Want to raise a non-reader? Here’s how!

By Jimmie Epling
Darlington County Library System

Want to raise a non-reader? No? Fantastic! The staff of the Darlington County Library System cannot imagine why anyone would want someone to be a non-reader. The Library is an advocate of reading in all its forms because it is fundamental to a child’s future success.

Now you can imagine my surprise when I was told about a list describing thirteen ways to raise a non-reader. Why would a loving and caring parent, or for that matter anyone, want to raise a child to be a non-reader? My horror quickly vanished I read the list. Dean Schneider and Robin Smith created the satirical list in 2001 for an issue of the children’s magazine, the “Horn Book,” a bimonthly magazine about literature for children and young adults. As I read down the list, I thought “yeah,” “uh huh,” and “right,” each one of these will do it. Put all thirteen together and the “Unlucky Arithmetic” adds up to a child who will be a non-reader for his or her lifetime.

How do you raise a non-reader? Let’s take a tongue in cheek look at what you must do.

First, never ever read where your child can see you! We all know children are like little sponges soaking up the world around them. They will copy your behavior. If your child sees you reading anything, a label, a sign, a comic book, a magazine, and worst of all, a book, you run the risk of raising a reader. It doesn’t matter if it is a printed book, smartphone, or tablet. You have to hide when you want to read. And don’t forget, a child can learn from a grandparent or the parents of a friend to be a reader. Also, never allow your child to listen to audio books or go to the Library for story time as this is cheating and will encourage reading. If you must have books in the house, then hide them so they won’t be found by your child and place you in the awkward position of explaining why you have them.

The next tip for raising a non-reader is to have at least one TV, computer, game console, tablet, or other electronic device in every room. It is important children have least one of these in the bedroom. Take care though that your child does not use one of these devices to access the children’s books available online from the Library www.darlington-lib.org, watch the likes of Sesame Street, or play any educational game! Electronic devices can be used to stimulate learning and reading, so to raise a non-reader a parent must be ever vigilant in how their child uses technology.
A fast way to discourage a budding reader in your household is to correct your child every time you hear a word mispronounced. When your child feels that a mispronounced word will result in a sharp rebuke, you will soon no longer hear your child reading, at least not within your earshot.

A good way to keep a child from reading the recommended 20 minutes a day is to schedule after school activities so your child never has time to read or will be too tired to read. All these activities you schedule for your child will get the message that reading is boring. It is up to you to keep your child’s nose out of a book!

When filling your child’s time with activities, do not play any board games! The reason you do not want to play board games with a child is because you must not only read the rules before you play, but you must also read at times during the game to play it. Reading is boring and therefore a game that requires reading is boring.

If you child has learned to read independently, despite your efforts, it is probably because of all those picture books that relatives and friends have given to your child as gifts. Throw them out. Picture books are for babies. No need for them to clutter up a room or to continue to inspire your child.

A good way to discourage reading is to insist your child only read books that are “challenging” and have nothing to do with your child’s interests. “Easy” books are a complete waste of time. A child needs to know reading anything other than something like “War and Peace” or an orbital mechanics textbook is a waste of time. Never let a young reader try a comic book or anything that is not significantly above their reading level.

Your attitude as a parent towards reading is important! Remember, at best, children’s books are for teaching basic reading, writing, math, and good behavior. Children’s books are only a learning tool and are not to be enjoyed. This will sound counter intuitive. A way to discourage reading is to always give your child little rewards for reading, such as stickers and plastic toys. Money is even better! You can condition your child to see reading as work, not something to be enjoyed, with the right incentives.

Finally, no reading in bed by you or your child. And absolutely, positively do not read with your child in bed! This sets a very bad example for your child. Your child might begin to think reading is a pleasure. There is a way to assure there will be no reading in bed, replace all the lamps with 40-watt bulbs. The eyestrain from reading in dim light will discourage even the most determined budding reader.

Now you have an idea of what it takes to raise a non-reader. The Darlington County Library System encourages parents to raise a reader. You start by reading to your child as a newborn. When your child is older and asks you to read the same story over and over again, do not hesitate. Read it again with the joy and excitement you want your child to feel for reading. And when your child begins to read without you, know you have insured his or her future success because your child is now a reader.

Author: Jana Pye

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