Our recent vacation was the first time flying for both of my kids. Out of concern for time spent in the air and waiting in airports, we stuffed carry-ons full of pastimes: coloring books, games, play dough, snacks, and my wife even got Angry Birds on her e-reader.
Oh, and there were also books.
It wasn’t until the final leg of our journey home that my oldest finally cracked a book. Angry Birds, souvenirs, notebooks, and even the sheer novelty and wonder of being in an airplane for the first time had all, finally, become boring. He was so bored he read.
It made me appreciate what a tremendous advantage I have in my classroom. I have no trouble (for the most part) getting kids to read. True, I’m an authority figure compelling them to read. We’re on a schedule, and there is an overriding, educational agenda. More than that, though, there aren’t many other choices. The classroom doesn’t have video games, coloring books, TV, play dough, or Internet.
I’m not quite sure how to replicate this at home. Of course, my son’s “screen time” is limited, but even then, the house seems to be full of distractions that provide more immediate gratification than reading. I can take the same role I do at school, of course, and force him to read, but it’s not the same. I don’t think I could do that without turning reading into a punishment, when all these years I’ve been trying to convince him what a treat it is.
I do my best to try to make reading shine brightest in the constellation of leisure activities. I try to help him choose books that will engage him, even going so far as to say, “Hey, there’s a movie of this book! When we finish reading it we can watch the DVD!” I also read the books he reads so we can talk about them, and he sees his parents reading a lot (in case we’re influential role models).
However, picturing him on the plane that afternoon, when he finally started reading independently, after hours spent on planes and in airports, I wonder: how can I make him so bored he’ll read?