Sunday, July 22, 2018

How to Teach a Kid to Hate Reading

Here's me and RITA Finalist Darynda Jones at the RITA ceremonies at RWA 2018. A fabulous evening!

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is Which “Classic” Author’s Work Do You Loathe and Why?

Mine? THE DEERSLAYER, by James Fenimore Cooper.

Yes, I read it in 5th or 6th grade - because I was forced to - but the scars remain. I had been pushed into some sort of advanced reading pod with other unsuspecting dolphins book lovers, and told that we had to read this book.

It was the first time IN MY LIFE that I DIDN'T ENJOY READING.

I mean, my mother read to me every night, until I started reading over her shoulder and correcting her mistakes. At which point, she threw up her hands and just handed me the books. I think I was about six. I was allowed to check out five books a week from the library and it was an effort to make them last. Once I had allowance money, I spent it on books. I read books in class, on the playground, at home, in the car. I even invited my friends to come over and read.

I was that kid.

Probably a lot of you were, too.

So to make me hate reading took a lot of effort. I still remember the woman who insisted I should like this book. When I told her I didn't want to read it, she said I had to.

I loathed everything about it and her.

Many years later I found the Mark Twain essay, Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses, which made me feel at least validated in my loathing. But really, at ten or eleven, I wasn't thinking about all those excellent points Twain makes. I hated reading about this guy who was boring and hateful at once, about women being scalped and raped, and about things I had zero interest in.

This kind of thing is how we teach kids to hate reading. I know things have gotten better and I celebrate those teachers and librarians out there putting books into kids' hands, helping them find books to LOVE.

That's what reading should be about.