Sense & Sensitivity

Son's Lack of Reading Should Inspire Family

DEAR HARRIETTE: My son’s seventh-grade teacher contacted me to say she was worried that my son is not reading enough. She thinks this is why he doesn’t do so well in humanities and is a slow reader. He is required to read a certain number of pages every day, which he does begrudgingly. His teacher has asked me to get him to read more.

I want to help, but I’m not a big reader, either. Now I feel guilty that he doesn’t read much because we don’t read a lot in our household. I don’t want to shrug off the teacher’s request, but I think it is going to be hard to change my family's patterns. The moment my husband and I get home from work, we turn on the news and we watch that or some crime show until we go to sleep. How can I get my son to read more -- and even my husband and me, too? I feel like it’s too hard to break old patterns. -- Don’t Love to Read, Pittsburgh

DEAR DON’T LOVE TO READ: You already know the answer: You have to demonstrate to your son what is expected of him. One way to make it easier for yourself is to approach reading as homework for the family. Talk to your husband about the teacher’s evaluation of your son’s reading and her recommendation that he dive deeper into reading on a daily basis. Ask your husband to join you in spending at least one hour each evening reading together. Pick anything you find interesting.

If all of you have the TV off and books open, your son will be more inspired to emulate your behavior. You can even express the truth about how challenging it is at first, since you are accustomed to watching TV. Agree with your son that you will read together each evening. This is the best way to break the pattern -- as a family.

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