My daughter is coming up for seven and she is amazing. She is caring, kind, thoughtful, beautiful inside and out. She rocks at karate and loves to draw. She can build complicated Lego sets and tell you every detail of what happened in the latest Sofia the First (and why).
But she hates reading.
As an avid reader, and an author, it’s the hardest thing for me to have raised a reluctant reader. I wonder what I did wrong. Did I spend too many hours playing on the iPad instead of curled up with a book? Did I set the wrong example?
We have read stories to our children every single night before bed. We go to the library several days a week. My daughter reads her homework book every morning, and reads with skill and expression. She is reading a year or two above her age, and can tackle the most complicated words. But ask her if she likes reading and she’ll say not really.
It causes me no end of worry. Raising a reader is seen as the parenting holy-grail. Reading allows you to experience a thousand lives that are not yours, get inside the heads of others, escape from life, be happy. As a parent I want that so desperately for my child.
But, here’s the thing. Maybe she doesn’t need to escape. When I was a child, reading was the main stimulation. I could travel off on the Faraway Tree, escape the mundane. I could hide from the rows inside the covers of a book.
Now, though, stimulation is everywhere. Computer games are like mini stories, with graphics so real you could be inside them. The right television shows (I’m thinking Cbeebies and Disney) are full of adventure and wonder, great characters, impressive songs, moral stories.
My daughter would rather write stories than read them (I wonder where she gets that from?) And she’s more logical and practical than whimsical and creative. She’d as soon read a book on Space Junk as a tale about fairies.
My son is different. He’s desperate to learn to read. He loves role play and creating stories with his superheros. My daughter builds the Lego and my son plays with it. So perhaps it isn’t me at all. Maybe my parenting isn’t lacking. Maybe it’s okay to be a reluctant reader.
And maybe my daughter doesn’t need to escape. We have a happy life (not saying I didn’t as a child). This half term we have done spooky Halloween treasure hunts, stately home tours, climbed trees, played in the water fountains, tried ten-pin bowling, drawn and painted, glued and sellotaped. We’ve had cuddles, and baked cakes. Life is good.
Hopefully a love of reading will come. There is such a wonderful world to be discovered in the pages of a book. But, if she doesn’t, perhaps it doesn’t matter all that much. She’s still amazing.