Our Reading Lives

The Joy of Reading with My Son

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P.N. Hinton

Contributing Editor

Born into a family of readers, P.N. gained a love reading as a sort of herd mentality. This love of reading has remained a life long passion, resulting in an English Degree from The University of Houston in Houston, Texas. She normally reads three to four books at any given time, in the futile Sisyphean hope of whittling down her ever growing to be read pile of no specific genre.

Once upon a time, my son genuinely enjoyed reading. Now…not so much. The reasoning for this is expanded on in this piece I wrote a few years ago as a case against summertime reading, a sentiment I still stand behind. However, I no longer call him a Reluctant Reader. Instead, I use Not as Eager Reader, due largely in part to a change I implemented into our lives this school year. But first, let’s take a trip to the past and the part reading played in our life before school entered the picture.


When I say that my son used to really enjoy reading, I’m not exaggerating. Whenever he had a book fair at school, he always came away with a good haul of new books. Our bedtime ritual always included reading, no matter what type of day we had or how we treated one another.

And he always knew how to pick the perfect book, no matter one. On one particularly challenging night, I was tempted to not offer it. When my spouse reminded me that these were the moments that he would remember, I rather begrudgingly asked what book he wanted to read. The choice for that night? How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?

Well played, kid.

Eventually, we got to the point where he could and would read more independently. At that time, I refused to have any screens at that the dinner table, but I always allowed reading. I have tons of pictures where he’s eating with a stack of picture books next to his plate and would typically get through at least two or three. So, reading was something he genuinely enjoyed.

Then school started.


So here’s the thing with schools in my state, and I won’t pull any punches here: the way they teach and grade reading absolutely killed my son’s enjoyment of it. I won’t go into too many details here since I had quite the soapbox rant in the article linked earlier, but suffice it to say, it blows.

And the change was almost immediate. Suddenly, something that had previously brought so much joy now brought anxiety. Even with all the efforts I put forth at home to keep this love of reading alive in his heart, I could see it slowly being snuffed out of him.

As a result, we struggled with reading, both personally and scholastically, for a good couple of years. Even though I let him read what he wanted for personal time and reading logs, there was still some pushback. Occasionally, he would read for the enjoyment of it, but typically, he defaulted to screens.

All this was an internal struggle as well. I didn’t want to force it on him because all that would do was build even more resentment. But I didn’t want him to lose it altogether. And so, I took the victories where I could.


My son is on the Autism Spectrum, which means he gets additional assistance and resources in school. As a result of that and the reading struggle, he has been in an ELA Resource Classroom since his sixth-grade year, although that is the only class where he’s not in a General Education Classroom. Which, honestly, I count as a huge victory.

Towards the end of last year, his Freshman year, I got a call from his English teacher about his schoolwork. This came at the end of the year, which was a bit questionable, since it seemed it was almost too late to do anything. But, what stood out to me is that his teacher said that from what he was observing, my son did enjoy some reading and did have a decent level of retention and comprehension. We just had to work a bit more to get him more firmly planted in that.

All his other English teachers, up to this point, had been super supportive of him. But no one had ever really said that they could see he did enjoy reading; he was just very selective about it. Which makes sense, and that is when I had My Great Idea.

Designated Concentrated Reading Time.

I know that sounds very official, but it really just means that we all read a physical book for 20 minutes. No screens, no noise, no distractions. And everybody in the house has to participate. Once it’s done, you can go back to doing what you want to do, but those twenty minutes are for reading.

Of course, there are days where a semi-Teenager Tantrum and pushback happens, but overall, he’s been pretty receptive to it. I’d like to think that part of this has to do with him seeing me also read a physical book rather than something on my Kindle. Since he sees the physical book in my hand, he knows that I’m taking it seriously as well.

”But how do you know he’s really reading?”

Fair question. For one thing, he reads to himself out loud. It is in a very low tone, but it’s there. He will also occasionally read sections out loud to me. During one of the Dog Man books, I heard him stop reading and looked over questioningly. He looked up at me and said, “I just think you need to hear this part,” and, after scooting closer, read the entire section to me.

And my heart just melted at that. Not only did that show he was enjoying the book enough to want to share it with me, it showed he was comfortable reading out loud to me. Even with all the hiccups and occasional current pushback, this shows me that this change was a good one to make. He is slowly but surely regaining his reading confidence. Hopefully, this will evolve into a love of reading once more.

And that alone would be worth the stress that it took to get us here.