Today’s Parent Post is by my friend, Martha
Rodriguez. Her books, A Reel Cool Summer, Smell
My Feet! 10 Seriously Silly and Sweet Short Stories for
Squirts, and What about Barnaby? are a
delightful stories with fun well-defined characters. When Martha wrote about
being a reluctant reader, I knew I had to talk her into letting me
use it here. Thanks, Martha!
I was a Reluctant Reader. There, I said it!
I’ve been hearing and reading quite a bit about
reluctant readers lately. I’ve found that some of the folks talking or writing
about the subject weren’t reluctant readers themselves, but have
children or know others who are. I was a reluctant reader as a child so I
thought I would address the topic from my perspective.
Come to think of it, I’m probably still a reluctant reader.
When I buy or borrow a book you can be sure that I have researched it
thoroughly before taking the plunge. I won’t just pick something up and give it
a try because I know that I probably won’t get past the first few pages. This
has been true for a long time.
I remember reading the Dick and Jane books as a child, but
I’m not sure those books count because they were required reading in my first
few years of school. And, yes, I read Dr. Seuss books and some of the other
books that were popular, like Caps for Sale and the Curious
George books. If my memory serves me correctly, I remember that those books
were just “okay.” You’re probably upset with me right now and I’ll probably get
some interesting comments for writing that.
I read those books because they were familiar and easy to
read, not because I couldn’t put them down. I read them because they
were always easily available in my elementary school classroom, not because I
always had to have a book in hand. I read them because they were the books that
the librarians propped up on the shelves, not because it was a read or die
I’m not saying that
they weren’t and aren’t wonderful books. They have stood
the test of time and are terrific books loved by all. What I’m saying is that I
was not a reader. There were a few rare occasions when I picked up a book,
like Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl or Helen
Keller’s The Story of My Life, and read it cover to cover in one or
two sittings but that was quite rare.
What was wrong with me? Nothing. Who was to blame? Not a
I just preferred to play hopscotch outside with friends,
play with Barbie dolls, or watch television. Some of you will recall that we
used to do those things back in the dinosaur age… I mean in the 70’s. I’m sure
that my parents, teachers and librarians tried everything they could to spark a
love of reading in me, but it just wasn’t happening. The only time I
ever thought about reading was when there was a reading assignment and a
subsequent report due. My thoughts were mostly of how horrible the whole ordeal
would be. What could I do about it? Nothing, just read the book and do the
assignment. I disliked (we weren’t allowed to say “hated” in my
family) every minute of it.
Does everyone like peas and carrots or jumping out of an
airplane? No. So, is it possible that not everyone likes reading? I know, it
seems weird that I’m asking that, especially because I just wrote a children’s
Well, the truth is that we would all be very happy if
everyone liked to read but the reality is that not everyone does. Yes, reading
plays a critical role in expanding vocabulary and comprehension, in unleashing
imagination and creativity, and in growing curiosity in children. The problem
is that it can’t be forced on someone any more than you can force a person to
eat their peas and carrots (believe me, my parents tried and somehow I always
found a little hiding place for them) or to jump out of an airplane (my husband
would like to try to convince me but knows better).
So, what do we do? We keep trying just like my parents,
teachers, and librarians did because we want to give our kids the best we can.
It takes a bit of patience and some imagination to find the right fit for each
child but if you can get that spark, it’s all worth it.
I’m not a teacher or a librarian and I certainly don’t play
one on TV, but as a reluctant reader and the mom of a somewhat reluctant
reader, let me give you some ideas that I’ve used successfully.
1. Books you enjoyed as a child: Read to
your child the books you enjoyed as a child or young adult. Tell them why you
liked the books, where you read them (in a fort you built in your room, for
example), how you came upon the books, and who read them with you (mom, dad,
2. Books that interest your child: Always
be ready to read books that interest them, even if they don’t necessarily
interest you. This one can be tough. Remember it’s not about you; it’s about
your child and that spark you want to create.
3. Picture books and books with pictures: When
children are very young, picture books are wonderful because, while the child
may not yet be able to read, the pictures are fun for little ones to look at.
They will probably memorize the story before they can read the words. Once they
are able to read the story, they will enjoy the book in a completely different
way. In a funny twist, small children may also like books that are not
necessarily meant for children but that have colorful pictures. You can relay
the information in the text by tailoring it to their comprehension level. Make
up stories for the pictures until they are old enough to understand the actual
4. Different genre: Read all types of books
with your child to find out which ones he or she likes best. If one
genre isn’t appealing, try something new as long as it is age and
reading level appropriate. Historical fiction, current events (even newspapers,
magazines and on-line blogs or articles) and biographies may interest him or
5. Sports and animals: Children’s sports
magazines with interviews of favorite athletes may encourage a child to read
more about a particular sport or her favorite team member. Likewise, animal
magazines usually feature unusual creatures and their unusual lives. It’s a fun
peek into another world and a reason to find more reading material of the cool
6. School topics: Find books or fun
workbooks about topics your child likes in school like math or science. Even
fun workbooks require reading comprehension, writing and focus. When the
problems are fun to solve, they will most likely look for harder ones to
challenge themselves. Even young children like to peek under secret flaps or
follow a winding road to find their favorite characters.
7. Magic or science kits: Magic and science
experiment kits are a great way to get your hands on reading and a great way to
show what you can do with a magic wand or a test tube.
8. Comic books: Age appropriate comic books
are fun. The pictures are detailed and engaging and allow children to escape to
different worlds. It’s fun to imagine living in a strange world of superheroes
with superpowers. Children may even be encouraged to write their own
9. Mad Libs: Fill-in-the-blank books like
Mad Libs and others are a fun way to be silly and giggly. They won’t even know
they’re reading and… added bonus, writing. They can even try to write their own
10 Board games: Play board games with age
appropriate trivia questions. If your child doesn’t know the answer,
it can be fun to explore on-line or at your local library for the answer or to
learn more about the topic.
11. Cooking, crafting, exploring: Find
cooking or craft activities to do together or go exploring in your back yard
with a bug book and magnifying glass or a telescope and astronomy book.
12. Plays and movies: Buy or borrow books
of plays and help the kids put on a production for family and friends or make a
movie. Sometimes getting into costume can make reading fun.
13. Scavenger Hunts: Pick a
theme, like movies, books, or video games, and hide items related to the
theme. Then write up some silly (and long-winded) clues or
hints to where the items may be hidden and let the hunt begin. Another
great way to do a scavenger hunt is to give the kiddos a list of
items and ask them to take pictures of the items (a mall, a park, and the
beach are great places to do it this way). Then, ask them to write a
story about the pictures. You mean they’ll be writing, too? Now
Don’t stop there. Ask your child’s teacher or librarian for
more ideas, be a good example by reading books for pleasure, listen carefully
to your child when he tells you why he likes or dislikes certain books, and
relax and let him or her take the lead from time to time. You never know… she
may write a book some day!
Safety first! Parents should always supervise children
when working with science kits, cooking and crafting, or when going on-line.
Until next time… stay cool!
Author and Publisher
Martha Rodriguez is the author of the children’s books A
Reel Cool Summer, Smell My Feet! 10 Seriously Silly and Sweet Short Stories for
Squirts, and What about Barnaby? She is also
the owner of Read To Me Publishing, LLC.
Martha was born
in Havana, Cuba and immigrated to the United States with her family at the age
of three. She is a wife and the mother to three awesome kids. Like
most moms, she has had many years of experience answering the question, “We’re
bored, what can we do?” One answer to that question brought about
the story behind A Reel Cool Summer where her real kids are
Smell My Feet! is a collection of short stories,
for children ages 7-10, which she original published on her blog. An
angel, a hero, and a cute dog named Charlie are some of the characters you’ll
meet. Don’t be surprised if you recognize yourself, a crazy uncle, or a
friend in one of them.
Barnaby? is Martha’s
first middle-grade fiction book about two friends who try to solve the mystery
of Barnaby the dog’s disappearance. Neighborhood friends chip in to help
the boys find Mr. Jensen’s mutt. Will a new detective agency be born?
visiting elementary schools in person and through Skype to help kids get
excited about reading and writing!
She has been
active in her church as well as her children’s schools, volunteering wherever
her talents were in demand. She is a supporter of literacy initiatives and has
been a volunteer Adult Literacy Tutor with Literacy Volunteers of Leon County
(LVLC). She served on the Board of Directors of LVLC from 2008-2011 as a
member, the Vice President, and as Fundraising Committee Chair.
Martha and her husband, Jose, live in Tallahassee, Florida.
Thanks again, Martha – great stuff!