The book that did him in

2018-11-25T15:59:15+00:00March 31st, 2011|Categories: Reading Incentives, Reluctant Readers|11 Comments

So I’m facing a little dilemma here, and a little unsure about what to do. My younger son discovered the Harry Potter books in the fall, and devoured the first 2 very quickly. Then came Christmas, and his birthday, and although he was still only on book 3, we decided to buy him all 7 books.

He excitedly finished The Prisoner of Azkaban, and got stuck into Book 4, The Goblet of Fire. Now, I find him literally ‘stuck’. For the last few weeks, he’s been rather unenthusiastic about his bedtime reading. Oftentimes when I’d go into the boys’ room, I’d find older brother reading, and younger one messing around. Coloring, playing with various gadgets, cuddling the dog. Anything but reading.

When I’d ask him why, he’d vaguely answer “I’m just tired tonight, Mummy”. I don’t normally force the issue. But after a few weeks, I finally asked him last night if he was having trouble with his Harry Potter. I could see he felt bad saying so, but he admitted he had lost interest a bit, and just wasn’t that into it anymore. He stared guiltily at the 3 remaining books in the series, sitting waiting on his bookshelf.

My husband and I have a very strong ‘work ethic’, and have been teaching our kids that you finish what you start. But should that apply to finishing books, too? I wonder.

How many times have I started a book, only to decide after a few pages that it wasn’t for me. Do I force myself to finish? Rarely, unless I have a particular reason for doing so.

The last thing I want to do is get him discouraged about his reading. But at the same time, one of our challenges with him is that he’ll frequently give up on something if he’s finding it too hard. This includes games with his brother when he starts to lose. I want him to understand the importance of finishing something even if it isn’t always fun. Giving up is just too easy. But should this apply to reading?

What are your thoughts? My instinct tells me to just go to the library and grab a bunch of new books for him to try rather than forcing the Harry Potters on him. I basically want him reading, and there are enough opportunities to teach those valuable life lessons elsewhere (as in, not quitting the ball hockey game with his brother the second he gets scored on!!!!! Arrrgh!!!!)

I’ll just choose something from my Best Books for Boys list (shameless self-promotion), and hope something tickles his fancy. Unless I get overwhelmed with comments (shameless invitation to comment!!!) from you telling me to re-think my strategy.

Happy Reading!


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  1. Linda Wadman March 31, 2011 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Making him finish it will take all the enjoyment out…he may just need a break from it. And he didn’t ask you to buy all the books for him, did he?

    If he really liked the other books, I think you’ll find that eventually he’ll find his way back to finishing the rest of them, but it needs to be his decision, not yours.

    • Michelle Skamene March 31, 2011 at 4:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Linda, I totally agree. I like your thoughts about him finding his way back to them. He does not have read them back to back, does he? And you’re right, he did not ask us to buy him all those books… We all just got excited because it looked like he’d found ‘his thing’. Thanks so much for your feedback!

      • Linda Wadman April 14, 2011 at 5:09 pm - Reply

        I had to come back and read the other comments…as I recall getting Pottered out on that volume too. Glad to find others did as well. I did finally go back and slog through it so I could get on with the other books myself. As time passes (and the movie comes out) I think interest should be rekindled. Having the movies come out made me go back to the one that I had put aside so I could read “the rest of the story.”

        • Michelle Skamene April 15, 2011 at 2:34 am - Reply

          So glad you came back! Yes, as you can see, you were not alone in getting Pottered out. I have to admit I felt really bad, because I realized he felt guilty about losing interest (what with those brand new, very fat, Books 5, 6 and 7 sitting on his shelf!). When I asked him if he wanted to try something else, he was visibly relieved. He is reading 39 Clues now, and enjoying it. I am sure he’ll come back J.K eventually. And if he doesn’t, that’s ok, too…

  2. Brenda Kahn April 2, 2011 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    I got Pottered out after book 3 as well. I just could not get into the fourth book at all. And didn’t until the fifth book released and I had to read it. In my opinion, it’s the weakest of the books and that, and the rest of the books, for that matter, suffered from bloat. I’m no editor, but there seemed to be a tremendous amount of repetition in the fourth through seventh books.

    Additionally, this is the book where Harry gets surly. He has hit puberty and life, which has been incredibly hard for Harry, is just getting harder. There was a fair amount of talk around the time of its release about the series readership and whether it belonged in the YA section. There are some dark and scary things going down. I don’t know how old your son is, but maybe he’ll come to them later.

    How did I get back into the Potter mode? I checked out the audio book and got hooked on Jim Dale. He does an incredible job bringing the story to life. I listened to the rest of the series. When I finished listening to Deathly Hallows, I went back to the beginning and listened to each one consecutively as one story. I hadn’t reread any of them, as my own sons had in anticipation of the new releases. So, I was surprised at how things clicked in the rereading, er, re-listening.

    Welcome to Kidlitosphere. Your blog is lovely.


    • Michelle Skamene April 2, 2011 at 2:47 pm - Reply

      Brenda, thanks so much for your comments! It definitely helps explain his ‘Pottering out’. My guy is 10, so I can imagine the angst around puberty and such would be a bit much for him. I myself only read the first book. We’ll try again a little later. For now, I’ve picked out a few others I’m hoping will tickle his fancy. Thanks for the welcome and for stopping by, it really means a lot to me.

  3. Sheila Ruth April 2, 2011 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    I totally agree that he shouldn’t be forced to finish it. There are things that we have to read in life, but pleasure reading shouldn’t be one of those things. As you said, if I’m not enjoying a book, I don’t finish it, although I try to read at least 50 pages (especially if I’m reviewing it.) Forcing him to finish a book that he was reading for pleasure is a good way to turn him off of reading forever, especially when he’s approaching an age when many boys start losing interest in reading.

    Also, there may be more going on then just boredom. Book 4 takes a drastic turn for the darker, and there are some really scary/horrifying things in that book. Characters die, some of them meaningless deaths, and there is torture, for example. It may be that he hit something that bothered him, and caused him to lose interest. It might be fruitful to try to get him to talk about his feelings about the book, if you can do it without him feeling like you’re pressuring him. Perhaps it might be a good time for you to read the series, and you could bring it up as something that is bothering you when you’re reading it, and see if he responds. “Boy, there are some pretty horrifying things in this book, aren’t there?”

    I agree that book 4 is the weakest book in addition to being the book which starts the series down a darker path. I also second the suggestion of the audio books; we’re re-listening to them now in the car and Jim Dale is amazing. But before you try that (or as a part of the listening) try to make sure that the problem isn’t something bothering him, as I mentioned above. If it is, the audio books won’t solve that and could make it worse.

    • Michelle Skamene April 2, 2011 at 6:41 pm - Reply

      I hadn’t thought about the fact that there might be something dark or scary for him. My boys have always amazed me with their ability to watch fairly scary movies and not bat an eyelash. They sat through all the Harry Potter movies and enjoyed them immensely. But reading is actually very different, isn’t it? And I can only imagine all the details J.K Rowling must provide… I love your idea of reading it and questioning him gently. Thank you so much for your advice, and for stopping by!

  4. The Book Chook April 2, 2011 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    I’m with you, and other commenters. While I do understand the importance of finishing a project, I think the importance of allowing kids choice over their reading material trumps this. Reading is vital, not just to school success, but to creating literate, thoughtful and tolerant human beings. I support choice at home, and at school, because I want kids to want to read.

    And boy, do I know that excitement when you think your son has found his “thing”! I still have many of my son’s books from when he was a child – the pristine, barely-read ones are those I loved and wanted him to love. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle books were horrid to read aloud, and all fell apart through multiple re-readings, both his and mine.

    • Michelle Skamene April 3, 2011 at 2:19 am - Reply

      Ha, you made me laugh! I can totally relate to the dog-eared Teenage Mutant Mutant Ninja Turtle books or equivalents, leaving the gorgeous books I carefully chose to collect dust. My kids have a library I would have envied as a child, with enough there to keep them in award-winning literature for a while. Sadly, what we grown-ups value in kid lit does not always translate well to what some (reluctant reader?) kids want to read. I hesitate to use the term reluctant reader, because I really think oftentimes it’s about the book choices they (or we) make for them. Give a kid the right book, carve out some quiet time for him/her, and I bet most of the time you’ll find your ‘reluctant reader’ is…. reading.
      By the way, we *have* decided to shelve the Potter series for now. I am so glad I received so many comments about what starts happening in Book 4 and beyond. No more hard feelings, that’s for sure! We went to the library today and left with a comic, and the first of the 39 Clues series. We’ll see how that works! Thank you *so much* for stopping by and sharing.

  5. SolvangSherrie April 3, 2011 at 12:01 am - Reply

    Book 4 is where I got bored, too. I didn’t finish the series until my son was 10 and we read all of them together. Well, I read them out loud and he listened with rapt attention 🙂

    Books 1-3 are brilliant and definitely middle grade. Books 4-7 are definitely for older kids, at least in my opinion, and not as well edited. They just get too long. My 8yo has been begging to hear them so I read book 1 and we watched the movie (with older son eagerly listening in again) and we’re part way through book 2. But we’ll definitely take a break after book 3, read some other books, and wait for her to mature a bit before we read 4-7.

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