Most of the “bad readers” are boys. This makes sense because most of the “bad dodgeball players” are girls. We don’t get up in arms about how girls don’t like dodgeball. Do we get tutors for the girls to tell them how to aim for the head while pretending not to be aiming for the head?
No. The answer is no, of course. Yet we make boys stay inside and read books when they don’t want to.
So look. Just forget it. Here’s a reading test to give your son:
For third-grade boys: Can he read enough to play video games?
For seventh-grade boys: Has he already found his favorite type of porn online?
If you answered “yes” to either question then your son is doing fine. Here’s why:
Being a bad reader is common among high performers.
People with dyslexia think differently. And people who make a lot of money think differently. So it should come as no surprise that a lot of high performers in business have dyslexia. So parents of typical kids can relax about the reading. Obviously business does not require that people be good readers, but rather good listeners and good thinkers.
Most people don’t read.
That’s right. Most S types don’t read. Or, if they do read, it’s only related to the field they are in. And no matter what your field, it’s easy reading if you are always reading the same type of material. So most people do only easy reading. The hard reading is stuff you are not used to reading: reading outside your field, outside of your own historical context, etc. The point is that if half the world is not really reading then you don’t need to be a great reader to have a great life.
Novels are overrated.
No college exam tests your ability to get through a novel. You don’t have to read more than a few paragraphs to take the SAT II test for English or the AP test for English. And certainly no novel-length material is required for other tests.
So why bother reading novels? They are long and boring and are important only in terms of historical context. The first author to do blah blah is usually why a book is famous. Or if it’s their prose that’s so great, then you can give a couple of pages a whirl. If it’s plot and character development that’s so crucial, then read a short story.
Really. I taught English at the college level. I’m telling you. Novels are not more important than short stories and short stories are so much easier and faster to read.
Try visuals instead.
Graphic novels display plot and character development just as well as a 1,000-page novel does. And paintings show you point of view as well as a first-person narrator. If you want to learn about dialogue, you can read Macbeth, a play written in old English that is very slow reading. Or you can read I Really Hate My Job, a book written in texts that is super-fast reading.
You don’t need to read in order to write.
Because if your writing sounds like you read, then it should be because you’re a reader. Why bother sounding like you’re someone you’re not? Besides, lots of people have jobs that require little reading and little writing, so who cares if they don’t write well?
For example, I’m fine if my developer can’t write a good email, because any developer who has to send me a lot of emails is going to get sick of working with me anyway. Another example: poker players. They’re geniuses and they make a lot of money, but they are not reading Crime and Punishment. They are people who like games and problem solving, not curling up on the sofa reading about morality.
Obsessing over reading is myopic. Learning by doing is just as important. So next time you want to foist a book on someone, read it yourself and be grateful that person is not throwing a dodgeball at you.