My fourteen year old brother recently admitted that he feels stupid and wants me to help him "smarten up". How do I do this? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 02-05-2011, 09:50 PM - Thread Starter
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I know this is a parenting forum, and the subject in question is my brother, but we're super close and he looks up to me, so I hope this is alright. :)


His biggest problem is that he doesn't like to read. He's a fast reader, oddly, but hates reading... After a good long talk, he said that he'd be willing to read if I helped him pick out books. I think he gets intimidated by the countless choices and gives up.


Like many of us, he's pretty lazy, but says he's willing to put in the effort if I hold him to a "curriculum". He needs to be pushed and prodded for a bit before he wises up and does something on his own. He's a smart kid, but damned lazy. For the past four months, we've worked on implementing good study habits, and as a result, he aced his midterm exams. I'm pretty proud of him, as this is a kid who'll play video games all day, all night, and still complain about not playing enough.


He's interested in everything, particularly history and science. But deep down, he thinks he's dumb as a doorknob. I live at home, and he's my only sibling, so I'm more than happy to help. I just don't know what to give him to read that wouldn't be information overload. I thought, what better place to ask than a forum full of parents? :D

What books can I give him to read?


Thank you so much!



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#2 of 14 Old 02-05-2011, 10:06 PM
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I'd probably start with some books based off of video games... The Elder Scrolls, Assassin's creed, World of Warcraft, Halo, Mass Effect, Dead Space, God of War... I could go on, there are a bunch!


Wait, here you go, a full list! -


So yeah, I'd have him check out the list and pick some books based off of the video games he likes most. smile.gif


I'd also suggest checking out the book "The Trouble with Boys", for either one of you to read, if interested! The title sounds bad, but it's all about how public schools are pretty much failing boys, not helping them to foster a love for reading or learning, and so on.

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#3 of 14 Old 02-06-2011, 03:03 AM
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I would recommend books that have basic information along with hands on activity.


My ds likes things like science experiments and nature. Right now he is working through a KLUTZs book on airplanes,and has been making all the paper airplanes while learning about the basics of flight. He has worked through bird and worm books that teach about each,and have basic plans on a worm home and bird feeders.Easy stuff to do but also teaches.


My kids also like computer programs like how things work and grossology. I would just look for basic learning material in any subjects he might like,and then he can work his way up to hard things.I am an adult and in some topics I have to start with the basics too.


Best wishes!

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#4 of 14 Old 02-06-2011, 06:40 AM
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To increase general knowledge I would use some well chosen DVD's and nonfiction.


Things that come to mind for DVD's:  

100 places to see before you do: we watched and enjoyed this

Ancients behaving badly 

Michael Moore's stuff as well as that guy who did supersize me - for discussion on current issues.


Take a look at DVD documentary lists and order stuff from the library.


For non-fiction I would use stuff that interests him and is an easy read (laymans terms - not a textbook).  Funny is good.  Things where the paper is formatted in bite size pieces is good - look for bullets, visuals, lots of white space on the page.  It keeps visual interest


My Ds has enjoyed the A. J. Jacobs books, as well as some geography type books.  He particularly enjoyed "Don't go There" a list of places not to go to due to violence.  The Horrible History books are pretty cool, although a little young for him


If he has a literary bent, there are many books available in graphic novel format.  They will keep his attention while giving him a bit of the story.


I might choose books for him at the moment if he is overwhelmed, but i would wean him onto choosing his own book.  He will get more out of it.  He should have a library card and know how to use the catalogue/do searches.  Many librarians are very good at linking resources with patrons - use them.


For keeping ones brain sharp, I would suggest chess and sudoko.  You may have to ask him if he wants to play - as I bet his default is to head to the computer with any free time.   If you have the money - brain age is fun for the DS and it does keep things sharp.

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#5 of 14 Old 02-06-2011, 01:48 PM
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My brother liked the Harry Potter books when he was that age. Sure, they may not be "educational," but it helped him like reading.

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#6 of 14 Old 02-06-2011, 02:40 PM
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You may also want to check the unschooling or homeschooling forums too.

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#7 of 14 Old 02-06-2011, 02:41 PM
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Hmm. OK, I've never been a fourteen-year-old boy, but I can think of some books he might like:


Isaac Asimov's short stories? They're very easily digestible, because they're short; but they're classic staples of science fiction. Especially his stuff on robotics. "Bicentennial Man" is a good one to start with (it has almost no relation to the Robin Williams movie).


The Catcher in the Rye - maybe? I know it's a classic, but it's not exactly highbrow.


Michael Crichton - Jurassic Park. Actiony, sciencey (well, science fictiony, it's not a how-to for cloning dinosaurs, but hey), and should be accessible if he's seen the movie.


Harry Potter, definitely.


The Day of the Triffids - another scifi classic, very readable.


The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, by Douglas Adams, is hilarious.


I also wouldn't be above recommending comic books. :p They're definitely engaging and interesting, and you can pick up a LOT of tidbits about Greek mythology, snippets of Dante and Shakespeare - all sorts of literary and classical references - from them.


I'm not sure reading books will address the issue of him feeling stupid, though. That's a sad thing to think, especially for a kid who aced his midterms! Could you probe a bit to find out why he feels that way? Does he have a genius-level friend who mocks him? Is he ignorant about a few specific subjects? Did he embarrass himself recently by asking a "dumb" question in class? It might help if we knew more specifically what he was after - a general grounding in classic literature, or better critical thinking skills, or whatever. Does he take pride in any hobbies - music, sports?

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#8 of 14 Old 02-06-2011, 03:39 PM
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He might like Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. If he likes it the author has written a lot of sci-fi, horror and fantasy. Most people I've known who thought they were dumb really weren't. They were just dissatisfied with themselves at the moment. 

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#9 of 14 Old 02-07-2011, 01:50 AM
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Oh yes Ender's Game! 

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#10 of 14 Old 02-07-2011, 07:15 PM
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If you think he might like fantasy books, I've rarely had a student (middle school) read The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan without loving it.  

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#11 of 14 Old 02-07-2011, 09:02 PM
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OP: That's great you are trying to help your brother!  Maybe try to figure out what is making him feel stupid and address that more directly.  A lot of boys/men like to read primarily for information/knowledge rather than entertainment, so he might be interested in some non-fiction options.

Originally Posted by ssh View Post

He might like Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. If he likes it the author has written a lot of sci-fi, horror and fantasy. Most people I've known who thought they were dumb really weren't. They were just dissatisfied with themselves at the moment. 

Yeah!  The Alvin Maker might be intriguing to that age boy as well.


Originally Posted by Pavlovs View Post

If you think he might like fantasy books, I've rarely had a student (middle school) read The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan without loving it.  

Let me pick my jaw off the floor there.  LOL, that's quite a commitment!




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#12 of 14 Old 02-07-2011, 11:30 PM
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A great book that he might like is Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth -- it's a fiction story about the building of a cathedral (and the family stories that go along with it). (Follett has a number of similar books.)  You could add to that some non-fiction books on medieval life, warfare or whatever. A really cool NOVA is: Secrets of Lost Empires. They have one on building a trebuchet that's pretty cool. (Trebuchets (treb-oo-shay) are all the rage among guys who want to hurl pumpkins at old cars in fields).  You could even build your own! Get a cathedral puzzle and build it.


Here's the deal: It doesn't matter much what he reads as long as he reads. It can be fiction, non-fiction, history, science, sci-fi, romance novels. Some of my best vocab has come from 'worthless' novels. Ds (age 9) is reading Paddington Bear right now and getting all sorts of exposure to British terms he wouldn't otherwise come across.


Sharpe's Rifles and other books by Bernard Cornwall in that series would be good too. They're sort of military themed worthless novels, but hey, if he's reading, who cares? (There are dramatizations of them.)




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#13 of 14 Old 02-08-2011, 07:39 AM
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It's great that you are helping your brother out! 


My first reading recommendation is really for you and your parents, as well as your brother: The Myth of Laziness by Mel Levine


My second reading recommendation is that he read whatever he finds interesting. It doesn't have to be great literature. He may not enjoy fiction - there's nothing wrong or even unusual about that. I know some brilliant people who only read non-fiction because they dislike "made up stuff that never happened". They perceive all fiction as akin to fairy tales and not worth their valuable time or attention. They read biographies, philosophy, science, political history, current affairs, travel books etc. Personally, I don't agree with them at all. I love fiction. I understand that they are entitled to their preference though.


In case he does like fiction, here are some titles my ds enjoyed when he was about 14 y.o.: 


Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkein

The Time Machine - H.G. Wells

A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

Animal Farm - George Orwell

The Percy Jackson series - Rick Riordan

The Bartimaeus trilogy - Jonathon Stroud

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman 

Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman 

American Gods - Neil Gaiman 

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

Good Omens - Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Discworld novels (series) - Terry Pratchett



DS also likes to read graphic novels. When he was 14, he read: 


The Sandman - Neil Gaiman

V for Vendetta - Alan Moore

Watchmen - Alan Moore 

Bone - Jeff Smith



For non-fiction, he liked reading biographies of musicians and about bands he liked: Led Zeppelin, Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols, and various punk rock histories.

Also books like

Schott's Miscellany 

Ripley's Believe it or Not

What Would MacGyver Do? - Brendan Vaughan 



DS is 17 now, and he's recently been reading a bunch of books from the Graphic Guide series: 


Plato: A Graphic Guide 

Introducing Aristotle: A Graphic Guide 

and a few others - I think one about the Enlightenment and another about Marxism/Socialism (that one may not be one of the Graphic Guides - he's talked about it, but I haven't seen it).



BTW - if he loves playing video games, perhaps he'd be motivated to try some game programming or software development or video animation etc., so that he is actually producing something rather than passively consuming stuff on the computer and tv game systems. There are lots of options out there for him to try. 

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#14 of 14 Old 02-11-2011, 07:37 PM
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Grace Llewellyn's Teenage Liberation Handbook is a good read. I know it's about quitting school (unschooling instead) but I read it as an adult and found it inspiring. There's a lot in there about taking charge of your own life, figuring out what your interests are and actively pursuing them. It might or might not be a good fit, but if he thinks he's not smart because of experiences at school, it could help.

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