"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Kids and Reading, Kids and Writing, Kids that don't do anything.

My Top Tips for Kids Who Don't Read.

Why don't your kids read? Lots of reasons. Kids these days associate books with people like me, social losers who have no life and must resort to talking to an internet page that she's not quite sure anybody reads. That's the main reason why a lot of kids don't read - it's just not cool.

Another reason is that your kid might have dyslexia, learning difficulties, or confusion if you speak a different language at home then to the language being taught at school.

Another reason is that books are not really appealing to kids these days - they were when I was little (this was when I was four, in 2000), but now there are much more interesting, flashy things that are much easier to use and enjoy than a wad of paper.

But the biggest reason, I think, is that kids are given the wrong books to read. Every parent dreams that their kid will drown in books like Shakespeare and Austen and Bronte - but it doesn't happen, particularly if your child is eight and is more interested in soccer than Socrates. And this is something you can solve.

1. Any reading is better than no reading - yes, that means letting them read magazines and those trashy books that you don't think are 'classical' or 'wholesome'. Something - whether it be school requirements or a sudden realization that Dolly magazines don't really increase your IQ - will make your kid turn to classics in their own time. Until then, Saddle Club is perfectly adequate. Reading internet pages is actually a very wholesome book substitute, contrary to popular baby-boomer generation beliefs.

2. Get them to a library and set them loose - they will eventually find something, even if it is only a copy of Twilight. The books you bring home for them are not likely to appeal.

3. If I'm lucky enough to catch you whilst your child is still a baby, then this is the best way to make your kid a psychotically obsessed reader -

a) Read to them every single night, starting now. I don't care if your baby is three seconds old, three days old or tree years old - every single night without fail read to them. Try and find a picture book that they can grab (and spit their dinner) at.

b) Eventually your kid will ask to read to you instead of the other way around - don't push this or try and stop it, it will happen at some point.

c) Always have books around - have a bookshelf within easy reach, and read more often yourself. Young children will mimick their parents in whatever way they can think of. Don't keep books in areas associated with filth, punishment or discomfort - this means the 'time out' corner and the toilet, and certainly do not hit your child with a book (or anything, for that matter. Human rights, people.)

d)Visit the library regularly and let them borrow whatever they want. Buy books for birthdays and Christmas, and use them as bribes. Associate books with good things.

4. Things you should never, ever do.

a) Never, ever bribe your kid to read (I'll give you two dollars/a candy bar/half an hour of telly time if you read three pages). Never use reading as a punishment, either.

b) Never force a kid to read a book they don't want to read.

c) Never tell a kid off for just looking at the pictures and not actually reading the words - believe me, I still do that (with those thick heavy biographies of historical people nobody actually wants to read.)

d) Never demand a review, a synopsis or any 'work' of any sort after a kid has finished a book. Let them rant and rave about it, let them tell you exactly what they'd do and who they'd cast in a movie adaption of the book, but never set any tasks - that's a teacher's job.

Kids and Writing:

I have been writing - very badly - since I was four and read Harry Potter. My mother would say that most parents are not so unlucky as to have a four year old daughter who finishes Harry Potter before you do, whilst other parents have turned green with envy when that fat Asian girl beat their precious blonde darling (and the grade six teacher) in the spelling bee.

Kids who write aren't necessarily the smartest kids, although many of them think they are and think wrong. Kids who write aren't necessarily the most imaginative of kids, although again, many of them think they are and think wrong. It is pretty easy to figure out which kid is overreaching and which kid has genuine talent - the kid with genuine talent should be able to come up with something legible with reasonable flow, if utterly useless and boring, at around age six to eight. The overreaching kid will never produce anything at all coherent. Whether your kid is the overreaching type or the talented type (I have yet to find out which I am) encourage writing anyway - everyone needs to be able to write at a satisfactory level by adulthood - unless you live in Australia, where there are a variety of jobs that require little IQ that include scrubbing toilets and becoming a football player. You will very rarely find a kid who writes not because they like it, but because it's 'cool', because writing is very rarely 'cool'.

If your kid is a writer then chances are you have a very weird kid. A kid who will willingly try blue lipstick and red eyeshadow just for the hell of it, or wear plaid and pinstripes together just to see what the overall effect is. Your kid may have some form of autism or mental illness or learning disability of some sort, and your kid may be incredibly smart or incredibly dumb. Your kid will probably not be the most popular kid in school, or the first to have a boyfriend, or the one most likely to marry Hugh Hefner. Your kid may try a variety of things including adopting a British accent, dressing like a slut, insisting on wearing high heels at the age of ten, cutting a fringe, trying to cut their own fringe, dying their hair red, dumping whatever they can find that smells nice in the pantry into their bath, speaking Elizabethan for a day, trying to go vegetarian, attempting to cook and making homemade ice tea - and yes, I have done all of the foregoing. Try to love your kid, because there is a (very slim) chance that they will publish books, become famous, and pay for your retirement.

If your kid doesn't write, count your lucky stars because your kid most likely won't try blue lipstick or red eyeshadow, probably doesn't have a mental illness and will not try adopting a British accent, dressing like a slut, insisting on wearing high heels at the age of ten, cutting a fringe, trying to cut their own fringe, dying their hair red, dumping whatever they can find that smells nice in the pantry into their bath, speaking Elizabethan for a day, trying to go vegetarian, attempting to cook or make homemade ice tea. But, then again, your kid may be the most popular kid in the school, the first to get a boyfriend, the one most likely to marry Hugh Hefner, and may be destined for such humbling and miraculous fates of scrubbing toilets or playing football for a living - and that doesn't really sound appealing to me, although it may to you. Love this kid too, espcially if they really do end up marrying Hugh Hefner.

As for kids who don't do anything - they don't exist. Kids do a lot of things, it's just that the generations going and gone don't appreciate the internet and iPods and PlayStations, just as we don't appreciate bad 50's films, bad 60's fashion, bad 70's celebrity crushes, bad 80's fashion, bad 90's faux pas and bad 00's haircuts. Oh, and we never really understood the point of Airfix either.

5 comments:

Adelaide Dupont said...

Thank you for reminding us not to hit children with a book: literally or metaphorically.

Mimicking the parents is important. And mimicking/imitating adults and other children in general. There was a tip, vaguely, going around:

"The relationship is more important than compliance".

And this applies to point d) of "Kids and Reading". I enjoyed reading much more when I could share it with others, but this was after the fact. Summaries I did not enjoy very much, if only because they seldom tell you very much about the book.

There are many magazines out there. I would probably take the children to a newsagent, and check the sort of books which are available there. Or a market or a second-hand book store. These places are often magic and unexpected. For children, the school magazine (reading and writing) can be helpful. Many educational people publish them.

Here is an example of a classic and me. In 1992 I was eventually persuaded to read The Railway Children. A year later, The Secret Garden got me into reading, and it was because an older friend asked me questions about it. She also talked about the Babysitters Club.

There were some really interesting books in the 2000s.

An anthology of many writers may be helpful. I have discovered and followed many writers in that way.

What do you think about wordless books? Graphic novels have really captured the imagination.

"Kids who write aren't necessarily the smartest kids..." has a lot to unpack.

"It is pretty easy to figure out which kid is overreaching and which kid has genuine talent - the kid with genuine talent should be able to come up with something legible with reasonable flow, if utterly useless and boring, at around age six to eight."

Though I might have considered myself the "overreaching type" I was able to come up with flowing things.

Love the Hugh Hefner references and the saummation of 50 years. (60 years counting 2010).

Lady Renegade said...

When I was younger I would often pretend to read Pride and Prejudice, but I never found it as easy to read as my beloved Harry Potter. My first proper classic, I suppose, was A Little Princess, and soon afterwards I managed to finish Pride and Prejudice and enjoy it very much. I am still now not quite accustomed to classics - for me a book should be both easy to read but also have some depth and meaning - two goals I try to achieve in my own writing. I believe a book should neither be a waste of time or a catalyst for a headache.

Graphic novels never appealed to me in the same way normal novels do because I find that I don't really agree with a conventional artist's interpretation of a book - the only graphic novels I have laid hands on are adaptions, such as the Twilight graphic novel, which had some beautiful pictures but some seriously bad dialogue. I adore movies, though.

Adelaide Dupont said...

For me, Pride and Prejudice was comparatively easy to read, but I liked other Austen novels better, like Emma and Persuasion.

Hope you do find an original graphic novel which captures your attention.

Adelaide Dupont said...

Not to spoil a book that you might not have read, but the very end of The secret diary of Adrian Mole explains and subverts the point of Airfix.

(once I did some looking up to refresh my memory).

Quite near the remote controlled cars, there is a kit model shop full of equipment for all sorts of hobbies.

Blur Ting said...

LOL, you'll make a very good parent!