By Karen Deger McChesney, Contributing Writer
I have a 10th-grader who hates reading and especially writing. He will read, under duress. But his writing is nonexistent. "Did you like this book? Explain why or why not?" His response is "I didn't like it. Because it was boring." To him that is enough. To the teacher he needs another two pages expanding on his answer. To my son, it's "I answered the question and gave a reason. What more does he want?" I know what the teacher wants, but how do I convey that need to my son?
I believe your son knows what the teacher wants, but obviously, something is holding him back - and that's what you need to figure out. First, I recommend that you focus on the communication between your son and his teacher. When your son says, "I answered the question…," sit down and talk to him about the teacher and the assignment. Take the focus off of your son. For instance, ask if the teacher wrote comments on the returned assignment; ask him why he thinks the teacher gives the assignment (Teens always have a lot to say about this!); ask him what he would rather do in this class, etc. If he repeats that it's "boring," empathize with him. Teens need to hear, "yes, it can be difficult and boring…" I realize you don't want to put your son on the defense, but, I find that my 10th graders (and my own 10th grader) welcome questions like this, especially when they're struggling in a particular class. Your job is to give him a chance to vent and tell you what is going on in that classroom, what he thinks about the teacher, etc.
Your next step is perhaps the most difficult one. You need to determine a) if you should encourage your son to meet with his teacher and get extra help; b) if you should email the teacher (confidentially, unbeknownst to your son) and ask for his/her observations of your son and feedback. The latter goes a long way in helping you to coach your child.
Secondly, I always advise parents that their son's reluctance to read may be simply because he has yet to discover what he actually likes to read. I suggest trying the following activities to help you to "just get him reading":