On the Love of Reading

Disclaimer: Before launching into this post, let me state that I don’t believe that a person who loves reading is any more intelligent or thoughtful or successful than the person who doesn’t. This is a stigma in our school-loving society, and one I don’t agree with.  There are countless other ways to keep your brain active and to gain knowledge. However, it is still a trait that many of us posess and would hope to see in our children. That is what I will be addressing in this post.


When I was an English teacher (gasp!), I went to a very interesting English teacher conference with three of my colleagues. To be honest, I cannot remember what most of the workshops I went to were about, but I do remember a conversation I had with my friend and colleague on the drive back. We’ll call her Cindy…because that’s her name. 

As English teachers, Cindy and I both esteemed books and felt that instilling the love of reading into our students was a primary goal. However, when we both investigated the source of our own bibliophilia, we realized that it did not come from school, but from home. How, then as English teachers, were we supposed to help our kids love books? We really didn’t come up with any solutions during that drive, except that somehow we wanted parents to model reading for pleasure.

In my classroom, I tried to help my kids enjoy reading their assigned books. Most notably, at the beginning of Animal Farm, a pretty short and simple book, I encouraged my kids to get comfy, grab a snack and forget about taking notes when they read. I had scheduled twice the amount of time to read that book as I normally would so that they wouldn’t feel rushed to read a chapter each night. I told them that if they got tired while reading, they should just go to sleep. Chapter quizzes were infrequent and just covered basic, obvious information.  I wanted to take the pressure off so they could actually enjoy the book. Things went well at first, but the system kept creaping in. First, there were kids who really didn’t care about Orwell and his fictitious farm, yet they were required to participate. Second, I ended up running out of time at the end and had to rush to get back on schedule. And, third, I had to have some sort of assessment to show that these kids read the book and learned something from it.  With that, any freedom I had been able to grant had completely evaporated.

With unschooling, there’s really not that same stress about “instilling a love of reading” as there is in a schooled environment. We model to our kids what we want for them. My son sees my husband and I reading for pleasure and information on a near-daily basis.  Unschooled kids get absolute freedom to read what they want and when. They can stop a book halfway through or read it twice in a row. They don’t have to take comprehension quizzes or write book reports.  If they aren’t perfect readers by a certain age, that’s fine. If they hate Shakespeare, that’s fine. If they read comic books all day, that’s fine. And, if they dislike reading altogether, that’s fine too. Without the pressure to read, most kids do enjoy it. But, if they don’t, we need to trust their instincts and let them read, or not, in their own time.

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One Comment on "On the Love of Reading"

  1. Brandy
    13/05/2010 at 10:29 am Permalink

    I really appreciated this post. I have three unschooled children that run the reading gamut; my 11 year old son loves to read, my 9 year old daughter hates to read, and my 6 year old daughter is struggling to read (a lot of dyslexia symptoms). Friends and family are always praising my son, who always has a book in hand; although, they do ask if he is going to write a book report on it so that I’ll know that he “really” read it! Seriously?!? In the same moment, they turn to my daughter(s) and want to know why she isn’t reading, what she has read lately, or why she can’t read fluently yet. Extremely frustrating!!!

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