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what reading for 12/13yo who hates to read


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I just can't anymore with this kid. 

His vision is fixed.  We went through vision therapy when he was 11 and it is near 100% perfect now.  He has no learning disabilities.   He is a great writer when he is interested in the topic and when it is due for another instructor.  He is very, very gifted in math and science.  

He can read well.  His comprehension is good when he cares.  We do a lot of shared reading so that I can make sure he is actually doing it because otherwise he will only skim.  

The only book he ever liked and read without complaining, and then read the sequel, was The Wild Robot.  We have had years where I bought Abeka readers because they have many short stories with comprehension questions. Working through living books is just torture because he hates it all. 

I am considering having him listen to audiobooks for literature studies.  The thing is that I really want him to increase his reading stamina and build strong reading comprehension.  This kid is SO smart.  His understanding of science is really incredible.  The math that he can do in his head and the logic problems that he can solve blow me away.  But I know he will never reach his potential in high school and college if he is held back by reading.  

Any advice?  (Booklists really don't matter at this point.  I have tried them all.)  

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Well, you've pretty much run through everything I would have suggested:
- vision issue -- now fixed; check
- learning disabilities -- nope; check
- do regular shared reading -- check
 

The only other thing I can think of is that his brain is locked onto something else, and books just don't cut it for him in comparison:

1. Electronics and screen use?
That can interfere with ability of the brain to settle and focus/read. Or interfere with interest in reading (i.e., everything else pales beside the color/motion/flashing lights of electronic games).

2. Outside adventure seeker?
Similarly, for some people, books can seem pretty boring compared to climbing, building, riding bikes or working with machines, interacting with animals, etc.

3. Music or other hobby that he is obsessed with?
People with hyper-focus tendencies are very devoted to their interest or hobby, and other activities, such as reading, feel like an annoying interruption...
 

Two quick questions:
1. How is he with learning from / retaining info from / studying from a textbook?
2. Can he (and *does* he) read lengthy nonfiction books on topics of high interest to him? And can he read nonfiction books/magazines/websites that have complex/above reading level info

If he has the reading stamina and comprehension for those types of books, AND since you are doing a lot of together aloud reading for actual literature, then perhaps you are doing all you can?? Some people just hate reading fiction. And some just hate reading--period.

It that is the case, then you may have to settle for "can read/comprehend when he needs to... just doesn't love to read." Ug. I know. Sorry.

Sort of like how cursive (and even handwriting in general) is going away as everyone is switching to electronic formats, these days, tons of students are using audiobooks for their middle/high school literature.

For example: in my high school co-op Lit. & Writing class last year, I had a HUGE number of students who used audiobooks. I strongly encouraged them to read along in the print book while listening so they could still underline things, and make quick annotations in the margins of the book. And, it really encourages them into fuller brain engagement with the work if they are not only listening but also READING the words at the same time. Many of them did that. However, I also had some students with dyslexia and other reading issues, so audiobooks is what they relied on -- and these students had terrific memories from having used audiobooks so much, so only listening to the audiobook version didn't seem to hinder their understanding of the books or ability to engage in class discussion...

Also, if your student is in a public school system, a lot of the Common Core reading/literature is shifting away from classics and traditional fiction, in order to include a large amount of nonfiction and contemporary fiction, and neither of these types of book types tend to be as long or require as much depth of thinking/wrestling while reading --  so reading stamina and comprehension for physically reading plus understanding older classics may not be issues by high school...

I know, that's not helpful for encouraging reading strategies or love of reading -- but it may help you think through how to balance what would be realistic vs. needful vs. your personal desires for this particular student...


Keep up the shared reading!
I would absolutely encourage continuing the reading aloud together "buddy style" ("you read a page, I read a page"), as that will help immensely with being able to discuss the Literature in the moment when you start doing more formal literary studies.

A few other ideas:
- He's 12yo -- that seems old enough to have a discussion about reading -- sort of like an end-of-school year survey, lol:
   * what he likes/doesn't like about reading and WHY
   * what would make reading more interesting
   * or, if not more interesting, what would help reduce the boredom or dislike of reading/books?
- Does he just have an extremely narrow range of books that are of interest? Is it possible to build a booklist that includes books in that extremely narrow range to start with
- You mention he is so smart -- Are the books way below his interest level? Would he be more engaged with books that require more thinking?
- Is there a way to do literature and discuss with another sibling or two simultaneous with this DS? Or include a few homeschooling friends as a book club? That sometimes makes reading/discussing books more interesting -- or at least less tedious, lol.
- Would he be more responsive (and responsible, lol) to the reading if it's outsourced?


BEST of luck in finding what helps! Warmest regards, Lori D. 

 

Edited by Lori D.
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Lori, I can always count on you for great advice and much to think about!

Screens - he was barely allowed until the pandemic.  About 30 minutes of Prodigy Math a day, that's it.  Now I let him play for about an hour when all of his work is done. 

Adventure seeker/hobbies, YES.  He craves activity.  He rides horses once a week and does Taekwon-Do (currently on zoom.)  He has an incredible hobby of modifying Nerf blasters.  He buys old/used Nerf, takes them apart, 3-D prints new parts, replaces motors and springs with super motors, re-wires them.  In fact, here is the one and only book that he has read over and over -- The Nerf Blaster Modification Guide  He learns the majority of these techniques from the author of this book on his YouTube channel.   

Textbook reading - poor retention. 

Lengthy non-fiction -- NO.  I think he would rather clean toilets and I'm serious.  (He did listen to and enjoy all of the Harry Potter audiobooks during *mandatory* reading time, however.)  

Complex non-fiction -- I'm not sure.  He is very averse to textbooks. 

He definitely retains the *most* information from direct teaching and videos.  And this is my concern.  Higher level science will require complex textbook reading, no? 

I fear that I simply have a non-reader 😕 but also that he never developed reading stamina from years of avoiding it due to the vision problems.  I will say that he developed incredible mental math strategies during that time, in an effort to avoid writing out work on paper.  But still.  

I can't pair him with my DD for literature because she is a voracious reader that would leave him in the dust.  We have always done read-alouds together, though, and he does enjoy those.  I'm currently spending a lot of money to outsource his science, math, and writing.  I want to keep literature simple because it's an easy one to NOT outsource.  

I'm thinking that I will switch his literature to audiobooks and discussion with me.  I also ordered The Reading Detective to switch things up.  I like that it has excerpts from real literature.  

My big fear in this is that I won't prepare him well enough for hard textbook reading and the SATs, which will hold him back in life.  

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It sounds like even though his vision is fixed, the habits of mind that his vision problem fostered have yet to be changed.

I'd focus on finding challenging works that are also engaging and the reading them aloud to him.  Discuss (informally, as in, have a conversation) as you go.  Make reading a social experience that you enjoy together.  I would not use audiobooks for this piece.

At the same time, assign books that are well within his reading ability that you are pretty sure he will find compelling.  Anything that you're sure he will enjoy will do--it does not have to be literary or schoolish--anything that will draw him and and make him need to know what happens.  Gradually increase the complexity of the works you choose as he develops more stamina.

As for audiobooks, I would allow him to listen to them if he wants to during his free time.

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On 1/13/2021 at 11:42 AM, EKS said:

It sounds like even though his vision is fixed, the habits of mind that his vision problem fostered have yet to be changed.

I'd focus on finding challenging works that are also engaging and the reading them aloud to him.  Discuss (informally, as in, have a conversation) as you go.  Make reading a social experience that you enjoy together.  I would not use audiobooks for this piece.

At the same time, assign books that are well within his reading ability that you are pretty sure he will find compelling.  Anything that you're sure he will enjoy will do--it does not have to be literary or schoolish--anything that will draw him and and make him need to know what happens.  Gradually increase the complexity of the works you choose as he develops more stamina.

As for audiobooks, I would allow him to listen to them if he wants to during his free time.

Thanks for your feedback 🙂 

I do agree that the initial vision problems are likely the root of this. 

The thing with reading aloud to him is that I have always done that.  We almost always have a read aloud going that both kids engage in and discuss which has been a wonderful, fun, and enriching time for us. So what I am talking about is in addition to our family read aloud.  I am at the point where I do not want to read everything to him anymore and I don't think I should have to since he is capable.  We have done shared reading for his government class and literature all year.  As far as assigning compelling books, I am not exaggerating when I say that he complains about everything.  

So yesterday I got the audio book for Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer out from the library.  This is a book that he has complained about and dragged his feet reading.  We have done shared reading with it and I have made him read it on his own and narrate.  He is *very* capable of reading it.  Well today he listened to three chapters and *excitedly* told me what was happening.  We also started The Reading Detective for comprehension practice. 

So that is what I'm going to try for now.  I'm going to assign literature as audio books and *I* will pick the books.  No more choice!  Who knows, maybe he will actually like some of the books that he has previously turned his nose up at.  

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  • 3 weeks later...

Update:

My reading-averse child is now on his 5th audio book in 2.5 weeks.  He listens way longer than he has to for school and again before bed by choice.  The Reading Detective activities indicate that he is comprehending just fine and he can support his answers with the text. I'm totally at peace with this approach for now and so happy that I can get some good literature into him without tears AND without me reading it all! 

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Can you meet him more where he is?

Let lit be audiobooks and shared read alouds...  move personal reading in other directions --  Have you tried things like Hakim history of science - narrative nonfiction, not a textbook? Or fun things sciencey things What If? By Randall Munroe. Or Mary Roach's Packing for Mars. 

If he liked the nerf mod book how about more project based books ... things that lead to hands on projects. I remember my youngest loving this one-

https://smile.amazon.com/dp/0761183949/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_fabc_QZ7SSYB2NQ293ZPE2XPJ

The EVIL Genius books are fun-

https://smile.amazon.com/dp/1259861465/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_fabc_CPKM63B5QX1SXK0A329Y

 

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My very physical older brother was the one kid in my family growing up who just did NOT enjoy reading.  My mom had to sit with him through his high school lit homework; I have no idea how he made it through college.  Fast forward about ten years, when he came walking into my parents house with a book under his arm.  He sheepishly admitted, "Well, I spend so much time sitting around airports and on planes...I decided reading really isn't so bad after all."  So it may happen eventually, but perhaps not when you'd like.

I've got two kids who are sometimes-readers.  My youngest (9) also had vision issues that are theoretically corrected, but DD11 just needs to be in the right mood and have the right book.  I've tried not to stress.  It's not that they DON'T read.  They read video game Wikis, comic books, complex picture books, magazine articles I leave lying on the counter...just not novels.  You've gotten plenty of wonderful advice, but I thought I'd add this in case it helps:

One thing I did this year to ensure that everyone is reading at least something: I started Family Book Club for our lit studies.  (Okay, so DH doesn't participate, but the rest of us do.)  I pick a book and assign a set number of pages to read for the week (50-60, depending on the book).  I threatened that if they read ahead, they need to know exactly where in the story they were supposed to stop so they don't ruin it for the rest of us; that seems to have encouraged everyone to pace themselves and spread out the reading so they don't get ahead (though DD does complain that sometimes she's DYING to know what happens and can hardly restrain herself).  Every Friday, we gather around and snack while discussing what we've read for that week.  I like it because it ensures that everyone is reading at least a little bit, it allows me to check their comprehension without being too contrived, and it provides the opportunity for me to broaden their horizons a bit, as they each tend to have certain genres or authors that they prefer.  And like you said, we can have some great discussions!  Maybe that would be an option that would allow you to study as a family while taking their reading pace into account?  (My reading-lovers have other books going at the same time, which is how they can survive only reading a few chapters of our book club book.)

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  • 1 month later...

I have gone to mostly audiobooks with my now 9th grader. This was hard for me because I am very much a visual learner and I had a huge bias that listening is not reading. However, I knew that he is a slow reader and I felt like it was going to be hard to have him cover what we wanted to cover by reading. So I reluctantly told him he could do mostly audio. 

It has been FANTASTIC.  I have really realized he is an auditory learner. He also has ADD and just can focus better on the audio. He often draws while he listens. He actually often listens on double speed, which neither his brother ( a voracious reader) or I can believe. We joke that he is a fast listener/slow reader and we are slow listeners/fast readers. And I think there is truth there. He has rediscovered a love of books through audiobooks and is blowing through books, even ones I don't assign. Things like Farenheit 451 and complicated environmental science books and psychology and philosophy. 

I do have him read some books, because we can't always find what we want on audio. And I do think he needs to learn the skill of reading and retaining info (just like I as a visual learner had to learn the skill of listening to a lecture and taking notes). But it's much less pressure for him to not have to do it for everything and for us to be able to look at it as a skill he is developing rather than one that he needs right now in order to enjoy and learn from books. 

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3 minutes ago, Alice said:

I have gone to mostly audiobooks with my now 9th grader. This was hard for me because I am very much a visual learner and I had a huge bias that listening is not reading. However, I knew that he is a slow reader and I felt like it was going to be hard to have him cover what we wanted to cover by reading. So I reluctantly told him he could do mostly audio. 

It has been FANTASTIC.  I have really realized he is an auditory learner. He also has ADD and just can focus better on the audio. He often draws while he listens. He actually often listens on double speed, which neither his brother ( a voracious reader) or I can believe. We joke that he is a fast listener/slow reader and we are slow listeners/fast readers. And I think there is truth there. He has rediscovered a love of books through audiobooks and is blowing through books, even ones I don't assign. Things like Farenheit 451 and complicated environmental science books and psychology and philosophy. 

I do have him read some books, because we can't always find what we want on audio. And I do think he needs to learn the skill of reading and retaining info (just like I as a visual learner had to learn the skill of listening to a lecture and taking notes). But it's much less pressure for him to not have to do it for everything and for us to be able to look at it as a skill he is developing rather than one that he needs right now in order to enjoy and learn from books. 

That is awesome! 😄 

About 1/3 of my Lit. & Comp. co-op students in 2019-2020 had some sort of LD, and they all used audiobooks / audio recordings (many of them doing so alongside the book itself) for going through the lit. It was a HUGE help for them, and helped them enjoy the lit. A number of the NON strugglers with NO LDs also like to listen to their lit. -- so there are a lot of auditory learners out there, esp. if the family has done a lot of read-alouds all through the years. 😄 

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