Snyder: Love of reading not always generational

By Jessica Snyder

Journal columnist

I’ve always been a reader. I pledged to myself that when I decided to have children, that I would ensure that they would absolutely love reading as much as I did, no matter what it took.

Three kids in, I have to be honest, things did not go as planned. At all.

My oldest is 9 and reading is her hobby. If you ask her, she’ll say with extreme confidence that her favorite fictional novel is “The Hunger Games” and her favorite genre is dystopian fiction. Her second favorite book is “The Giver.”

She is obsessed. In an effort to achieve my goal of raising a bibliophile, I made myself a vow: I would supply her from infancy with excellent, age-appropriate literature. The bookshelf would be on her level and easily accessible. Anytime she brought me a book, I would read it; I would never say no if she asked to read. You’re probably thinking, why the complaining, sounds like she achieved her goal.

Let’s move on to the second child. My 4-year-old is not obsessed with reading. She prefers pretending to be a cat. To her, books are tolerable, an OK distraction, but most definitely not the most desirable activity to choose.

The only thing she will eagerly read during the day are books about dinosaurs, so that’s what we do. In the evening, she’s ready to devour books but for the sole purpose of delaying bedtime. We have to do a three book maximum or we’d read until the wee hours of the morning.

Now, second daughter is not entirely without some form of parental literary recognition. She loves to tell me the story as she picture walks through books. Using her own imagination and funny vocabulary (the word poop is usually included), she happily and comedically regales me with her own special narrative. Those are special times.

I saw this TikTok recently. A parody of what it is like having three children. The Mom passes the first kid some water, kid says “Thanks, Mom.” Then the second kid gets some water, looks at the cup, kind of scoffs and mumbles “thanks” with no eye contact. Mom passes the third kid some water and the kid looks at the cup, looks at her, smacks it off the table and yells “I wanted the other cup!” The truth to that 20 seconds brought me out of my brief moment of TikTok escapism. That pretty much sums up my life at the moment. Now, what were we discussing? Oh, yes, reading.

If you ask my 2-year-old boy if he wants to read a book, he will reply “But, it’s not bedtime.” He only associates reading with bedtime. If you even try to get cozy on the couch during the day, he will walk to the window, point outside, and say “SUN!”

I try to get him books about fire trucks, machines, wheels, to spark his interest; it doesn’t work. I’ve tried the you-pick-the-book strategy, the I-pick-the book-and-hold-you-kicking-and-screaming-in-my-lap strategy, the let-your-older-sister-read-to-you strategy, everything.

I’m ashamed to admit, but I’ve even stooped to the if-you-let-me-read-you-this-book, I’ll-give-you-a-piece-of-candy strategy. I’m not proud of it, but remember what I said before, whatever it takes.

One day I thought I had him. He didn’t immediately shrug the invitation to read off, so I asked him to go to the bookshelf and I said “Pick a good book, not a bad book.” Now, you might be thinking, don’t tell him there are bad books. But, I know for a fact that such a thing exists because the baddest, worst, most boring book in the whole entire world is sitting on our bookshelf in our little house in Nicholasville.

The book is a board book called “Animals.” I loathe reading it. It has these silly sliding pockets to match adult animals and their offspring, their color, and their name and picture. It has no plot, the sliders don’t slide well, and I think it even has water damage. I’m not sure it even has an author.

I don’t know how this so-called book got into our house, but I despise it. So, what does the kid do? He walks to the bookshelf, turns his head, grins brightly and pulls that darn book off the shelf! He forced me to read it, that little rascal. He knew full and well that I didn’t enjoy a second of it. How does this kid continually beat me at my own game?

I’ve thought long and hard about this topic and the answer to the question of where did I go wrong? Why don’t all my children love to read? It didn’t take long to figure out I didn’t go wrong. I divide my time between three kids.

I had no problems never denying my first kid a book, but I didn’t have another. Additionally, as we all know, each individual is different. Maybe they don’t quite enjoy reading now, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep offering. Maybe they’ll get there eventually, and I won’t beat myself up.

As parents, we often pick the one thing that makes us feel like a failure and give it our focus, when we shouldn’t; that is not productive, only anxiety inducing. Meaningful time with my kids can be spent doing anything.

So, I’ll keep playing kitty with my 4-year-old and I’ll keep pushing trucks around the floor with my little guy. I’ll pick out the next best dystopian fiction to read aloud to my 9-year-old. And, last but not least, I’ll hide that “Animals” book. Right now.