A couple of weeks ago I wrote about feeling guilty and hypocritical that my teenager had stopped reading. I’ve read quite a lot about parenting teenagers and so much advice is for parents to give their teens the chance to make decisions and mistakes on their own without us muscling in. But I just couldn’t let too much of a non-reading habit form as I know from my track record with mobile phones and video games that it’s a high-speed slippery slope to permanence.
I laid out my plan of action: to keep banging on about reading but in a collaborative rather than preachy way, to search out books that had a high chance of appealing to him, and to discretely set limits on reading time to frustrate him into reading.
I decided that I would also read the books he was reading, first because I wanted to read them, and second because it meant that the book was always in motion and being sought hence more likely to be desired. It worked well for the first book, The Summer we Turned Green, a topical, funny read about a serious subject, global warming. It led to a discussion of personal responsibility and the decision to alternate my nightly baths with showers because baths are such a drain of water. We talked about why the dad character got sucked into the rebellion and the nature of adulthood. It was a proper discussion that didn’t feel like a chore for him and a demand from me.
The second book was The Women of Troy by Pat Barker. Being a mythology nut, this was a sticky bun to get him reading again, and I overheard him muttering, ‘’I’m actually enjoying this book,’’ on his way out of the room. Steady progress, I thought, the plan is working.
But it was this week that I really saw my pig-headedness pay off. Only three days into the new school year and he’s volunteered to be the pupil librarian and take part in a separate challenge of reading one hundred books this year. At two books a week being the librarian is a savvy move. And when I mentioned that I’d bought us Catherine of Aragon, by Giles Tremlet (which was the next stealth read I was lining up) he was excited and launched into his love of history.
I confess I’m surprised at the speed of this change of heart. Could it be that mother’s words still carry weight after all even subconsciously? It makes me want to look around our lives to see what else I can be determined about! Poor child. I mean, teenager.