April 24, 2012 | 11:36 am

    Julie, you always know how to put into words the stuff I just do and don’t think to put into words.

    This is how I grew up. These things happened in my house. I ADORE reading, as you know. My brothers CLAIM they do not. And I believe it’s not their first choice of a pastime, BUT they both have asked for books for birthday/Christmas gifts. One requested (and recieved) a Kindle this past year.

    They are readers.

    It just took longer. And it’s not in their heart like it is for us.

    As far as ereaders, Eddie LOVES my Nook and Cort’s Tablet. We do a combo of “real” books and ebooks with him. At bedtime he is allowed to hold and “read” a “screen” until he goes into his bed. Then he may choose two “real” books if he wants.

    He always wants.

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 12:49 pm

      Oh Katie thank you SO much for addressing the ereader question. I’m thrilled to hear how much Eddie loves it. I’ve been wondering if investing in a Nook or Kindle could get Karly more interested…

      I long for her to discover the joys of reading for so many reasons; it may just come in her own time.

      Fingers crossed.

  10. khaula mazhar
    April 24, 2012 | 11:47 am

    I have always loved to read and thank goodness my daughters love it too. Unfortunately can’t say the same for my son anymore. But you have given some great advice, you have to use different ways for different kids.

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 12:51 pm

      “Different ways for different kids” – YES!

      I suppose my ultimate message here is to not give up. Reading is simply too important to academic success; not to mention the joy that reading books for pleasure can bring.

      I’m glad your daughters already know this ~ good luck!

  11. Tracy Morrison (@sellabitmum)
    April 24, 2012 | 12:21 pm

    Oh Julie, I love this so much. I grew-up in a house of non-readers. I would shut myself into my bedroom for DAYS on end and read and read and read. My parents thought that there was something seriously wrong with me. When I went off to college I used to buy books that I thought my parents would love and I would mail them home for them to read. 25 years later those books still sit on their bookshelves unopened. I would dream about a day that I could sit with my mom and we would discuss a book. It’s never happened.

    Anyway, I don’t know if my kids will love reading. I know my oldest does – hello she read the HG trilogy in five days..and she’s 9. My middle currently seems undecided. My youngest still throws books.

    I would love for it to be something we can share as they age(and I age) – kind of like golf – a sport for the old people. Right?

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 12:53 pm

      I say let Astrid throw books….whatever it takes to keep her loving them. Because golf? Yeah. Not so much on my agenda.

      Although I’d read a biography on Bubba Watson or something. Has someone written one of those yet?

      We really need to live closer together. That is all.

  12. thesuniverse
    April 24, 2012 | 12:44 pm

    Yay Julie! The girl has an ereader and reads tons. But she always has. We all have. I can’t tell you how many times I’d hear, “That’s enough reading!” from my parents/grandparents/family members.

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 12:54 pm

      That was exactly my experience: constantly being kicked out of the house or the classroom to play outside. Recess? Fine. Can I sit under a tree with four Nancy Drew books?

      Yeah. You and I should have met decades ago…

      • Nina Badzin
        April 24, 2012 | 4:08 pm

        I always and still do read way into the wee hours of the night. It’s kind of a problem. I should really sleep more.

  13. Sarah Baughman
    April 24, 2012 | 12:55 pm

    Thanks for this post! My kids are quite young now (almost 3, and 8 months). The 3-year-old adores reading; I think it’s too soon to tell for the baby; right now she mostly chews books. However, what I loved about your post is the implicit fact that kids are independent creatures and we don’t need to take responsibility for absolutely every like and dislike they have. Obviously as parents, we need to steer our children in positive directions. Yet we also need to recognize their individuality.

    One of my brothers and I have always loved reading; my youngest brother didn’t until he realized sometime in high school that he really liked non-fiction. I’m an English teacher too and whenever parents ask me what their children should be reading, I say, “help them find what they LIKE to read!” However, just because everybody might be able to find something they enjoy reading, doesn’t mean reading will be everyone’s favorite hobby. I like that you offer lots of creative ways to encourage your daughter to read, recognizing that she can enjoy it even though she might not necessarily love it as much as your son does.

    Your concrete suggestions are great; I’ll be bookmarking this for future reference!

    P.S. As for e-readers…if it’s one of those non-glare screens like the basic Kindles and Nooks have, I’d say that as long as it increases your daughter’s interest in reading there’s probably no harm in it. I try to read on an iPad sometimes and find it really hard because of the LCD light. I too am sentimentally attached to the look and feel of a paper book, but kids are growing up in a different world and if they need a different kind of boost towards reading I think that’s OK.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 24, 2012 | 4:10 pm

      I agree on the e-readers as long as they’re JUST readers and not iPads or Fires that also have video . . . it’s just too tempting to switch. It would be for me, at least, and I LOVE to read.

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 8:17 pm


      Thank you so much for the thoughtful commentary here – from one English teacher to another. We surely cannot force any *likes* on our children but we can end up indirectly causing dislike of something by trying too hard…

      It really is about the individual child, teen, adult; no one blue print – we have to make it up as we go along. (Oh yes, and set examples. Hooray!)

      Your students are lucky to have you and your children are even luckier.
      Thanks also for the feedback on the e-reader; I’ve been a hold out for old-fashioned books, but I’m not sure that’s the right mind-frame to which to cling anymore. Sigh.

  14. Erin@lovesomeblog
    April 24, 2012 | 1:32 pm

    So pleased to meet Julie here!

    I feel like if I can get my children to be readers, everything else with fall into place. Well, maybe not everything, but I think it’s quite important. Reading requires focus, thoughtfulness, fosters empathy, compassion, curiousity. Julie’s suggestions are great.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 24, 2012 | 4:11 pm

      This year when my first grader, it turned out, didn’t love to read and was having a hard time with it was a shocker for me. Of course I shouldn’t have assumed that because my husband and I love to read that he’d gravitate to it too. Julie’s ideas are great. Looking forward to trying some!

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 5:26 pm

      Thanks so much for weighing in, Erin. I absolutely agree with the importance of reading as a tool to teach empathy and compassion; something we need these days more than ever.

      Cheers to books. And to the people who read them…

  15. John
    April 24, 2012 | 2:17 pm

    Every time Julie does a guest post, I start to think that I can’t love her any more . . . and then she goes on & posts a new guest post on a new blog that I’m not familiar with, and my love for her grows by leaps and bounds.

    Being forced to read as a child nearly killed me . . . literally. Getting me to read anything between 6th & 11th grade was torture. But, no matter what I was reading, I couldn’t talk to my parents about it, because they hadn’t read it.

    In 12th grade, my English teacher recognized that it wasn’t reading that I disliked, but the way reading was presented to me . . . she assigned 1984 to the class, and we read a chapter a night, talking about it, fully, the next day. I went from not reading a word to finishing the book over the weekend, just to be able to talk about it.

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 3:13 pm

      I think you hit the nail on the head here, John – it’s about how reading is presented to us. Right now our school-aged kids are being slammed with Reading Logs in which they have to record minutes and pages read every single day.


      I understand the importance of getting kids to read. But this is killing the joy. There has to be a better way.

      And yes, Nina is FABULOUS. You will love following her. I promise.

      • Nina Badzin
        April 24, 2012 | 4:13 pm

        John–what an interesting point (about discussing it . . . ) I’ve been reading The Wimpy Kid books with my son and it’s THE FIRST time he’s enjoying the experience. I only have him read a few sentences to me then I read the rest. I think it’s been nice for him to experience the story and laugh about it with me rather than it feeling like a test of his reading skills.

        • julie gardner
          April 24, 2012 | 5:29 pm

          Nina ~ Karly, too, was willing to read (and enjoyed) the Wimpy Kid series which was part of what inspired me to include the tip about letting children select their reading material. Some teachers discourage those books as not literary enough; but my thinking runs more toward, “If it gets her eyes on the words on the page, who cares?”

  16. MommaKiss (@mommakiss)
    April 24, 2012 | 3:29 pm

    Stowing this away for when the kids are teens – but happy to report that we all read together now. 6 year old is read to and reads to his little brother, who soaks it ALL in. They do see me reading on my kindle app (on the phone or ipad) and I wonder what that says about ‘technology’ but at least they see just my eyes moving and not my fingers clicking away working *cough*playinggames*cough

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 5:31 pm

      I’ve been wondering about this generation of children – they’re all being raised with iPads and Kindles and Nooks; I have no idea if this will inspire them to read more or less…

      I could see it going either way and am interested to see which way the wind blows.

      For now, I’m so glad you all read together. We do too, every day after school (as a transition from school to homework). But some of us LOVE it and some of us….



  17. kvetchmom
    April 24, 2012 | 4:56 pm

    Wow, Julie, these are really great ideas. I never thought of the back tickle incentive program. I think that will work wonders for Ruby! Thank you!!

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 5:32 pm

      I’m telling you. The back/foot/leg/arm tickle works. I let her pick the spot to read and the spot to stroke.

      I’m a sucker for a bribe that doesn’t cost a thing but my time. !!

  18. tsonoda148
    April 24, 2012 | 5:25 pm

    I’m a grandma now and happy to say my grandson (10) loves to read. I’m not-so-happy to say he only likes to read what he wants to read. And I’ll give a hint: It has nothing to do with school. His parents are having fun with this, as they are both teachers. No one wants to get old, but for me and this particular situation, it’s good to be grandma.
    Enjoyed the post Julie, as always!

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 5:34 pm

      Thanks so much, Terri; and I can say my daughter and your grandson have something in common, for sure.

      She’s not so much enjoying the Martian Chronicles for honors English; but she’ll read and talk about the Hunger Games any day of the week.

      Small victories…

      We need to keep these kids reading so there is an audience for our books
      (like when Sara’s Sleep comes out in hard back. ;-).

  19. crytzerfry
    April 24, 2012 | 5:34 pm

    I have children of the furry variety, but I’m blown away by the insightful suggestions Julie presents. Now if you have any suggestions for my NON-READING husband, I’d love to hear it (geeky tech magazines about technology don’t count. That’s all the man reads! I’m not sure he’ll even read one of my novels WHEN it gets published …. positive thinking!) 😉

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 8:20 pm

      First of all, cheers on the positive thinking and more importantly, cheers to having a tech-savvy husband because that will REALLY come in handy when you’re trying to promote your novel (see what I did there?).

      Hug your fur-babies and keep writing. I, for one, can’t wait to read your book!

  20. TJ
    April 24, 2012 | 6:08 pm

    These sound like good bits of advice here! I’ll pass it on to the English teachers that I know. I’m a math teacher. Got any advice there? =)

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 8:22 pm

      Oh my. Math and I have not been close friends for years…
      So I could use advice from you on helping both my kids in that arena.

      I haven’t been able to work with them since they were in 6th grade. Maybe 5th. And I only wish that I were kidding.

      Kudos to you for doing what I never could.

      • TJ
        April 24, 2012 | 10:05 pm

        Well, mad props to you for doing what I hate. I tend to be the one people come to for proofreading, and it makes me want to drive a pencil into my eyes.

  21. Janie Fox
    April 24, 2012 | 6:56 pm

    My oldest two daughters devoured books. They took them to bed instead of stuffed toys or dolls. Maggie, the youngest did not like to read. AR ( the accelerated reading program at school) was a nightmare. She survived. She is a successful business owner, a wife, and mother. There are worse things… like The Kardashians getting a book deal.

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 8:24 pm

      Oh Janie. You did NOT just reference the Kardashians and a book deal.
      But you did. I think my heart just skipped a beat. Or maybe it was my brain losing cells.

      Anyway, for the record I am not a fan of the AR reading programs or the reading logs my kids have had to fill out or any of the somewhat tedious (definitely mindless) methods of accountability our schools have come up with to make sure kids are reading.

      Unfortunately, off my cuff right now, I don’t have a better solution. But you’ve got my wheels spinning. I just may have to write about that next…

    • Nina Badzin
      April 25, 2012 | 4:30 pm

      Oh too true. Snooki too. Oy.

  22. heidi
    April 24, 2012 | 7:13 pm

    My 8 year old daughter will read more and for longer periods of time. Like you, Julie, I have to set limits so she sleeps.:) Her books vary from Harry Potter to the Calvin and Hobbes comics. Benjamin is 6 and is reading on his own now. He prefers short books like Robert Munsch or Geronimo Stilton books. Ben takes the quickest route with almost everything and my challenge with him as he gets older will be to challenge himself.
    These are great suggestions! I especially love being flexible, not comparing, and re-reading books. I often re-read books I love.

    • julie gardner
      April 24, 2012 | 8:27 pm


      I grew up reading voraciously (ridiculously, wonderfully) and absolutely re-read my favorite books on many occasions. I don’t so much anymore (too many books, too little time) but I think kids can benefit from another go-around with something they’ve read before.

      You are lucky your kids both have such positive attitudes regarding reading; may this continue for you all – I really do believe there is no better preparation for future schooling, no better way to learn.

      Plus, it’s so much FUN! (How could anyone not think so?) Sigh.

  23. Shannon Pruitt from 'Mynewfavoriteday'
    April 24, 2012 | 10:07 pm

    Nice to meet you Juile, this is such a great post and good food for thought for those of us with younger minis. I love the idea of remembering to play library and bookstore, I will put those in the line up of pretend play.

    Thanks Nina…and congrats on your Huff Po debut. I have been super slammed with the March of Dimes walk that my blog life is taking a bit of a back seat at the moment! So happy for you and tried to comment from mobile but couldn’t so just wanted you to know I read it (again) and it was just as insightful the second time around.

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 11:29 am

      Nice to meet you, too, Shannon!

      I’m glad you’re going to try playing library and bookstore – we did this often when my kids were little (although true confession we also played McDonald’s and Pet Store) and it really worked to keep the kids thinking books in any way, shape or form were for fun…

      Also fast-food and pet-adoption – ha!

  24. Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson
    April 24, 2012 | 11:03 pm

    I don’t know if Tech will kill me for sharing this, but we still read to him.

    We always made reading part of his bedtime ritual, so my voracious reader (who prefers science and math, but is never without a book) still has his night time cuddle at almost 13 years old. He likes us to read poems or old Dr. Seuss books that he has forgotten about. Sometimes we make up tunes and sing the rhymes – another strategy for musical kids. We make up funny accents and sing like Long Islanders. Or cowboys. Or Russians. So much fun. So in our house it’s always been more about the contact than the content. He gets content in school. He loves MAD magazine and MAC world.


    More than anything he’d rather talk about The Periodic Table. Or something science-ishy. And he has no grasp of grammar. So I put that on the school because this kid reads. No one is teaching him about commas or quotation marks or capitalization. And that hurts.

    So happy to see the two of you all linked-up!.

    Two great tastes that taste great together.

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 11:32 am

      I think it’s great that you still read to Tech Support, Renee.

      I must say that my reading out,loud to my kids stopped earlier than I would have liked only because having the two children of different genders/temperament meant I was dealing with different interests and reading levels; Jack got independent very quickly and wanted to read his own stuff. Karly didn’t want to hear Harry Potter from me.

      So taking Karly into a separate room to read what she liked with her felt kind of isolating…which probably led to my letting her read silently on her own too often.

      Kudos to you for keeping such a book-friendly environment in your home. Really.

      • Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson
        April 25, 2012 | 1:20 pm

        Now don’t go blaming yourself. My womb done got broken, remember? I only have the one, so we can pour our attention all over him.

        I think you need to be more gentle with yourself, Julie. I’m serious. Not every kid loves to read. But they usually turn out okay. I can almost tell you will 100% percent certainty that your kids are going to land right where they are supposed to.

        You are a great mother and you and your husband have modeled a lot of wonderful values. Often, once kids disover their true passion, they start to enjoy reading about that particular topic. My husband is a perfect example of this. He is a doc. Well, dude hates to read. Seriously, no leisure reading for him. But he LOVES science, and will read anything about science. (Soooo boring. Gah!) So try to chillax and have faith that you have modeled well — (and I don’t mean just in your running shorts), and that they possess the skills so that they will be able to do the necessary reading when the time comes.

        How’s dat? Are you convinced?

        • julie gardner
          April 25, 2012 | 9:17 pm

          Thank you, Renee.

          I stand convinced. Except that I’m sitting right now. And soon, I will be lying down.
          But convinced.


  25. Julia Munroe Martin
    April 25, 2012 | 6:26 am

    My kids are much older… now in college, but I can really relate to this post because both went through phases of not enjoying reading — and my husband and I are big readers. I remember feeling a vague sense of panic, but I waited it out, following their lead, their interests, always providing opportunities (I loved the idea of reading the same books they do — such fun to talk about and really encouraged them! At one point my daughter and I were in a mother-daughter book group, too). Both are pursuing careers in science, but both still love reading (and writing) — and I echo what Renee said: they love science but also are never without a book.

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 11:33 am

      Thanks, Julia, for giving me some perspective from the college-end of it all. I look forward anxiously to the day Karly and I might be in a mother-daughter book club together.

      And until then, I’ll try not to embrace that vague sense of panic…
      I know it well.

  26. By Word Of Mouth Musings
    April 25, 2012 | 7:42 am

    I love books, real books, holding books, turning pages … altho these days I seem to be a blog reader 😉
    I have one avid reader who is already 250 pages into writing a novel and one who would rather set them on fire 😉
    But for the younger one, I encourage audio books. She will happily listen while painting or drawing … and all that wonderful vocabulary is filtering into her brain in the correct context and pronunciation – win,win. Since she loves the visual approach of picture books, we pick out a few she loves, and she has to rewrite the sentences using different words. Another win.
    (my girls are 10 and 14 btw)

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 11:35 am

      Oh Nicole how AWESOME is it that your daughter is writing a novel already…
      Tell her she’s smart; waiting until you’re 40 is NOT the way to go!

      The idea of using audio-books is absolutely brilliant. I never thought of that for Karly and will give it a go this summer..when I know sitting down to read a book will be LAST on her list of ways to have fun.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 25, 2012 | 4:57 pm

      Also amazing ideas! Thanks for sharing them with us.

  27. Charlene Ross
    April 25, 2012 | 8:35 am

    Great tips Julie! Yes, where were you years and years ago when my kids were small? Neither of my kids LOVE to read, even though I too read to them from the moment they were born, but both will on occasion devour books that they find interesting. And my 16-year-old is reading Hemmingway -by choice!- so I guess I can’t REALLY complain. I know that I have to be better at making time for myself to read (instead of checking emails, etc.) that is a great tip!

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 11:36 am

      Chandler reads Hemingway by choice? Oh my!
      Nice job, Mama.

      (Although I’m sure Ernest would like to take some credit.)

      I guess the key is to find books they find interesting; because that’s the situation with Karly: she will devour a book she loves. More than once. It’s just that she’s picky about what she loves.


    • Nina Badzin
      April 25, 2012 | 5:00 pm

      Hemmingway at 16. Yup, no complaining from you. 😉

  28. Ostriches
    April 25, 2012 | 12:37 pm

    My kids like books. They even like to listen to books on tapes in the car. My husband wants to drive into a building when he’s with us. He does NOT like to read. He does not even like to listen. Hmmmmmm…..

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 9:20 pm


      Did I ever tell you that I followed your blog the minute I first saw it because of the T.S. Eliot quotation? I probably told you.

      So of course I love a woman who loves measuring out her life with coffee spoons…and of course your boys will love books.

      At least your little ones, if not your grown-up boy. But he likes basketball. And he’s cute, right? So we’ll give him a pass.

  29. LindseyJoy
    April 25, 2012 | 1:48 pm

    Thank you!!! My daughter is still pre-reading, and she loves board books right now…but I’m SURE I will use this list in the future – GREAT ideas!

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 9:21 pm

      Oh I so hope these suggestions work for you. I know they made reading and books MUCH more enjoyable for my daughter and me.

      Cheers to doing whatever it takes to keep them loving the written word.
      I miss the days of board books. A lot.


  30. Tisha
    April 25, 2012 | 4:10 pm

    No kids yet, but I wanted to comment on the tablet/Kindle/Nook/iPad question. As adults who love reading, my husband and I adore having e-Readers. Whereas we used to pack 4 pounds of books to read when we went on vacation, now we only have to bring our tablets. As long as we prepare beforehand (by which I mean purchasing and downloading the books), there is no longer the fear of running out of stuff to read mid-vacation or, even worse, mid-flight. One of the other nice things is the ability to increase the font size–a lot. My husband, before having LASIK, said not having to squint or worry about eye-strain was one of the biggest advantages of an e-Reader over paper books.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 25, 2012 | 5:12 pm

      I’m an ereader convert and evangelizer too! :)

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 9:22 pm


      “Yet” is the operative word, my friend. “No kids YET.”

      Thanks for the feedback regarding ereaders – I’d never thought about the eye-strain issue…

      As I creep into middle age (okay, I may already be there…gulp) I may have to adjust my reading. Because I’m sure never going to stop.

  31. Cynthia Robertson
    April 25, 2012 | 7:14 pm

    I’m surprised and impressed by tips # 4 & 6; I wouldn’t have thought of either of those, but they make perfect sense. My kids are grown now, but I had one of each like you, Julie, except it was my daughter who loved books, and my son who couldn’t be enticed. I’ll remember these great tips for the grandkids I will hopefully have someday in the not too distant future. :-)

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 9:26 pm


      I definitely learned #4 in a parenting class; it’s a strategy for pretty much anything children tend to battle and worked well for us (when I remember to do it and not ask and or demand…)

      #6 I learned because I like to be tickled too (shhhh).

      But the beauty of grand-kids (in the not too distant future) is that you can just have FUN with them, right?

      Happy reading!

  32. kelleysbreakroom
    April 25, 2012 | 8:38 pm

    These were great, Julie! I have never even thought of some of them. I am totally with you on reading what they do. It gives me an excuse to read YA books. Loved this, Julie!

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 9:28 pm

      Thanks, Kelley! I can only say I don’t know if any of these tips work if you’re reading Cat in the Hat – ha! (Loved that post, by the way…)

      But with or without Dr. Seuss, I can picture you reading to those sweet boys of yours and it makes me smile. YOU make me smile. Always.

  33. Galit Breen (@GalitBreen)
    April 25, 2012 | 9:08 pm

    Love it, you two! Such great, ready-to-use tips!

    (Also, I love how you pointed out that our littles won’t always love what we do. #Humbling)

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 9:29 pm

      Yes, Galit. Humbling. She also doesn’t like to sing (another shocker) since all I did as a child was read. And sing. And talk.

      Oh wait. She does that last one just fine. #soproud. !!

  34. Jamie Walker (@chosenchaos)
    April 25, 2012 | 9:22 pm

    I just pinned you my dear. Hope it didn’t hurt, but I want to remember this list. Biggest loves reading, everything about it. Middle, I’m afriad is a lot like Karly. Although this may because we never read to him as a baby. Head hung in shame but he was almost a year when I realized we had left this out of the bed-time routine equation. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll continue the passion from Biggest because he wants to do EVERYTHING just like him.

    We encourage it by surrounding them with it and whenever someone brings a book and asks us to read we do.

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 9:36 pm

      I love that you pinned this, Jamie. And you need NEVER hang that head of yours – what you’ve got going on is a house full of love (and lots of kids); and I’ve got no doubt that your kids are going to be just fine when it comes to books.

      If the oldest one sets the tone, the younger ones will see his example. Hopefully they’ll all love reading; but if not, they’ll know it’s just something you do!

      (Like running. And listening to cool music. Oh yeah.)

  35. Trish
    April 25, 2012 | 10:05 pm

    My oldest and youngest daughters have always loved books. The oldest started reading when she was 4. Now she writes as well. The middle girl? Not so much. However, in the last several weeks she has turned a corner. It started with the school’s read-a-thon. Maybe your daughter just needs the right book or a reward for reading?

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 11:25 pm

      Thanks, Trish. I’m hoping that as her choices expand (as she gets older) that her interest will as well.

      Fingers crossed. And toes. And books marked. (Whatever it takes…)

  36. The Flying Chalupa
    April 25, 2012 | 10:57 pm

    Julie, will you tickle my feet while I read? And then give me a good back massage? Loved all of these pieced of advice – there’s no need for reading to be passive, make it about action. My brother was like your daughter – and now he adores books because we kept shoving them down his throat. :)

    • julie gardner
      April 25, 2012 | 11:30 pm

      Oh, T – I’m so glad to hear your brother came around…how could he NOT love to read with the sisters he has?

      And I’m sure your boys are already *actively* enjoying books ~ after all, the Chalupa doesn’t do anything passively, right?

      Either way, I’m in for some foot-tickling.
      Any time. I’ve been practicing for years…

  37. Angela (@angelaamman)
    April 26, 2012 | 8:39 am

    I have little ones, still, so I don’t know where they will fall on the reading spectrum. They seem to love it, for now, both being read to and “reading” on their own, and now Abbey will read to Dylan (a mixture of memorized parts of the books and her own interpretations of the pictures–I die. I also obviously digress.)

    I hope they love it, because I am such a book junkie. I can remember going to the library with my mom and just devouring books, sitting on opposite ends of the couch with her and reading for hours and hours. Yet she did the same things with my brother (modeled, encouraged, read to him, let him choose books, etc.), and he’s not a reader. He will read now for enjoyment but not the way my mom and I do.

    I am giggling at “play library and bookstore”. One of their current favorite games (or as I call it, ways to make a mess) is to empty the shelves they can reach on the grownup bookshelves and drag the books over to the couch, where they take the books “in the car to go on vacation”.

    • julie gardner
      April 26, 2012 | 10:47 am

      I love that you take the books “in the car to go on vacation.” I can’t tell you how many days I spent with the kids making activities out of nothing.

      We used everything we already owned to come up with free stuff to do.

      “Let’s tip over the stools and sit in them and pretend they’re rocket-ships to the moon!”

      (Of course, this required getting snacks – because zero-gravity makes you hungry – and bringing friends – stuffed animals – and maybe drawing pictures to leave as evidence that we’d been in space.)

      Summer is a long season to fill when you don’t want to spend money.
      After all, the moon is expensive.

  38. funnyorsnot
    April 26, 2012 | 10:35 am

    Thanks, you have given me a reason to finish “Fifty Shades of Gray”. You think I can borrow your copy so Sophie and I can read and discuss?

    (Seriously though, great post. I use a lot of these strategies with Maren, 7, already. I am guilty of comparing kids though. Maybe I need a good caning.)

    • julie gardner
      April 26, 2012 | 10:43 am

      And now I want to be in that Mother/Daughter book club with you and Maren.

      (Hank can come too; and he wouldn’t even have to wear pants. We’re used to that around here…)

  39. Good Day, Reg People (@GDRPempress)
    April 26, 2012 | 10:39 am

    What the heck.

    My 3rd time trying to leave a comment.

    get error message each time.

    GREAT POST! NEEDS TO BE SENT IN TO MAMAPEDIA. Like right now, before summer, so kids get in the writing groove and don’t take 3 months off.

    it really does…think of how many families will be helped.

    • julie gardner
      April 26, 2012 | 10:49 am

      Oh, Alexandra – thanks for trying three times to leave this comment – especially such a supportive one. I will look into MAMAPEDIA immediately.

      And, as always, I love that you try to encourage everyone else to get their words out there. Really.

      P.S. Your point about not taking 3 months off from books/reading is so important. Then it really DOES feel like “school” and not “fun” –

  40. Good Day, Reg People (@GDRPempress)
    April 26, 2012 | 10:39 am

    Dang. And meant to say “reading” groove vs “time off from it” groove.

    You, mamapedia, now.


  41. Lady Jennie
    May 1, 2012 | 1:02 am

    Oh dear. I am very lazy.

    Sometimes I offer the choice between playtime and reading a book before bed and am a little relieved when they choose playtime. And yet I am a huge reader. There was a large period (before having kids) where I wouldn’t read a book if it wasn’t a classic.

    And then there’s the added pressure of trying to get them to speak (and eventually read) English, which makes me want to curl up in a little ball.

  42. jolinapetersheim
    May 1, 2012 | 12:44 pm

    What a great post! My two month old is not to the reading point yet, but I can’t wait to take Adelaide to the library, for that’s where I cultivated my own love of words. I’m hoping she’ll do the same.

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