Ask Maxwell: How Can I Get My Son Excited About Reading?

published Jun 6, 2022
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Credit: Maxwell Ryan
My daughter's Crosley portable record player... it's had two trending moments in her life - first when she was younger and listened to stories and lately, as a teenager, when it is cool to play the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and other 80's records in her room. And, yes, she also has a Billie Eilish record in gold that can be played, but is hanging on her wall. The collage styling is all her.

My son is nine and not very excited about reading in the way that I was at his age. Do you have any suggestions for getting him going or simply into stories?

– Ronald

Dear Ronald,

While I know schools teach reading, I’ve always found that everyone eventually reads and it just COMES when the time is right. That said, I totally relate to your wanting to get your son into the world of stories at a young age as that is such a magical time for the imagination and for creating pictures in your head which is the foundation of so much later creative work. This is what I would recommend.

The first and easiest and BESTIST thing you can do is read aloud to your children. Reading before bedtime is a particularly sweet moment, which I wrote about here, and, as a parent of a dyslexic girl, it is not only a great shared experience, it builds imaginative strength and translates to stronger reading comprehension later on.

BUT, another fun thing that I remember doing as a kid and which I did with my daughter is to buy a simple, portable record player for your home and get them stories on records that they can play over and over to themselves. Yes, you could simply put an audio-book on your iPhone, which is fine, but that tactile nature of the record player, I’ve found, is a big hit with kids.

This is the one that I bought for my daughter – it’s a Crosley Vintage Suitcase Turntable and it comes in many colors. For the stories, I scoured eBay to find the ones that I remember as a kids, including:
Just So Stories read by Sterling Holloway
The Story of Black Beauty
The Gumdrop Follies
Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales read by Danny Kaye

I know these are really old and that was my childhood, but old is not bad and I would urge you to simply search for the vinyl version of any stories you remember as a kid as I’m sure you can find them. Then make a special little presentation to your son – maybe it’s a birthday – teach him to gently put the needle down on the record and let him loose.

I guarantee you that he’ll carry his new toy off to his room and get deep into stories. 🙂

Best, M

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Maxwell Ryan is a father and was an elementary school teacher in NYC before founding Apartment Therapy. He’d love to answer your question: This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids.

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