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Refusing to read fiction – what to do, or not?

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 

Finally getting around to post a new thread on my husband's machine...

 

This is inspired by a poster’s happy observation that a wonderful teacher finally got her child to read fiction...I know I am not alone with this problem, because I have seen it frequently referred to by posters here with highly sensitive gifties, and I am wondering what, if anything, to do about it?

 

Except for a longterm fascination with Pippi Longstocking and a more transient liking for the Children of Troublemaker Street and another book about a first grader finding a little dragon, DS (most likely not ASD, but close enough to have it suspected) has been steadfastly refusing to read fiction, particularly chapter books.

 

It does not appear to be stamina - when I started reading Pippi Longstocking to him at three, he sat through 7 chapters (until I had to stop!) – but the emotions triggered by chapter books he appears to be afraid of: when  I tried to interest him in the Children of Noisy Village, about the most gentle children’s book I know, he refused to read on after the first chapter, saying it was “too sad”. One of the few useful comments we got out of the ASD eval was that “DS tends to either under- or extremely overexpress his emotions”. I suppose he is afraid that strong emotions will overwhelm him, knowing on an instinctive level that he is struggling with self-regulation. He doesn’t mind shorter stories, such as picture books or story collections so much, but will not ask for them.

Non-fiction of course is a completely different story – he can pour over his dinosour books for hours, and his reading is making great strides – it is not reading as such, but a the lack of exposure to literature, things like themes, descriptions, plotlines etc.  I am worried about at the moment, knowing that elementary curriculums are heavy on narrative and the discrepancy between what he can read and what he will read will be stark.

 

Things I have tried:

I have tried to introduce a bedtime rule “one fiction story, one non-fiction book”, but at the moment DH is doing story time for DS while I nurse and sing DD to sleep and they both prefer for DH to make up oral stories about a mythical character, told in the dark – it’s their ritual and I don’t want to interfere with it, and whenever I get to spend storytime with DS now because DD happens falls asleep quickly, I do not want to spend it in conflict.

I have started reading books to him and DH while they are engaged in a craft project and he did get interested, but when the project was finished he did not want to go on with the book again saying it “wasn’t interesting”.

have now introduced a common storytime for both DD and DS, before DH takes DS off to his own room, but of course it will always have to be a story appropriate for DD. He does like that though – “Tomten” does not appear to bother him...

And I have ordered the first "Magic Treehouse" which happens to be about dinosours, and it was a huge hit! Is that all there is to it – just find the right books?!?

 

What are your experiences? Am I even right to be worried about this?

 

post #2 of 30

I think it's a bit an age thing. Looking at your signature I assume D'S is 5. At 5 mine was much more interested in non fiction. Part of it was a mismatch between his interest level, his stamina for independent reading, and his reading level. All three areas were mismatched making it really hard to find an book that engaged him. Non fiction just fit better at that age. I tried books that he had the ability to read and has later loved and they didn't interest him at all. 

 

I think a big leap to my son being interested in fiction has been peer interactions. He is still resistant to any books I suggest despite finding over and over that he ends up liking books I suggest. But when his classmates start talking enthusiastically about books they have read he started getting interested in checking out those books.

 

Honestly what he does end up reading in fiction is way below his level. He's in 4th grade and loves Magic Tree House and Goosebumps. He really likes reading a book that he can complete in one sitting. As he matures he is choosing books that take more than one sitting but he does still need nudged into reading them (and he has a weird peculiarity where he won't read the last book in a series).

 

I think he will discover fiction in time.

post #3 of 30

I may be missing something from a prior convo, but why does he have to read fiction?  For me, the important thing is that they read fluently, and have good reading comprehension, but I wouldn't be too troubled about a kindergarten age child's preferences in reading material. 

 

I love fiction.  I could spend my whole life reading it.  I can talk for days about the uses of fiction in society, and the benefits of fiction for children, but that's all pretty theoretical, and I think that non-fiction is pretty rich in themes, description and plotlines (and that teachers of literature sometimes use tools like "themes" to suck every last drop of joy or ambiguity or interest out of a student's reading experience).  Your DH and DS are doing an amazing thing in creating their own bedtime literature, which is a cooperative process even if your DH is the one doing the telling.  That process will teach your child about experiencing and creating fiction in ways that simply reading it would not, as well as creating a basis for a deep rapport between him and his dad.  Don't mess with that.

 

When it comes to the real world, I mostly note that stories are supposed to be fun, not a source of family angst, so my inclination is to let him choose anything you can stand to read.  If you let him choose something and DD choose something, they will both be exposed to each other's preferences, and hopefully wind up with broader tastes.

post #4 of 30

At this point it sounds like fiction as something he wants to hear, not his choices in his own independent reading, right?

 

If he's 5, and not yet wanting to read fiction, so be it.  Develop the reading skills on what's comfortable.

 

However, considering what you've said about being boarderline ASD with difficulties in regulating emotions, then gently bringing in fiction, talking about the emotions that are there, the motivations of the characters, and the outcomes can be very useful in developing those social skills that he's going to need very soon.  I would take many large steps backwards in the level of the fiction.  Go way back to basic, simple stories.  Use the pictures and the story to talk about what the characters might be feeling and why.  In books where some of the action or motivations is implied, talk about it, and discuss which clues he might use to pick up on it. 

 

Some kids just need to be taught this kind of stuff.  When they're not picking it up naturally, then the world of emotions that is brought into being in books can be mysterious and scary. 
 

My DD struggles with appropriately interpreting negative emotions.  I recall talking through Knuffle Bunny with her, looking at each facial expression tied to the story.  Is the dad angry, irritated, or frustrated here?  Why might he be angry?  What does he not understand about what's going on right now?  Now why does he look frustrated?  Now why does he look so happy? 

 

We've then been able to build from there to stories where the character's emotions and motivations are implied in the words of the story without relying on pictures. 

post #5 of 30
Thread Starter 

Sorry, I realize I wasn't being quite clear. So far, he has been refusing to have fiction read to him, but now that he is a beginning reader, he still picks out non-fiction every time. I realize that the latter has something to do with the mismatch between interest and skill level, and may yet develop. It is the whole picture, i.e. refusing to engage with fiction beyond a basic picture book level at all, which worries me at the moment (and I do expect that he will continue to pick only non-fiction to read on his own, as his reading matures, so watch me get worried about that, too. Just a hunch).

 

This is one of the reasons, a kind of nagging feeling we should be doing something we are not:

 

Quote:

However, considering what you've said about being boarderline ASD with difficulties in regulating emotions, then gently bringing in fiction, talking about the emotions that are there, the motivations of the characters, and the outcomes can be very useful in developing those social skills that he's going to need very soon. I would take many large steps backwards in the level of the fiction. Go way back to basic, simple stories. Use the pictures and the story to talk about what the characters might be feeling and why. In books where some of the action or motivations is implied, talk about it, and discuss which clues he might use to pick up on it.

 

Going "back" deliberately is an interesting suggestion. I suppose it has felt weird to me to go back beyond Pippi Longstocking. So maybe he can start over together with DD! Interestingly, I feel that he has been learning role play along with her, another area in which I can tell that his development is somewhat off.

 

 

Quote:

Your DH and DS are doing an amazing thing in creating their own bedtime literature, which is a cooperative process even if your DH is the one doing the telling. That process will teach your child about experiencing and creating fiction in ways that simply reading it would not, as well as creating a basis for a deep rapport between him and his dad. Don't mess with that.

Yes, I am trying hard not to, because I think it is amazing too! And hard work, as I notice every time I am asked to make up a story myself. I have gently suggested to DH that his character not spend so much time engineering an building things on his own, but have a little more interaction and resolve some emotional conflicts and stuff...DH has promised to try. The apple does not fall so far off the tree!

post #6 of 30

It doesn't sound like this is your son's issue, but I just thought I'd throw it out there as another point to consider.  I, personally, have a really hard time reading fiction.  It's not because I don't find the stories engaging or enjoyable--I love them.  But since I have a limited amount of time when I can read, I find myself craving INFORMATION.  And while I know intellectually that the stories have wonderful and important ideas to ponder, a large part of me just can't get over feeling like they are a waste of very precious time.  I adore reading to my DD and am thankful that she does enjoy fiction because it gives me a chance to reread and re-experience some wonderful stories, but on my own time, even though there are piles of fiction books I want to read, I can only manage to get through the ones about health, parenting, education, gardening, cooking or other "useful" things.  As far as your concerns about being exposed to narration, I don't see why the oral stories your husband tells wouldn't fulfill that need.
 

post #7 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MeepyCat View Post

I may be missing something from a prior convo, but why does he have to read fiction?  For me, the important thing is that they read fluently, and have good reading comprehension, but I wouldn't be too troubled about a kindergarten age child's preferences in reading material. 

 


I guess it's a school thing. He will be exposed to fiction, be required to read it and be required to deal with the emotions. I'm a bit worried about that one, as it's not in a protected environment the way our bedtime reading would be and he can't really say no. I hope he has time to become more comfortable with it. That's why I'm asking for other's experiences - if there children were like this, is there a reason to be worried about forced exposure in school, did they get in trouble for refusing to read a book they were supposed to read or to participate in class discussion or write an essay, were they considered behind in language arts because they had trouble with this...at what age/grade wwas it an issue, if at all? I am ready to be told not to worry yet!

 

post #8 of 30

Another thought -- can you move this effort off bedtime?  My kids want bedtime reading that is comfortable and comforting after a long day.  This isn't a time when my kids can be stretched.  The hard work of moving outside their comfort zone needs to be done much earlier in the day. 
 

post #9 of 30

A really good book that was recommended to me is The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel. It's got some really really helpful ways to talk about kids with emotions and good ways to work on self-regulation.

 

I'd also challenge you to examine some of your biases here. What's wrong with reading some really nice picture books that are fiction? I look around my daughter's class (she's in 2nd grade in the US), and about 1/2 the kids are still reading picture books. Now, this is partly because they don't have the reading skills to go longer, but it's also because some picture books have really good stories. So, not only do I agree with Geofizz that taking a few steps back would be helpful, I'd also say that continuing picture books even when a child is "too old" (and 5 -6 is no where near 'too old') can be beneficial. Sometimes, when ideas or emotions are complex, getting them in little doses is a good thing. In addition, because picture books are made to be read out loud, the language in some of them is really good and pretty sophisticated.

 

I guess I'd "work" more on him being able to identify and label emotions and be able to tell stories about his own emotions right now.

post #10 of 30

A lot of boys have this preference, I see it all the time working in the schools.  My non ASD son is also like this (the one on the spectrum will read fantasy and science fiction for hours).  What I find helps if you want a broader exposure to literature, is to use "bridge" books (like the Magic Tree House or Dinosaur Cove series) that are based in real science or history.  Also, realistic or autobiographical books like "Farmer Boy" that describe real work in a real life setting work well with kids like this.  My non-fiction preferring 7 year old is reading a historical fiction about a Canadian soldier in WWI, and it's right up his alley.  I can still use this sort of work to discuss literary terms.

 

And I agree with above posters with it being OK to step back into something simpler sometimes.  If it helps comfort level, that's great.

post #11 of 30


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerle View Post

And I have ordered the first "Magic Treehouse" which happens to be about dinosours, and it was a huge hit! Is that all there is to it – just find the right books?!?



I think that's it. For example my DD is sensitive in her own way but also craves adventure and emotional rides from books that are clearly fantasy. I have come to learn that there is almost nothing she can't handle as long as it is told through the eyes of talking animals and inanimate objects. So while Charlotte's Web and James and the Giant Peach were huge hits, we have avoided the Astrid Lindgren books for one reason or another.

 

Have you tried reading while he eats? Audio books in the car? Having him read gentle easy readers like "Frog and Toad", Mouse Soup, Mouse Tales, "Little Bear", Danny and the Dinosaur, "Elephant and Piggie", "Fly Guy", Dr Seuss?  It certainly cannot be a step back if he is learning to read them himself.  They can be quite addictive to beginner readers as they build confidence and stamina, and an added bonus could be an introduction into gentle fiction. What about historical fiction or choose your own adventure?  And, I would start reading fiction to your DD in his presence aimed at him.   Also, you may be quite surprised by how he deals with fiction in school.

post #12 of 30

 

My initial thought was that you shouldn't worry at this stage. It's okay to let him focus on non-fiction if that's his preference. As pp pointed out, it's fairly common for some children to prefer non-fiction to fiction. 

 

However, I have been recently ranting IRL about "journalism" and the tendency to frame all reporting in some easy-to-swallow narrative so that it's like candy-coated pills. It isn't enough to report the facts and events. Everything has to be packaged as a "story" with a recognizable theme that will hook the reader  - "White Knights Riding to the Rescue" or "David and Goliath underdogs against the bullies" or that sort of thing. Once the story is framed in a certain context, it becomes impossible to budge people from their biases and objectivity is completely lost. It may serve your concerns to look for the narrative in the non-fiction he reads. I know he is only 5 and isn't reading newspapers and watching the evening news, but this narrative-framing device is probably appearing in his books too. If you spot it, you can point out things like themes and literary devices and that sort of thing. Or keep this idea tucked away in your back pocket for a few years and try it when he's a little older. 

 

 

post #13 of 30
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by puddle View Post

It doesn't sound like this is your son's issue, but I just thought I'd throw it out there as another point to consider.  I, personally, have a really hard time reading fiction.  It's not because I don't find the stories engaging or enjoyable--I love them.  But since I have a limited amount of time when I can read, I find myself craving INFORMATION.  And while I know intellectually that the stories have wonderful and important ideas to ponder, a large part of me just can't get over feeling like they are a waste of very precious time.  I adore reading to my DD and am thankful that she does enjoy fiction because it gives me a chance to reread and re-experience some wonderful stories, but on my own time, even though there are piles of fiction books I want to read, I can only manage to get through the ones about health, parenting, education, gardening, cooking or other "useful" things.  As far as your concerns about being exposed to narration, I don't see why the oral stories your husband tells wouldn't fulfill that need.
 

Actually, I feel the same way. I sometimes feel that there is so much emotion and drama in my life (I mean just the ordinary drama created by very intense kids and very intense relatives, nothing special, thankfully) that I crave non-fiction a lot of the time - or children's fiction! I am on a Diana Wynne Jones binge currently...

 

 

post #14 of 30
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

A really good book that was recommended to me is The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel. It's got some really really helpful ways to talk about kids with emotions and good ways to work on self-regulation.

 

I'd also challenge you to examine some of your biases here. What's wrong with reading some really nice picture books that are fiction? I look around my daughter's class (she's in 2nd grade in the US), and about 1/2 the kids are still reading picture books. Now, this is partly because they don't have the reading skills to go longer, but it's also because some picture books have really good stories. So, not only do I agree with Geofizz that taking a few steps back would be helpful, I'd also say that continuing picture books even when a child is "too old" (and 5 -6 is no where near 'too old') can be beneficial. Sometimes, when ideas or emotions are complex, getting them in little doses is a good thing. In addition, because picture books are made to be read out loud, the language in some of them is really good and pretty sophisticated.

 

I guess I'd "work" more on him being able to identify and label emotions and be able to tell stories about his own emotions right now.


Hmmm, nothing wrong. What's my issue...that it is not really about continuing to read "picture books" in the plural, as in new ones all the time or at least more often than once every few months, but again books that he has known and felt comfortable with for some time. Not leaving his emotional comfort zone with those either.  

I realize that my DS is expressing a very particular need here, and that it has very little to do with what I think he should like or be interested in.

I think he isn't actually struggling with identifying emotions, more with dealing with them...the bedtime stories he is telling me always center around things we do together as mother and child. At the moment, we are an allosaurus mom and an allosaurus child, cuddling up in our earth nest and he tells me what he does in dinosaur preschool all day (learn hunting with little animated triceratops machines, which fall over if you stick your claws into them, then release a piece of meat as reward). I guess it is more like a non-fiction bedtime story. He also had a narrative recently - 23 huge wooden crates with dinosaur bones were delivered to his preschool, and he was the only child who could immediately identify the contents as dnosaaur bones. Unde his direction, with the help of the head teacher, all the K kids in his class were allowed to reassemble the dinosaur skeleton.

Separation anxiety, a certain kind of social isolation, and a deep craving for recognition that he just isn't getting from preschool...maybe I am really worrying about the wrong things here.

post #15 of 30
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FarmerBeth View Post

A lot of boys have this preference, I see it all the time working in the schools.  My non ASD son is also like this (the one on the spectrum will read fantasy and science fiction for hours).  What I find helps if you want a broader exposure to literature, is to use "bridge" books (like the Magic Tree House or Dinosaur Cove series) that are based in real science or history.  Also, realistic or autobiographical books like "Farmer Boy" that describe real work in a real life setting work well with kids like this.  My non-fiction preferring 7 year old is reading a historical fiction about a Canadian soldier in WWI, and it's right up his alley.  I can still use this sort of work to discuss literary terms.

 

And I agree with above posters with it being OK to step back into something simpler sometimes.  If it helps comfort level, that's great.


I was wondering if it is just a boy thing, Magic treehouse certainly appears to work for him. I have to check out whether Dinosaur Cove has been translated (English is not his first language).
 

 

post #16 of 30
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ellemenope View Post

Have you tried reading while he eats?

No, I'm busy making sure he stops talking long enough to actually take bites!  

I am sure he'd refuse audio books in the car, as we have a pile of science CD's in each....he happened to find a picture book in the car though the other day and read that to me while I was driving, and I am planning to have him find more! Because it is about the only time he has actually picked up a book and read it to me. I was actually very surprised how well he reads out loud for not practicing at all, clearly and fluently with proper intonation and stuff. I'll try out the easy readers you suggested.

I have tried fantasy, for the very reason you describe, to no avail. "Not interesting". And if it is too silly...Winnie the Poo was a total failure (I have to say it gets on my nerves too).   

I should make clear that in the two years that I have been trying to introduce chapter books (sort of inspired by this odd and accidental early success with Pippi Longstocking, I'd never have started this early otherwise) he has consented to show an interest and actually asked for exactly the 4 books I have named, the 4th now being the Magic Treehouse dinosaur book. The picture book list would be somewhat longer, but not by much.

post #17 of 30
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

 

My initial thought was that you shouldn't worry at this stage. It's okay to let him focus on non-fiction if that's his preference. As pp pointed out, it's fairly common for some children to prefer non-fiction to fiction. 

 

However, I have been recently ranting IRL about "journalism" and the tendency to frame all reporting in some easy-to-swallow narrative so that it's like candy-coated pills. It isn't enough to report the facts and events. Everything has to be packaged as a "story" with a recognizable theme that will hook the reader  - "White Knights Riding to the Rescue" or "David and Goliath underdogs against the bullies" or that sort of thing. Once the story is framed in a certain context, it becomes impossible to budge people from their biases and objectivity is completely lost. It may serve your concerns to look for the narrative in the non-fiction he reads. I know he is only 5 and isn't reading newspapers and watching the evening news, but this narrative-framing device is probably appearing in his books too. If you spot it, you can point out things like themes and literary devices and that sort of thing. Or keep this idea tucked away in your back pocket for a few years and try it when he's a little older. 

 

 



 

So far, the nonfiction he reads is very technical. Very little narrative. He kind of steers away from it, if it's there.  

I shall see how things go in school and try to be less worried.

And we may have to put the newspaper away soon because he starts reading headings and captions now. "Mama, what's a pedophile?" Ugh.

post #18 of 30

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerle View Post

 

So far, the nonfiction he reads is very technical. Very little narrative. He kind of steers away from it, if it's there.  

I shall see how things go in school and try to be less worried.

And we may have to put the newspaper away soon because he starts reading headings and captions now. "Mama, what's a pedophile?" Ugh.

These American Museum of Natural History readers are first grade level and less technical, more narrative.  They are fact-filled little stories with great pictures.  DD likes them better than the National Geographic readers because of this.

 

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_nr_p_n_feature_browse-b_mrr_0?rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Aamerican+museum+of+natural+history+easy+readers%2Cp_n_feature_browse-bin%3A2656022011&bbn=283155&keywords=american+museum+of+natural+history+easy+readers&ie=UTF8&qid=1334800094&rnid=618072011

 

Also, recently my DD has been re-reading her old Wild Animal Baby magazines.  They seem to be at the first grade level and always have a story at the end.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Animal-Baby/dp/B00005Q7E5

 

DD generally steers away from reading non fiction but really enjoyed Dinosaur Time by Peggy Parrish (Amelia Bedilia) because she loves dinosaurs, and she was thrilled to be able to read a whole dinosaur book from cover to cover without help.  

post #19 of 30
My 4yo will not read any fiction (or have it read to him) at present. Not only that, he won't read anything that isn't about the ocean, pretty much. And this is a kid who does NOT seem ASD in any way (well, except this!--but really, I have no concerns). Admittedly, he enjoyed fiction for many years as a toddler and this is a recent switch, but it's not concerning to me at the moment. I guess I would give it time. And I do agree that it's a boy thing--my DH read almost all nonfiction as a child and still reads almost alll nonfiction, eyt he CAN read and understand fiction at a very high level.

Magic Treehouse is a fab series for kids who like facts with their fiction. What about Magic Schoolbus, too?
post #20 of 30

My daughter (now 18) has rarely found fiction that she enjoyed (HP and Hunger Games are exceptions). For the most part, she has ALWAYS prefered non-fiction. Books about nature and animals, then history... specifically the Holocaust and other genocide. I never saw a need to force her to read or listen to what she wasn't interested in.

 

My son (20) has always been a voracious reader, all genres. But he also now prefers non-fiction.

 

It''s all good.

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