This Is Why We Hate Reading

“…Mommy, just one more book…’ Thea is yelling me from her bedroom after I have tucked her in, read her a book and handed her 3 more to “read.”  The book lover in me shrugs …”Just one, then sleep.”  I smile, we are a house of readers.

“…Mrs.Ripp, just 5 more minutes?”  My students are giving me pleading eyes, they want 5 more minutes to read their books even though they know it is the end of the day and really we should be packing up.  We are a class of readers,

And yet, the thought keeps nagging me.  Why do kids start to hate reading?  What will happen to Thea when she enters school, will she want just one more book, 5 more minutes?  Or will she become like many students; reluctant to read, hesitant to dream about more books?  Will my students lose their love when they go to middle school?

So I ask my students; what makes kids hate reading?  Their first response fills my heart, “But we don’t hate reading, Mrs. Ripp, not this year.”  So I prod and ask them why not?  What do you think I could do to make you hate reading?  What do you think happens in middle school where we seem to lose kids as readers.  They journal about it and then ask to go back to their books.

Reading their responses, I am not surprised   Kids do not want to be told what to read.  They do not want books assigned.  They do not want to sit in small groups and discuss a shared book. They want choice.  They want freedom.  But they also want a little bit of guidance.  Many of my students write how it is important for teachers to read and know which books to recommend.  Many of my kids realize that sometimes they will have to read things they do not want to but wonder whether it can be a short text rather than a guided book group..

One child journals about how teachers should always read the books first and then try to think how it will feel for a student to read it; to experience it the way they do.  Then they bring up the time factor; give us time to read.  We do sports, we want to spend time with our family and sometimes we are reading another book outside of school.  Reduce our homework so that we can read.  If you really believe in reading; invest in it as a class.

One student makes me smile with their answer; “Many teachers say they love reading but then their face is all gloomy when they teach it.”  Yes, perhaps we as teachers love to read but forget to bring in that infectiousness to our classrooms.  Bring in the passion, it’s contagious.

In the end, I was not surprised  not too much anyway.  We know how to make kids hate reading because it is the same things that make us hate reading as adults.

So take my students’ advice
Love reading yourself
Give them time to read
Know your books
Share your passion
and give them choice

Then see what happens.

Update; My students heard I had blogged about their responses and they wanted to add these two thoughts:

  • Don’t do reading logs.  Ever.  Trust them instead to read.  The logs get falsified anyway and end up being homework for parents.
  • Reconsider the classics.  we may have thought we know all the classics and that students should read them and yes, I have a love of classics as well, but add new ones to that list.  The One and Only Ivan will be a classic one day just like Charlotte’s Web so why not include that one?

7 thoughts on “This Is Why We Hate Reading

  1. My kids are all readers. But the reading logs they have to keep for school actually detract from their reading. They are so focused on what they need to do for the log, that they don't lose themselves in the books anymore. I think they read less because of the logs. I know why they are assigned, but I wish there was another way….

    • We get to pick the books we want to read in english classes. Logs are not things we do at our school. We are actually starting blogs, to tell others about the books you read. Try that.

  2. Pernille,This is absolutely marvelous and insightful. As I was reading through this, I looked at it with a parent's eyes and a memory of my personal experiences with reading. I kept thinking – but what about the classics. Most of us were "forced" to read the Grapes of Wrath or Romeo and Juliet in high school and while it was oft times a struggle – we ended up better for it in the end. Freedom of choice is fine and dandy but would future generations be missing out on great literature because they would never choose it themselves? And then I read your closing statement. "Know your books and Share your passion." Brilliant! I think that we could all take something away from that statement, whether in the classroom or simply as human beings. It's knowing who we are that makes us what we are; and, without passion, we become nothing more than empty shells filling a role. Thank you for sharing your passion through your blog and on Twitter! Truly inspirational.

  3. Very glad to read this article – I'm a school librarian and having a constant low level battle with parents and some teachers who want students to be 'pushed' in their reading. I'm a big believer in it being a natural progression that you can't rush, just guide. Was a little concerned by the recent report that people were worrying about children reading below their age. (http://www.teachingpersonnel.com/news/2013/3/12/study-warns-of-teenagers-reading-below-their-level/) but at least they're reading! Rebecca, I set a reading log for our younger students in an effort to get them reading every day, I hadn't considered that it might put off the more enthusiastic. Can you think of anything else I could do that wouldn't exert that sort of pressure?

    • I’m a MS too. Have the kids download “SuperNote” on their tablets and phones. It’s a free app and they can do a short recording about what they read and maybe give the page numbers without it being such a drag. Your ADHD kids will LOVE you for showing it to them…you can record lectures and all sorts of things.

  4. P,I think many kids hate reading because they don't know how to read or it's difficult for them to read. Due to dyslexia, I probably didn't read a chapter book until seventh grade. What I did love was being read to or having a book on tape. I was able to comprehend books that were intended for adults. When a teacher says you have 20mins to read, don't know how, of course you are going to hate it. Reluctant readers need to feel comfortable reading at the level that they read (ie not judged by the class or teachers). They also need more support in improving reading skills.Just some thoughts.

  5. This post came to me via a journey from some twitter post which I followed to here. 🙂 Thanks so much for this. I am working on a short e-book at the moment which is exactly about this.
    It wont be as profound or in depth as yours but I am just trying to get English teachers to understand why students don’t read the books they choose. I outlined the 5 main reasons in a brief blog post not long ago. You can find it at http://weteachwell.com/2016/08/05/a-frequently-asked-question/, if you are interested. It is very short. 🙂 There are a couple more on the same topic.
    This is such a crucial issue for us to grapple with and we English teachers need to become better informed so that we can more successfully state our case to education departments and school administrators. I don’t know if you have ‘book-hire’ schemes in the US but they are endemic here in Oz. I once taught at a school which had taught the same text to Year 11 for over 15 years. No choice, no lee-way at all.
    Anyway, I agree with you on every point you made and will definitely be looking out for your book.
    In the meantime I will work out how to subscribe to your posts. Thanks again.

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