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How I Taught My Son To Read... And Love It!

By: Laura Bankston
Internationally Selling Author of "Cooking With Kids"

It seems like yesterday I sat across from my son Nathan, frustrated. His fingers were reaching under his glasses to wipe away his tears. He hated reading and I didn’t understand why. I wanted him to love reading so his education and personal growth would be limitless, but I knew that would never happen if he continued to hate it. That day, I knew things had to change.

When I started to homeschool, I pictured myself as the traditional teacher making all the decisions and Nathan following whether he liked it or not. Well, obviously, he didn’t like reading. I needed to know why, so I asked him about it. You know what? He told me EXACTLY why: he hated the books, he thought they were boring, and he wanted to pick his own.

That totally blew me away. I had underestimated his ability to participate in the direction of his education!

Okay, so Nathan thought his books were boring. Not the end of the world, but that got me thinking. I suddenly realized that my “nationally acclaimed” reading program taught reading, but it didn’t teach reading enjoyment. And he needed to enjoy reading. So, I kept the parts of the program he liked, and I packed away those distasteful reading books.

The next thing I did was let Nathan show me his interests. We went to the bookstore, and I showed him potential books. Boy, was I shocked again! He picked books on treasure hunting, baseball stars, and space exploration. He didn’t even realize these books were harder and was ready to dive in. I had always given him fiction, but he was only interested in non-fiction. That day at the bookstore, I caught the first glimpse of excitement in Nathan. I was relieved to know that I was headed in the right direction.

After our book purchases, I knew I had the right material, but the books alone weren’t going to solve our problems. I decided to abandon the kitchen table location and make a new, fun reading place. Nathan is a comfort bug who would go to bed with 20 feather pillows and 50 blankets if I let him. So, I got him a “reading” bean-bag. From then on, he ran to his bean bag and pillows to nestle down to read.

No more tears—hallelujah!

My next inspiration came from a Japanese Proverb, “One kind word can warm three winter months,” and I began to incorporate praise. Nathan would read a word, and I would say, “Wow. Good job.” His smile lit up the room. When he read a difficult word, I immediately raved. “You got it! That one was hard!” He would stop and brag about some other difficult things, and we chatted pleasantly before continuing.

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At the end of the next page, I would exclaim, “Wow! You read that really fast. Good job.”

As you can imagine, we had lots of smiles, but that’s not all. Since praise worked so well, I decided to add humor since laughter does good like medicine. And I wanted smiles and laughter associated with reading.

Nathan read, “The big brown cat jumped onto the roof,” and just before he read “roof” I piped in with “moon.” He loved it! For the rest of the story, I popped in with totally off-the-wall words that got him giggling so hard he couldn't stop. That’s what I wanted to see!

Now that we had a positive experience reading together, I wanted to work on his enjoyment for reading alone. To accomplish that, I decided to start a reward system. Things had been so dire for us, I set his first reward at finishing five books. But even though Nathan was so excited to tell his Dad that he was going to get three goldfish, he never started working toward his goal.

I had to do something about that. I wasn't sure what, but I knew I’d find the answer. It practically fell into my lap.

Nathan hated bed time, and he had difficulty falling asleep. Every night I’d walk past his bedroom and hear, “Mom, I can’t sleep.” But, now, instead of being annoyed, I was inspired to solve two problems at once.

I got Nathan a book light. I told him he could stay up as late as he wanted, but he could only read. His eyes were wide with amazement in being granted such a privilege. I chuckled inside, knowing my plan was going to work.

Every night he got out his book light; chose his book; and settled down in his bean bag, pillow, and blanket nest. In no time flat, we were at Wal-Mart buying fish.

Amazing things can be accomplished with talking, listening, and adapting. I’m thrilled beyond words that I don’t wipe tears away every day, anymore. Instead, every night, I tiptoe into Nathan’s room and turn off his book light. He’s a reader and he loves it!


Editors Note:

Laura Bankston is author of the internationally selling "Cooking With Kids" Curriculum. She runs a successful professional service business, homeschools her three children, and assists other homeschooling families. For "Cooking With Kids" and free homeschool support, visit her site at

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