How School put a stop to my child’s habit of reading books

I was feeling pretty smug about a year ago. I had managed to pass on my love of reading to my daughter. All those years of reading aloud to her every night, sometimes for an hour at a time, had paid off. Even my ridiculous attempts at putting on different voices for each character (where I would invariably forget which one was which) had not put her off. As she got older, I tried to read ahead of her reading level, so that she would learn. I would still read her a bedtime story when she was 8 years old, even though she could read independently. If I took her with me on visits to friends, I knew that if she got bored she would just get out a book and lose herself in it. I would feel quietly superior, watching other children who needed television, video games; something that buzzed and bleeped.

At least I got one thing right, I congratulated myself. If a child reads for pleasure, they are set for life. Everyone knows that. It wasn’t only the educational advantages I was pleased about, though. Reading means so much to me, I was delighted to be able to read the same books as she did, to talk to her about books, and for us to share the excitement of a visit to a bookshop.

I knew she would change as she grew, but it never once occurred to me that she would lose all interest in reading.

Until she started high school.

There were the beginnings of some problems last year, while she was still at primary school. There were things happening in her life which made it hard for her to concentrate. I had to choose books carefully to hold her interest. She mostly read the Twilight series for that year. In class, she just wasn’t listening and she started to fall behind. She had more important things to sort out in her mind than school-work.

It shouldn’t have mattered, shouldn’t have affected her future, as she was only 10 years old. A child, who would be back on form just as soon as she could; who had her whole life to get back on form, surely? However, as any parent knows, this is not how life is for today’s children. There is no room for error, and only a limited number of chances, even at that age.

She was taking the SATS exams which would determine which set she was put in at high school, which determined the level of work she was given for her first year, and to some extent determined which friends she would choose. When the results came back, I knew that she had not done as well as she could have. She was put into a mixed ability class. She has made good friends, but none of them like to read.

She knows this, because the teachers carried out a quiz with the class, to see who read books in their leisure time. My daughter did not admit to reading any, in fact all of the children answered that they spent none of their leisure time reading. A letter was sent out to parents explaining that as a result of this survey, all children must now bring a ‘suitable book’ to school. The beginning of one lesson every day would be devoted to reading this book.

It sounds logical. It sounds like a good plan, to encourage children to read, and encourage parents to buy books. I can imagine it seemed a very good idea in the staff room.

The result has been that my daughter ONLY reads in school. She says that she gets confused if she reads more than one book at once, and she refuses to read her school book at home, either because she likes to seperate the two environments, or because she is already so swayed by peer pressure that she thinks it would be uncool to be seen to have done any reading outside of the classroom.

This well-intentioned move has snuffed out any remaining residue of interest that my daughter had in reading. By forcing children to disclose their reading habits in public, turning it into something that is monitored and enforced by school, these teachers have divested books of any glamour or excitement. I fear that I will never again happen upon my child hiding under the covers with a torch, sneakily reading a book, and think ‘that’s my girl’.

I can only hope that the effect of this wears off when they stop this clever initiative, and that one day I will again have the pleasure of seeing my daughter excited at the prospect of reading a book. Until then, all I can do is fume and complain that I have to entrust my precious child to this world, these people who get everything so wrong, when they should be doing things my way…


16 thoughts on “How School put a stop to my child’s habit of reading books

    • It’s such a shame! Makes me think about home educating my child (until I remember that I need to go to work and we couldn’t possibly spend all day together!) It’s a terrible thing to do to a child. I’m glad you at least recovered..

    • Thank you for commenting. I know that teachers do the best they can with the huge numbers of children they have to manage, but like you I often feel they have let my child down.

      I like the concept of being a good parent being linked to self improvement, on your blog. 🙂

  1. This is a strange phenomena to me, because my older daughter was like me. She has always loved to read. At school they would have “enforced reading” but she loved that, as long as she could pick her own book. She (and I, when I was in school) were the kids who didn’t groan when the teacher said it was time to get out a book and read. This was the part of the day we looked forward to, and managed to find friends who felt the same way. And if any of our friends didn’t feel the same way? So what? THAT is how much we loved to read. She is 22 now and still loves to read. My 12-year old daughter doesn’t love to read as much, but still likes to read. I have a feeling in her case, it has a lot to do with internet, youtube, and other screen-time technology that wasn’t available when I was growing up and not available as much when my oldest daughter was growing up.

    In contrast, my 22-year-old son (the twin of my older daughter) was not as big a fan of reading. When he was 14, he was (finally) diagnosed with ADD. Not ADHD. He wasn’t noticeably hyperactive, so his ADD went under the radar for a bit. He has a harder time focusing, so, while he is a good reader, and does not struggle at all when reading out loud, he has a harder time concentrating. When you said your daughter mentioned she has a hard time concentrating when she has to read more than one book at a time, it made me wonder if you’ve had her evaluated for ADD? It could be that having trouble concentrating is what is making her not want to read, rather than being told by the teacher when to read? I was under the impression that she was able to chose WHAT she wanted to read during this time, so subject matter didn’t seem to be the issue.

    • It’s great that your daughter kept her love of reading through school. I also made friends with people who loved reading at school, though I think this might have been linked to the fact that I was in the top set for all my subjects. My daughter isn’t. She’s also quite sensitive to peer pressure, which is a shame, but she has always been a very sociable child. I totally agree with what you say about the effects of technology. Since my daughter got a phone, she is much more easily distracted, as every time it pings she HAS to look at it. This has to be a major problem with all children, I hear that phones are going off in class and kept in children’s bags at school.

      It’s interesting what you say about ADD. I will look into it. She does struggle to concentrate at the moment, but this is a recent thing. I am interested to know what effect does this diagnosis have on your son? Has it helped him to understand and work around his difficulties with concentration?

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment 🙂

      • In my son’s case, no, he is VERY stubborn and idealistic. He was prescribed Concerta. Of course, it takes a while of taking these types of medications (anything having to do with brain chemistry), to see if they will work, and if side effects like drowsiness will wear off, and getting the dosages correct for that particular person. They worked at first and helped him focus, but then, he started feeling way too drowsy. He refused to take them, so we just ended up struggling with him throughout his high school years with him barely graduating. He teachers would tell us he could be getting straight A’s if only he would turn in his homework.

        I would often stand over him and watch him do it, only to find it on the coffee table after he left for school. I would stand over him as he put his completed homework in the correct folder in his binder, only to find that he forgot to turn it in when he got to class (!!!!) In his case, he and his sister were tested for the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education program) in 2nd grade. He actually scored higher than his sister (who always made straight A’s since middle school [6th-8th grade (ages 11-13 or 14)]), They both scored high enough to be in the GATE program. In spite of his struggle with school work, he loved going to school –because that’s where his friends were! I think it helped that he tested high, so he realized that he has it in him to be a high achiever. Even now, he is very resistant to the idea of medication (unless it is the “herbal” sort, which is only legal if he gets his “medical card” if you know what I mean :-/) He is also somewhat resistant to attempting any sort of “organization” techniques that might actually help.

        We are also starting to realize that his twin sister may also have had ADD, but she coped with it by being super organized –she put a white board up on her wall, had to-do lists with homework, goals, etc. They are both 22 and still kind of figuring out their place in life.

        As far as my son goes, if I had to it over, I wish we could have gotten the diagnoses earlier, to get him started not only with his medications (not saying that I think your daughter need meds–there are other things one can try first) and with enforcing organization techniques for him. I wish I had been more organized myself, and more consistent with watching over him –his twin sister needed no prompting to do her homework (neither did I), so I would continue forget that he needed far more supervision. It’s this fine line between what should have been HIS personal responsibility and MY responsibility to him as his mother.

        Good luck with your daughter! Maybe you could try audio books? Or getting her a Kindle or Nook? Even see if she’d prefer a graphic novel? My son did like comic books. He would be willing to get books to read if we took him to a bookstore and let him choose anything he wanted (as long as it wasn’t completely inappropriate for his age, which is never was ;-))

      • I appreciate your thoughtful comments. It sounds as if you have tried a lot of different things to help your son, and also as if he and your daughter will do well eventually, like everyone I guess they need to work out where their niche is?
        I know what you mean about not realising how much supervision your child needs. My daughter does need me to be a lot more organized than I am! She is also very bright and can do very well if she is interested in what she is doing, however at the moment she is only interested in her friends!
        Thank you for your good wishes, and for the food for thought. I am definitely going to try audio books, that sounds like a great idea.

  2. This is truly sad. My Mom’s love of reading passed on to me, and I’m still deeply in love with reading. I hope she finds her way back to books.

      • When I first started high school freshman year, I didn’t have much time to read at all. But I got back into it during the summer. Hopefully, you’re daughter is just going thru a place and won’t let peer pressure kill her love of reading.

  3. Wow, this was interesting. I read to my son a lot too, and did the silly voices.

    I really do hope this passes. Ugh.

    • Ah, glad I’m not the only one with the silly voices! I hope it passes, too. I love talking with my daughter about books, and love reading kid’s books too! One of the great things about having children, for me.
      Thanks for visiting 🙂

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