One Reader’s Nightmare: “My Child Doesn’t Like Books”

Andrew Shaffer

Staff Writer

Andrew is the author of Literary Rogues and, under the pen name Fanny Merkin, Fifty Shames of Earl Grey: A Parody. Follow him on Twitter @andrewtshaffer.

At a recent event at a Chicago-area bookstore, I counted two other men besides myself in an audience of forty. The event was geared toward romance and erotica readers, so it wasn’t too surprising that men were in the minority. I was reading from my Fifty Shades parody, so I didn’t exactly count; one of the other men had tagged along with his wife.

The third guy, however, was a reader. Not just a casual reader who reads one or two books a year — this guy was a reader, the kind of person who reads one or two books a week. Women make up about eighty percent of book buyers in the US, and that number is even higher in the romance novel world. Clearly, I’d found some sort of sparkly unicorn.


After the event, I chatted with him while a woman he’d come with waited patiently nearby. “I actually brought my friend’s wife,” he said, motioning to her. “She’s the only reader I know. My wife doesn’t read books.”

I asked him how he got into reading, and he told me he’d picked up the habit from his mother. “Same here,” I said, fondly remembering trips to the used paperback store and library as a kid with my mother and grandmother.

“I have two kids of my own. Both boys. One of them is a reader,” he said.

Then, lowering his voice, he added, “And one won’t pick up a book to save his life. He can read, he just doesn’t like to. He takes after his mother. I’ve tried everything, but he’s fourteen now and into sports. He’d rather play outside than hole up inside with a good book. I love him, but I don’t know what to do.”

I don’t have any children and couldn’t offer him any advice, so I thought I’d crowdsource his dilemma to Book Riot’s readers. Can non-readers be converted, or is it best to let them be their non-reading selves? Do you have a child or spouse similarly immune to the reading bug?


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