Mind in the Gutter

I'm pretty active in the lives of my kids.

(Interpretation: I like to be in the know. On everything.)

I want to know who their friends are, what they talk about, what they play and where they are at all times. The leash? It is short.

It's my job.

And I'm very good at it.

But as they get older, I'm learning that this is impossible! So, instead of being overbearing, my hubby and I are trying to build character that will help them make good decisions, when we aren't around.

And that's why I let my son put his mind in the gutter.

Let me explain:  My first grade son has struggled with reading. Sure, he has the basics down, but he doesn't like to read. (Which nearly disqualifies him from being my son, but I decided to give him some time). 

I know he's young, but I was sincerely concerned because reading is so important in our family and in life.

On one of my thrift store trips, as I flipped thru the used books, I discovered a chapter book for boys. The word poop was in the title.  It looked like a ridiculous book, the kind I said in a pious voice, "my kids would never read."

I bought it. 

I handed it to my son and his face lit up. Just by the silly cover, he could sense the absurdity of the book and he was enticed.

Can I just say that he read the entire book in one Saturday? Over 100 pages. I could hear his laughter throughout the house.

I could hear his love of reading ignite.

Now, I'm not proud that I bought him two more poopy chapter books from the same author (one was in his Easter basket. I know. We are terrible). 

He devoured them.

He's now moved on to Magic Tree House books and The Hardy Boys!

But his love for reading was sparked with a book about underpants and diaper heads.

(Just for the record, we did sit down and talk with him about appropriateness. He giggled the entire time. But at least he didn't toot).

Here's what I learned:
  • Let your child read something that interests them (within reason)
  • Be flexible. What interests them may be joke books, or worse, books that talk about a superhero with a diaper on his head.
  • Monitor what your child reads. Just because it's in the kid's section, doesn't mean you'll approve of it. 
  • Offer a variety of books. Once my son giggled over those poopy books, he moved on to some great books!
  • Create a fun reading spot in your house and make it a priority in your home.
  • Read to your kids. They are never to young or too old!
While I'm glad my son is now enthralled with his Children's Bible, I don't regret letting him read something I'd usually be opposed to. 

He sums it up best, "Mom, do you know why I love reading now? It takes me places I've never been!"

And I love that!

Even if one of those places was the gutter.

This post is dedicated to my son's first grade teacher, who loves reading as much as I do. Thank you, Mrs. Bruno. And to Dave Pilkey, author of those books. Thanks for writing about poop.
How do you encourage reading in your house? Got any great ideas for the summer? What do your kids love to read?


Tammy said...

We allowed Professor PoopyPants into our home! They were some of my son's favorite's in 2nd grade. That and the ENTIRE Junie B. Jones collection.

His 4th grade favorite has been Lemony Snicket (as weird as they are).

Hoosier Homemade said...

My son enjoyed some of the Captain Underpants (I think that's the name) books too. He loved Magic Tree House and is now reading Goosebumps - eewh, I know!
Thanks for sharing!

Bailey's Leaf said...

My daughter loves Amelia Bedelia and Curious George. I just picked up Hooked on Spanish (by Hooked on Phonics) at the local grocery discounter, so we'll be learning Spanish this summer!

Jane Anne said...

My son just got hooked on reading and it was all because of the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books. There are 3 in the set and then a "Do-It-Yourself" book. He couldn't put that first book down and then he re-read the book twice while he was waiting to get the 2nd and 3rd book. Whatever it takes! Now I wonder if I should check out these books for him. I bet he'd love them.

Rachel said...

One of my professors once told a story about working with a reluctant reader, who was also a boy. He asked the child the following question: If you could do anything at all for the next hour what would it be? Then they found books that related to his answer. I've always thought that was such a great idea!

JJ Sobey said...

Never underestimate the power of potty humour to get a boy to read!!

Dawn @ P.S.He loves you.. said...

I'm off to order poopy books right now..because if like you say it ignited the imagination then I'm soo willing to endure the sound effects that will likely come with!

This has been a struggle with my oldest who is going into 5th grade next year!!!

If only he would see the possibities as I've I think I see a possibility!

Thanks for sharing!

Mandy C. said...

My mom bought me VC Andrews books in high school to encourage me to read.

I don't think she knew how horrible they really were. Yikes. I can't believe I loved them so much.

Susie Q said...

We're trying to find a series for our 9YO to read...sigh...her older sister did the Harry Potter books, but we've not found anything yet. Her reading skills are not what they should be in spite of lots of work, so we are holding her back a year. Since she made the cutoff date for school by 2 days, it's not that bad. We'll have to keep an eye out for teasing next year, but she'll have a teacher again that she already had, small classes so they can nip it in the bud...she'll do fine...I wonder if I can get her to read my old Edgar Eager books...

Wifeof1Momof4 said...

For summers, we enter reading contest w/ the local library and my oldest gets excited about joke books. Even the tods "read" the joke books and try to tell the story behind the photos.

My gift .. catching my oldest one night not too long after his surgery a few years back READING bedtime stories to his siblings.

You just don't know how much it means for kids to have you read to them - - if even for a little bit.

Maddy said...

I couldn't agree more. I volunteer at each of my three children's classes to run the reading programme. Once they're hooked in the magic can start but until that moment many children flounder.
Best wishes

pendy said...

Love this. My children are grown but my six and seven year old friends next door are really into Junie B. My son (when he was maybe late elementary age) really enjoyed books on the American west.

Robin said...

Yay for reading! I want my kids to love reading too. We go to the library often. I love it when they say, "We need to need to go to the library. I need a new book to read." And I let them read whatever interests them. But I do monitor them. We learned the hard way that that not every children's book is good. Go with your gut (Holy Spirit?) and if you aren't comforable with it, find an alternative. Happy reading!

MemeGRL said...

We're not quite to Captain Underpants yet (thank goodness...) but we have gone with comic books. My kids are younger than your reader, but they are starting, and the restlessness of the older one to start to go beyond picture books is spurring us to find bridges between picture books and chapter books. So far, some of the comics (mostly Disney based, but also a few others) have been a good bridge. The comic store is *clearly* "for grownups" so the books pass muster with my reaching reader. Good for you in finding the gateway to reading for your kids!

Kara said...

I've always loved reading, but my younger brother hated it until Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends". Just like your son, it changed everything for him.

Tammy and Parker said...

Great ideas to help get a kid reading.

Parker loves books. Loves them. Which excites me to no extent!

Tammy and Parker

ShEiLa said...

I am a firm believer in reading something that interests you... if something does not interest me I am definitely not wasting my time.

Kids are not that different.


Anonymous said...

I have struggled for years to find something for my very, very reluctant reader to read. He got into a few books over the years, but nothing that was really exciting to him.

Then this winter he told me about the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series. One of his friends had it and he (and his sister) devoured them.

After much searching, I found Black by Ted Dekker. And there you have it. My son is hooked on action/adventure books. He's on the second book of the series and LOVES them :-)

Laura said...

Those were the exact same books that sparked my son's love of reading as well and I am so thankful. And I too never thought I'd ever say that about those types of books but I really am grateful. Yay reading!!

A Bushel and Peck and Pigtails Paper Trails said...

I made a small reading club for my daughter and a few of her friends, They had to read the same book each month and then we went somewhere fun to talk about the book and treat ourselves... a book club for kids. They loved it and counted down the days until the "party" each month.

Samantha said...

If anyone has a child who is really struggling with reading, consider getting a developmental vision test. This is not just a standard 20/20 vision test, but looks at other factors that effect vision. My daughter has 20/20 vision, yet has tracking issues and convergence disorder that was never picked up on until she was really struggling with reading. Turns out it really was just too hard for her because of her vision. After her vision therapy program, she is now reading on grade level and devouring Junie B Jones books. These vision problems are much more common than people realize.

Terri said...

Good job, Mom! Great tips and reminder!! Blessings!

Lynne said...

Great post! I teach 3rd grade(4th next yr) and it is so hard to get the boys in my class to read. (Our reading program has they read for 40 mins a day) They have a hard time staying focused that games are to blame!! BUT... They enjoy Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Capt. Underpants, Jake Drake, and the Ricky Ricotta Mighty Robot series. They also love nonfiction about sharks, dinosaurs, nat'l disasters etc. They are just a bit harder to read. Right now my 4 1/2 yr old loves to read but I know as he gets older it gets harder to keep his interest. We join our library's summer reading program. If you have a child who is reluctant to read...try to get them involved as much as possible in any reading activities. Good luck!

Stephanie said...

Well if there's one thing I learned as a parent it's never say never.

My oldest is about to be nine and he's not much of a reader either. He is a good reader...just wouldn't pick up a book for the sake of reading. But I have noticed that he loves to read to his younger brother at night before bed. So I let him even if they stay up a little later.

My second is a girl and she loves...loves to read. But she's not very good at science/math stuff. I just thought it was a case of each kid is different. I may have to look for some gross books for the boy and see if it makes a difference.

Thanks for the tip.

New momma said...

I absolutly love hearing this. My son is only 8 months old, but we try to read to him and let him "read" (aka play) books too.

Linda Miller said...

I was going to suggest the Amelia's Notebooks for Suzy Q's 9yo. My daughter loved them. They are in a diary format from an elementary girls perspective.

Beverly said...

We are a reading family as well. Nothing like a good book. There are a lot of things I wish I'd done differently as a mother, but instilling a love of reading in my children is one thing I know I did right!

Anonymous said...

I second the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books. My son is 10 and loves the books!!

Michelle said...

I think those books are ridiculous but my kids love them. My 3rd grader LOVES reading! I can't get him to put down his book. My 2nd grader I am still working on. She reads very well and several grade levels ahead but the LOVE of reading has not sparked in her. It was the Mysterious Benedict Society for my son.


Kim H. said...

I say if it worked - and he's moved on to bigger and better books... it was well WORTH the gutter for a little bit. :-) That is fantastic! I often wonder how I'm going to single-handedly teach our kids to read (when we have them) because my husband hates reading. He's just going to have to fake it - if he has to sit there and look at a book for a couple of hours a day to make it look like he's enjoying it... so be it! :-)

Your Frugal Friend, Niki said...

My little brother was completely enjoying the captain underpants series a few years back. I bought them for him and was so proud that I got him back into reading. I wholeheartedly believe that boys are harder to encourage to read as they get older than girls.

Another thing that encouraged him to read was ordering him a few mag subscriptions that appealed to him. Reading is reading! Whatever it takes.

Also, this summer get him to read by signing him up for all the great reading programs with perks. I've been posting about them on my blog.


Nancy said...

When my son was that age he wasn't a reader at all either. Eventually one of his teachers suggested that we guide him to books that might be of more interest to him. He loved watching sports so we introduced books about famous sports figures. He is now 24 years old and he loves reading novels by James Patterson, David Baldacci and the likes. I never would have imagined it back when he was 6.

Kim said...

I really relate to this post. We, too, have Captain Underpants in our house. He also loves Amelia Bedelia but he likes for me to read those to him. I really get into acting out like Amelia for him and he thinks that is a whoot. He will soon be 9 and reads alot on his own but I still love to read to him. Before long I won't have that anymore.

Anonymous said...

My first two sons are like me and love reading. #3 wasn't into it at first. I found that often times if I would start reading a book out loud to him, he would be hooked and finish reading it on his own. Thankfully, now he loves reading too!
One of the current favorites at our house is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I read one, and it even made me laugh!

Robin said...

My little ones are grown and out now but I remember lazy summer afternoons when we'd have reading time in the hammock...all of us. The kids loved it 'cause they got to eat a pop-cicle and listen as I read books like The Secret Garden, and The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe...I'm looking so forward to starting a similar tradition with my tiny granddaughter Ellie when she's a little older!
All Things Heart and Home

grannyann said...

Thanks for the suggestion on the kids books! I went into Amazon and ordered them for my grandkids. They like to read and be read to but they will love something that makes them laugh. Thanks for sharing.

Annikke said...

Fortunately for me my kids love to read, but the neighbor boys don't. When my neighbor friend told me she couldn't get her son to read, I decided to do a Reading Bingo for the four boys (my two plus two neighbor boys). It has been so fun for them. I posted this on my blog a few weeks ago, but don't know how to post a link in a comment (sorry!) The boys have had fun reporting to me what books they are reading and how many more boxes they need to complete. At first I didn't know what the prize would be, but I got a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble for the winner of the Reading Bingo! It has been so fun they want to keep it up over the summer!

The Source said...

One of my twins was significantly behind grade level upon entering 3rd grade. Luckily he had a teacher who had been at it forever. She encouraged him to read ANYthing...she told him she didn't care if he spent thirty minutes a day reading cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, the comic section of the paper or the ticker on long as he read something. Fiction was not interesting to him, so he spent the year with our local paper. Unbelievably, he caught up to his classmates quickly and now, ending 5th grade, he's above grade level and loves reading! We've read all the Wimpy Kid and Capt. Underpants series. Love 'em.

Richella said...

Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this post. It's a great principle: sometimes you have to relax the standards just a bit to achieve a desired purpose. Your standards are still your standards, and it's great to have them. But your ultimate goals are more important.

The Wade's said...

Has your son tried simple comic books like Archie? It's worked for some kids that I know that have had reading troubles.

jennschmerer said...

I love this! It reminded me of this post from the Meanest Mom:

If you haven't read it- do. It's hilarious!

Quoizel Lighting said...

You gotta do what you have to help your kids out in life.

Bridget said...

J loved those books, too...although I always cringed a little when he picked them out. ;)

It's really hard when they get older to read all that they read to see what's appropriate....he goes through them so fast! J really likes non-fiction...that's where he would stay if I let him.

When he was in kinder/1st grade, he read about all of Roald Dahl's books (love them!) and the Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing/Superfudge series. Now, we're into SPIES!

Luke said...

Great books that interest children are the key to igniting the love of reading. On the other hand, I know from personal experience that reading can be incredibly challenging and hard. That's why I love books on tape [smile].


Sarah said...

My oldest son HATED to read and his reading scores showed it. His teacher was a preacher's wife and she said she wanted to find him a book to spark his interest.....well...Bryen showed interest in the Captain underpants books and she wasn't really thrilled with his selection but said if he will read it--Go for it!

Like your son he devoured them. LOVED them! But thankfully has moved on.

He is going into the 7th grade so Im looking for a series for his age now. HE's in a lull and hasn't found anything that keeps his interest.

Liz Casstro said...

My little brother read those same books and loved them. He would finish them quick and my mom would suprise him with the next, which made his day! Great job!

Threeundertwo said...

Let your kids see *you* reading. I think this was right up there with reading to them. From the time they were little, our kids knew that reading was something we did for fun.

Great post. He'll be a great reader because his mom cares so much.

nicole said...

I read voraciously and I hope that it has been a part of fostering a love of reading in my children. My girls love to read as well, and my boys enjoy me reading to them. This summer we will read Farmer Boy, The Tale of Despereaux, and maybe the Chronicles of Narnia if we have time. I love to read. I can't say it enough.

Sharon said...

Mine are small and don't read by themselves yet. But we still have reading time. They flip through picture books, create stories themselves and trips to the library are the BOMB! We go weekly and love to go! They watch us reading as well. Every little bit counts!!

Jen-After the Alter said...

I think it just takes that one good book to spark a kids love of reading. When I was little it was the baby sitters club series...from then on I was an avid reader. I guess it just takes that one thing to show how much reading can be enjoyable!

Charlotte said...

Funny! I remember in H.S. we had a spanish version of 'Everyone Poops'. We used to have so much fun reading that book. Silly!

librarymama said...

You might want to check out
It's a website devoted to finding books for boys to read set up by Jon Scieszka who's written a lot of really funny books.

I have seen first-hand a love of reading sparked by Captain Underpants, Diary of Wimpy Kid, Junie B Jones and Judy Moody. A great way to get kid hooked!

Samvach said...

Great post! My middle son loves those Captain Underpants books and while I was initially opposed, I found them harmless. I read a huge range of books myself - from how-to homeschooling and organizational books to classic literature, mysteries, and (my own personal gutter) romance novels. Within reason, I think it is fine for our children to do the same. My daughter is currently reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" and loving it. She is also reading light, fluffy teen romances and enjoys those too. She knows that the classic will likely stay with her forever and the others are mere temporary entertainment and that's just fine. Thank you for posting!

A Maui Blog said...

OH we love Captain Underpants! My dyslexic kid's love for reading was sparked by it. We bought the whole collection! Now he's also moved on t "warriors" chapter books, etc. And he loves to read!

Liza's Eyeview

Mrs. Bick said...

We too had THAT "poop" book visit our house. Giggles abounded and that book was read over and over! "Everyone Poops" has been one of the first books our children choose to read independently.

Kudos to you for fostering that love of reading, even if initially the book would not be your choice. Very hard to do...I know.

Btw, my oldest loves to read odd things...the phone book and the big, orange Home Depot DIY book are two frequent favorites. Go figure!

PamperingBeki said...

That is so cute!!

Good job mom. :)

My daughter (9) is waaayyy into the Hardy Boys books right now.

Geri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
I Am Boymom said...

Gotta Love Captain Underpants! It got my kid reading too!!

Pam said...

I grew up with a sister. Then I married a man, and gave birth to a son. Up until that point I thought that boys were taught to be gross. I now realize that it's some nasty gene that they are born with that causes great delight with bodily functions and the like. Having said that, my son loves books relating to that: Captain Underpants, Walter the Farting Dog... I figure if you can't beat 'em - roll with the punches. I also homeschool, though, and we use a literature based curriculum which exposes him to many types of books. So, he is finding other things that pique he interest like the "Third Grade Detectives", "Ginger Pye". If it's funny or suspenseful, he's on board.

Cathy {{Mommy NEEDS Motivation}} said...

I couldn't agree more. My daughter hasn't fallen in love yet (ending gr. 3 soon) but is extremely inquisitive and curious about wildlife and animals. So we buy books and magazines that are probably over her reading level, but that are at her curiosity level. The pictures are so interesting she just can't NOT read the rest of the page. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh a mom after my own heart! I struggled with letting my boy (then 8) read Captain Underpants books. But an amazing thing happened - it branched off to other (more appropriate books) - The Magic Treehouse, Time Warp Trio.

He's picked up Artimus Fowl today. He's going into 6th grade.

My girl is entering 3rd and is just getting comfortable reading chapter books. Her favorite: Junie B Jones.

Anonymous said...