Finding the Switch

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Reading has always been a big thing in our homeschool – both because I love reading and want to instill that love in my kids through great books and because it’s been a struggle for two of my kids.

Josh and Brianna both have at least some degree of dyslexia. Though she reads well now, it was Brianna’s struggle to learn to read that ultimately led to our decision to give homeschooling a try.

I’ve always tried to be laid-back with Josh’s reading instruction and not make it the area of contention that it became for Brianna. There were times, though, when I wondered if he would ever learn to read.

Megan has always read well, but, much to my dismay, she showed no desire to read for pleasure. That was such a disappointment to me because I always thought that, with my love of reading, I would have at least one kid who loved to read.

I had several wise homeschool moms tell me to find books on topics that the kids loved and that would open the door of reading for them. I tried, but just couldn’t seem to find just the right book. I shared favorites from my childhood, topics of interest, books recommended by friends – nothing.

For Brianna, we finally found the switch that flipped the love of reading on with Twilight. Yeah, I know that makes some of you cringe, but we both love the series. Not only did it ignite a love of reading for her, but it opened up some great opportunities for conversation between the two of us.

The most unexpected thing that came from Brianna reading Twilight was her love of Shakespeare. Author, Stephanie Meyer references at least one Shakespeare novel in each of the Twilight books. Yes, now my reluctant reader reads Shakespeare for fun

For Megan, the switch was Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I’ve heard mixed reviews of the series, but it’s hard to look too negatively at a book that turns a kid into a voracious reader overnight.

8-365 Reading Buddies[10]

Megan devoured each of the Wimpy Kid books before deciding to give Magic Tree House a try. She’s read nearly all of those now and reads, on her own, the American Girls books for the book club she’s in. Nowadays, Megan typically has two or three books going at a time.

Josh has been my most reluctant reader. I finally just gave him an ultimatum a few months into this school year: read the instructional book we were working through, books he chose from the library, books I chose from the library, or go to a tutor. I was done.

He went with me to the library that afternoon and picked out some books. I think we’ve read nearly every book the library has on the armed forces, SWAT teams, special forces, and weapons. I know more than I ever cared to know about those subjects, but Josh’s reading has improved phenomenally.

He actually got upset last week because I wanted to do something different with our reading time – a reading level assessment and a comprehension activity – and thought I would give him a break from our regular reading practice. Nope, he wanted to read because we were to the chapter on weapons. He actually did the other stuff without complaint once I agreed that he could read his book, too.

Josh has always been more interested in non-fiction books, than fiction. He is definitely my “read for information” guy, while my girls prefer reading for entertainment.

I’ve been trying to keep in mind what a friend of mine used to do with her kids. When they went to the library, they were supposed to choose at least one non-fiction book and one biography, along with any other books they chose. This gave them exposure to a wide variety of topics. Of course, for Josh, I might have to make him choose at least one fiction book.

Movies are another great source of book inspiration since so many movies are based on books. I’ve read several Nicholas Sparks books because the movies looked interesting. I just finished The Hunger Games before passing it along to Brianna because we saw the movie trailer and thought it looked interesting.

Sometimes it takes a while to find it, but it’s worth searching for that book that sparks your child’s interest in reading.

What book flipped the switch for your child?



Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. My son is definately the 'read for information' guy.  He would almost rather read an encyclopedia than fiction.  I was like you though…I finally just gave up and let him get what ever type of books he was interested in.  Even though they are all non-fiction…he's reading!  And the exception is the "Wimpy Kid" series…he loves those.  So, before I ramble on much more, I TOTALLY get where you are coming from. 🙂

  2. My youngest son finds that he enjoys listening to books more than reading them – and gets better understanding that way. For auditory kids, it can help to get the book on CD and read along, rather than just reading.

  3. Finally! I can come out of the Twilight closet too. 😉

    My oldest learned to read quickly but never enjoyed reading.  My middle is coming along more slowly…but is emerging with the reading.  I have a younger son with significant disabilities that were physically and emotionally draining last year – we didn't make it to the library much.  This year has been easier and last night we actually schlepped to the library as a family (daddy had little man duty at the puzzle table 🙂 and it was one of those beautiful mommy moments as my older two scoped the aisles looking for books of their choosing. 


    This post really resonated with me this morning.  Thanks!


  4. Believe it or not, the thing that built my youngest's confidence was the Pathway reader!  Now he is game to try reading almost anything.  He will probably be one of those kids that loves the Magic Tree House books.

  5. Twilight was my switch also. I haven't read a book, unless it was about homeschooling, since high school. Now, since my hubby bought me a Kindle on Mother's day, I've read over 100 books! I can't stop. And since I am always reading, my kids now want Kindles for Christmas. Of course we have to. If that gets them to read, we're gonna do it. 🙂  Now I'm hooked on Dystopians. My fav are Birthmarked series, Matched and Divergant. You girls would like those.  Also my slow reader daughter has stumbled upon the wimpy kid books and can't put them down.

  6. I just wrote about this subject a couple of weeks ago. My son is also a reluctant reader. It bothers me because I love to read!

    I homeschooled him from grades 2 through 7. This is his first year back to public school. I let him read whatever he wanted, just to get a book in his hands. We read a lot about World War II battles, guns, and other "boy" things, but he's also enjoyed the Harry Potter series and Charlie Bone.

    We have been devouring The Hunger Games series. I just started Mockingjay. My son is reading Catching Fire. I wasn't able to renew the books at the library, because someone put them on hold, so they are late. I feel bad for the person waiting for them, but there is NO WAY I am returning them until we finish! Sorry, Library Patron. 🙂 We are reading as quickly as we can.

    One of the things I have consistently heard from homeschoolers is to get rid of "twaddle" in the reading material. My take is everyone has different interests and just because something was written 100 years ago doesn't mean it's great literature. If our kids aren't taught that they can actually enjoy what they are reading, they will never be enticed to pick up a book when they aren't required to do so.

  7. I LOVED the Twilight books. I am not a big reader but I cannot tell you how many people have picked up the Twilight series and could NOT put it down. I am glad your daughter reads… WONDERFUL. Thanks for the information. ;D

  8. My kids are younger (oldest is 9) so I haven't really faced this issue yet-my daughter LOVES to read all kinds of books. My husband has dyslexia though, so I am always on the look-out for the signs in my kiddos. One thing I think that has helped us is reading quality literature from a young age-even if it seems too advanced, we try to read a little above our kids own reading level. We love reading aloud as a family.

    Thank you so much for the tip on choosing a biography and a non-fiction book at the libray. I am SO going to start doing that from now on!

  9. Okay, I literally laughed out loud about not being able to renew the books and not being finished with them. I fear we're going to be in the same boat by this time next week…and I'll be paying the fine, too. 😉

  10. Tina, I went to Amazon to look for hunger games. It looks fantastic. If you look at the bottom of amazons screen, I guess they have a movie out now. I just watched that preview. Wow, I am sold. Ordering the book now. I have collections of books that I have started for the kids as they grow. This is going into the list. Thanks for listing your books. ;D

  11. That's wonderful they were able to find books that they love and the fact that interest in Twilight carried over to Shakespeare! I'm thankful for the Magic Treehouse series because even though it's not the best literature, our daughter loved to read because of it and she has a wide interests in topic she would not have otherwise. 

  12. Very true about Magic Tree House. I'm hoping Megan will get interested in some of the non-fiction companion books. At the very least, as you said, it introduces a wide variety of topics and weaves in interesting facts. I can't tell you how many interesting, factual tidbits I've picked up from historical romance novels. Gotta love all those redeeming qualities.

  13. I agree completely!  I am a children's librarian and so often parents come in and want me to help their kid find books, but then they don't let the kid read this or that because of this or that reason…and quite honestly, that is just not going to make a kid a reader.  I use CommonSense Media to find out if there is anything inappropriate in a book, but otherwise I believe that kids should have time to read what they are interested in and also have time to read the classics or other books that are considered "must reads".

  14. I can not tell you how WONDERFULLY timed this post is. I have a 5 1/2 year old that i struggling with reading. Yes I know that they don't HAVE to read and MOMMY is having issues with the problems. We were doing wonderful and then all of a sudden he doesn't want to anymore. He loves the Magic Tree House series and we are currently listening to the third book in Charlie Bone. He is just like his mama and loves those action and mystery type books. I think I am going to start letting him work on reading his Magic Tree House . I have to stop stressing about it. I LOVE to read too and I think that is my frustration because I want him to as well. LOL You have given me hope and ideas that we can do this!

  15. The only way I could get my 9 year old to learn to really love reading was the "Wimpy Kid" series  when he was 7.  I got some comments from friends that it was a horrible series but I was so excited that he was reading ALL of the time.  I told him that he could read one book of the Wimpy series and then I would choose a book for  him.  He loves to read now.  

  16. It was the Percy Jackson books for my then-7 year old.  I knew that once he was actually taking the books with us everywhere I had a reader after my own heart. 

  17. I started teaching my daughter to read just before she turned 5, and she could read pretty fluently by the time she started kindergarten, but she preferred to have me read to her for at least a couple of years after that. The first series she really wanted to read by herself was The Spiderwick Chronicles – I read it to her first, and then she reread it on her own, so many times I lost count. She's been a voracious reader ever since.

  18. My ds loved the Magic Tree House books, but wouldn't read anything longer.  For him, it was Harry Potter that finally led him into bigger chapter books.  I can totally understand Twilight reservations after getting a lot of flack for letting my kiddos read HP. :p  I wish that Eragon would have come out sooner because I think his reading would have grown sooner if it would have been available when her was younger.

    My dd(17) came out of the womb reading.  Eric Carle in preschool, Junie B. Jones in kindergarten, Harry Potter starting 2nd grade, Nancy Drew in 3rd grade, anything by Gail Carson Levine in 5th, Twilight in 9th.  Those are the ones I remember.  She loved Fairy Tales and has a huge collection of different books from around the world.  Sadly, she got burned out last year with her heavy school load and basketball and she doesn't read much anymore.  I'm hoping she'll stumble across a book that will re-ignite her fire. 🙂

    My dd(14) was more like her brother.  Magic Tree House for a long time and then finally breaking out around 4th grade.  For her, I give credit to Beautiful Feet's History of the Horse and all the readers that go with that.  Now she reads all. the. time.  Tamora Pierce is her author of choice these days, but I'm sure something new is on the horizon.

    Charlotte Mason would probably be appalled by some of the books homeschoolers choose these days.  'Twaddle' had nothing to do with the age of a book, but with its relevance and writing!  She wouldn't even include a list of non-twaddle in her books because she believed that the list would change over time!

  19. Try swapping reading pages.  You read a page, he reads a page, you read a page, he reads a page…   At the end of the book we pointed out that she had just "read 1/2 of a MTH book all on your own".  From that point on she had the confidence to go it alone, just asking us about unknown words as they came up.   It was definitely a big confidence booster for her.

  20. I am a new follower and had to share that I love Twilight too, even though it makes me cringe a little to admit it 🙂

  21. LOL It doesn't make me cringe at all. I love it. Apparently it makes other people cringe when I mention it, though. 😉

  22. If you haven't already, you should read The Book Whisperer. It's not homeschool-focused, but it talks about ways to get kids to LOVE reading, and I really enjoyed it!

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