Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Confession: I don't read to my kids

I HATE reading to people. I know, I know. Shocking! A homeschool mom who doesn't read to her kids?! Yes, a few of us do exist.

This is not a new confession for me. I have admitted it many times before. Here it is again: I don't read to my kids! (This is where most people, especially homeschoolers, gasp, covering their open mouths with both hands, and slowly shake their heads). This confession gets all kinds of fun, condescending comments. I think one of my favorites is, "Well, I read to my kids because I want them to grow up to be readers." Every time I hear or read that comment (or any variation of it), I kind of want to punch the person in the throat.

Do you really think that I don't want my kids to be readers? What kind of parent do you think I am? Of course I want my kids to be readers. Here's the thing, though: they are readers. My kids are already readers.

I read to them as babies, when I could. My son hated being read to. As soon as he was able to, he'd rip the book out of my hand & throw it across the room (prior to that, he would often scream until I put the book down). When he learned to crawl, he'd leave the room. When I could get either of them to stay in the room while I read, they paid no attention & were busy with anything else they could find.

Pretty much, once they could read on their own, I stopped reading to them. Every few years I would try again, because our read-alouds for holidays would go really well. Every time, the same thing would happen. They fight. They aren't comfortable & have to move every 30 seconds. They talk through the whole book. They play, yell, bounce around the room, and drive me nuts. Their disinterest combined with my hatred of reading aloud means that read-alouds are not something we do here.

Why do I hate reading aloud? Part of it is probably that I hate being the center attention (something many people find difficult to believe considering I was in several school performances, spent years in Show Choir, and entered the school Talent Show multiple times). Mostly, it is that reading aloud means I have to slow down. I read fast. I talk fast. In high school, I had to do a 3 minute oral report. I planned for 5 minutes & finished in 1.5 minutes. When reading aloud to someone, you can't go at that speed. I have to slow down so much to read aloud, that it becomes completely unenjoyable for me.

Most importantly, I don't feel bad that I don't read to them or that I didn't read to them daily when they were younger. I know that a lot of people talk about how important it is to read to your kids. There are people who firmly believe that you can't possibly raise readers if you don't read to them daily, even after they can read on their own. Well, guess what? That is complete bullshit.

Studies (sorry, I don't feel like looking some up to give links) have shown that it is just as important, if not more so, that kids have access to plenty of reading materials & role models who read. In other words, if your kids see you read for fun & have access to plenty of things to read, they will read.

Far more important to me, than any study, is my experience. I remember my dad reading exactly 1 book to me as a kid. It was Pinocchio. He didn't finish it. When I read it to my kids, I read that exact same copy, and it still had the bookmark where he left off. I don't recall my parents ever reading anything else to me. I'm sure they read to me as a baby & probably as a toddler. I'm just as certain that they stopped reading to me once I could read for myself (at the latest). Did this cause me to be a struggling reader? No. If asked, my parents & any teacher who dealt with me would describe me as an early reader, a strong reader, a fast reader, and a voracious reader. Nobody would describe me as having any problems in the reading department. I was reading at a post-high school level in elementary school. I devour books & have since I was very young. Obviously, my parents' lack of reading aloud to me didn't hurt my reading skills or enjoyment. To be honest, I don't even remember seeing my parents read all that often. We had books, though, and I had libraries. Having access to reading materials is all it took for me to be a great reader.

As I have already said, we don't do daily read-alouds. My kids have always had access to reading materials. We have tons of magazines & thousands of books. They each have their own bookshelves/bookcase & their own books. They have each gotten a book for Christmas & birthdays every year of their lives. They also have parents who both read. They see us both reading, all the time. We take weekly trips to the library, where they are allowed to check out as many books as they think they can read. Our librarians know us by name. They have told us that they need more families like ours. We come in every week & return dozens of books. We leave with at least three bags of books. At least two of us have actually hit the limit of books we are allowed to have checked out at one time. Like me, a lack of daily read-alouds hasn't caused any problems with their reading. My daughter was reading fluently by the time she started Kindergarten. My son taught himself to read before age 5. Both kids read for hours every day.

I'm not saying it is not good to read to your kids. I'm not saying that reading to your kids won't help them become strong, life-long readers. What I am saying is that reading to your kids daily is not the only way to get strong, life-long readers. Access to reading materials & role models who read are just as, if not more, important. So, if you, like me, don't read to your kids every day until their 18th birthday, don't worry. Not only are you not alone, but you likely aren't preventing them from becoming great readers. (I say likely because I don't know everything about you & you may be doing something else that is preventing them from becoming great readers) As for those of you respond with horrified looks & gasps when someone tells you that they don't read to their kids, get off your high horse. People don't like condescending pricks who assume that the way they do things is the only or best way for everyone to do things.