Trouble with the “50 Page Rule”

When a child doesn’t like to read it can be frustrating for parents when they finally talk their kid into reading some wonderful book only to have the child quit reading it a quarter of the way through.  Not only does the parent get frustrated, but the child eventually figures out that when they quit reading a book their mom or dad is disappointed in them.  Often, down the road, they just refuse to read the next book.

A vicious cycle is born.

The book that broke the curse!

In my own reading life, I have a personal “100 page rule.”  I try to give every book I begin at least 100 pages before I decide to abandon it.  And believe me, I can’t wait to find a new novel that I love so much I can’t put it down.  (Who’s read “Gone Girl?”)  But, alas, sometimes it just isn’t meant to be.

In my house we solved this problem with the “50 page rule.”  We agreed that if my child will read the first 50 pages, she can decide to stop reading at page 51 and find something else.  

Depending on their age, give your kids a similar rule.  Have an 8 year old read 10 pages.  A 10-year-old, 20 pages.  Chance are, if they give it a chance, they’ll get hooked by the plot and keep going.  

But if they don’t, let it go.  

Let them put the book down and select something else.  That’s the crucial thing — that they select something else.  This might even have the added effect of making your child more willing to give something a try that they wouldn’t normally pick up.  

 A lot of factors contribute to not liking a particular book.  Sometimes it’s above your child’s reading level.  They may be reluctant and embarrassed to admit that the book is too hard.  Sometimes they find the plot unengaging or just plain dull.  Other times, it just simply isn’t their cup of tea.

This rule worked like a charm in my house.  Until recently.  A few weeks ago I noticed that every book my daughter has been bringing home from the school library, she’ll read for a few nights and then abandon it claiming to invoke the 50 page rule.  

Really, again?  You can’t find anything you like?  When was the last time you read a whole book?  Looks like I’m back to sounding like a nagging mother.

I mentioned this to the librarian at school and she waved an unconcerned hand, suggesting that it’s just a faze.  Probably a control thing, she explained.  She most likely enjoys the power of selecting something and then rejecting it.  Let it be and it’ll probably go away.

Why is “just let it be” often the hardest part of parenting?  

But I took her suggestion to heart and backed off.  I stopped making comments and silently shaking my head when another book bit the dust.  Then last night I noticed that she’s nearly three-quarters of the way through “The Tales of Despereaux” by Kate DiCamillo.  

Is the curse broken?  Too early to tell.  

But here’s what I took away from this experience.  First, having the “50 page rule” established seems to be giving her the freedom, in fact I’d even say empowering her, to try and reject a lot of different styles of literature.  Even if she discovers she doesn’t really dig graphic novels, hey, she gave it a shot.  

And secondly, it’s reminding me that I need to let go a little bit more, stop trying to control everything all the time, and allow her to find her own way.  After all, we all know that is our ultimate goal as parents.  Some of us just need to be reminded of it more than others.