As the planet unites behind World Book Day, with children skipping around dressed as Where’s Wally and joyously deciding how to spend their free book tokens, my son is on the PlayStation.
At 12-years-old, gaming is at the top of his agenda – an agenda that happens to also have gaming, followed by more gaming, as its only other items for consideration.
Indeed, reading is so far down the boy’s priority list that I suspect tooth brushing and washing come above it. But it’s not for any lack of effort on our part.
Since he was little, we have always tried to encourage reading. We read to him every night, we bought Julia Donaldson, Roald Dahl, Charlie Higson and David Walliams; we tried audio books and even attempted to dedicate family time to mass reading. But nothing seems to have instilled a love of reading in him.
In stark contrast, he took to gaming like a duck to water and can now comfortably kill hundreds and drive like a lunatic, without breaking a sweat. How proud we are.
So we now find ourselves in a quandary. The more we push for him to pick up a book, the less likely he is to do so. Forced reading turns a relaxing form of entertainment into a painful form of punishment, which means he’ll end up instinctively linking books with negative behaviour.
We have therefore resorted to bribery.
Unashamedly ignoring every bit of parenting best practice possible, I have offered to give my son a monthly cash bonus if he reads at least one book every four weeks.
The money will inevitably go on a new game, or towards a console upgrade, but reading is never going to replace gaming for our son, so why not use one to encourage the other?
Will the carrot and stick approach work, probably not. But if I can at least get him away from the PS4 for long enough to read a page or two, it’s a start.
If anyone’s got any other tips, I’d love to hear them?
Update: Report recognises ‘reluctant readers’ – March 3, 2023
A YouGov poll by GA Assessment has found that teachers believe boys see reading as a ‘punishment.’
Over 70% of teachers, meanwhile, believe that there has been a marked increase in the number of ‘reluctant readers,’ with the report citing that social media is one of the main reasons for fewer children, especially boys, being inclined to pick up a book.