Should I Be a Force-Reader?

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In my household, it's darn near impossible to get two of my kids to read. I have devised a plan to win this loss-of-reading war!

That’s me in the image — that’s what I was like. I couldn’t wait to read at night. I loved nothing more than reading sprawled on top of my bed or deep in its covers. I still read in bed, although I’m apt to just drop off after a paragraph or two these days. So, when I started fretting about my youngest — and how he absolutely doesn’t like to be told to read — I felt it deeply. I don’t think I would be anything at all without reading a lot as a kid. Who would I be without learning as much as I did from all of that reading? Reading great books I wept over?  I could not possibly be me without that history, that tapestry … that let me discover about life all on my own … without my parents’ preaching.
I say to my kids, “You’ve got to read!” And my older boy says, “I DO read, Mom! I read online …” Well, there’s that, but he’s talking about sports articles and links on Yahoo and such. I say to my younger boy, “Give me 20 minutes!” And he says, “Ten!” It’s awful. And so disheartening. And I think, at the risk of sounding like a mother, whatever will become of him?!
What to do? If I could somehow convey to the boys what they’re missing! What it was like to be home on a Sunday afternoon with my brothers’ and sisters’ ambient noise downstairs, my mother cooking dinner — its delicious smell wafting up through the space below my closed door — and me, curled up, reading, reading, falling in. I have tried.
I read to all of my kids when they were babies. I read to them when they were toddlers. I still read to them now, only they are often distracted, antsy, wanting to do other things … digital. And I try over and over again to interest them in books, trying not to be too enthusiastic. Or being too enthusiastic. “Read Holes!” I cry to my youngest boy. “Read The Great Gatsby!” I beseech my older one. Even my 19-year-old doesn’t want to hear it because he’s a college kid and was forced to read Chaucer. “I’m taking the summer off,” he tells me, passing through the kitchen, blasé.
So, I ask you: Should I be a force-reader? Should I impose a strictness in my home whereby they MUST read, kind of like they MUST practice piano? I think I should. I am not a wuss. My kids have not walked all over me while they’ve grown but somehow I really screwed up the reading thing. I have books all over the house, all over my nightstand, in their rooms, in the kitchen, everywhere — so how did this happen?
It was not me. Something took over. And you know what it is. It’s a machine that offers so much more than a lowly book can (they think). Reading is for school, they think. It doesn’t matter that their brilliant grandfather sent them a list of the greatest books one can read in a lifetime. (E-mail me and I’ll send it to you). It’s that with digital comes the singular thought that the world is at my fingertips, why do I need a book?  And now they say babies are hooked on devices, too.
Anybody got a solution to all of this madness?
Dare I say … perhaps it’s in a book?

Susan Swindell Day is editor in chief of this publication and the mom of four great kids.

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