Opinion

How to Convert a Reluctant Reader

Our Reading Lives features stories about how books and reading have shaped who we are and how we live. It is open not only to regular Book Riot contributors, but to guest posters from the publishing industry, authors, and….you. If you are interested in telling us about a book that has been influential in your life, please contact us: community (at) bookriot (dot) com.

This is a guest post by Emily Gatlin. Emily lives right down the street from Elvis’s birthplace and spent four years as the manager of an independent bookstore in Mississippi. In 2012, she was nominated to serve on the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Board of Directors. She writes for HottyToddy.com which benefits the Meek School of Journalism at her beloved alma mater, Ole Miss. She hates wearing pants and loves a fine glass of bourbon on the rocks. Follow her on Twitter @emilygatlin.

robbygreads

There are three little words that absolutely infuriate me: “I hate reading.” My husband, Robby G, “hates” reading. He will watch the History Channel for four straight hours without stopping to pee, but he will not touch a book. I have never asked him, but he might be afraid of getting a paper cut. That is the only logical explanation I can imagine.

For the majority of our little people schooling lives, really boring books are shoved under our noses and we have to read them or we won’t graduate from high school. Failing English is far more likely to happen than failing gym class. Books become a necessary evil for a lot of kids, so we have to do something to fix it.

During my four year stint as an indie bookseller, I came across all different types of readers: the super nerds, the “I only buy the sweetest tea of Southern women’s fiction” ladies, the small nuggets who instantly run to the closet copy of Goodnight Moon because it is the only book they recognize, the wannabe hipster high schoolers (bless it), and the “books as gifts” givers. They were always my favorite, especially when they weren’t readers. By the time they left, they had a wrapped book for a friend and narrative non-fiction for themselves.

Everything I did for four years seemed to revolve around books. I touched them all day, read them all night (contrary to popular belief, booksellers don’t read at work), and talked about them nonstop. Robby G didn’t understand it, and I so desperately wanted him to.

I started off with trying to trick him into reading narrative non-fiction. True crime, war stories, Civil War books (Southerners and Civil War books, lawsy). Nothing worked. We went to the beach for as much of a vacation as I could take and of course, I brought a tote bag full of books. Every morning we would go to the beach. And every morning he was good for about twenty minutes until he turned into Jojo the Happy Monkey Boy and wouldn’t stop talking. I ended up reading 100 pages the entire time we were there.

It reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. He had a birthday coming up, I had no time to shop, so he was getting a book whether he liked it or not. I don’t know why I never thought of it sooner: “Buy  him something he might actually enjoy.”

I settled on a copy of 1001 Whiskies You Must Taste Before You Die. Duh. He sat on the couch for four straight hours, interrupting me with bourbon fun facts. Then he decided that he was actually going to try all 1001 whiskies before he dies. I guess it is his own little drunk bucket list. We can’t have house guests over without him pulling out the book.

My  best advice to convince a reluctant reader to read is really simple. Find something they will actually enjoy.