My mother, like all good mothers, began to teach me to read by reading old time lullabies to me as a child. Because I have dyslexia, I had trouble focusing on the words, but the pictures helped hold my attention. Then, when I was what we now call a “tween,” my mother took my reading lessons a step further, though in an unusual way. She gave me Playboy magazines. (I think she also comprehended that I was going to have a very difficult time with girls and that this might somehow help.) Of course, a teenage boy full of testosterone is going to be in the land of OZ the first time he opens a magazine like Playboy. I will admit that at first I only looked at the pictures. However, I eventually wanted to learn more about the female psyche, so I began reading the articles, as they were the only form of female education that I was receiving. Somebody once told me that what you read about those ladies in the articles isn’t how they really are. Quite frankly, I didn’t really care because they did give me a general sense of how women act, what they like and don’t like, and so I kept on reading.
When I was young, I also had a speech impediment that made pronouncing even the most simple words very difficult. At age six, we were visiting Paris for my father’s work. We were staying at the Ritz hotel. Now there is a big difference when it comes to the Ritz and a Ritz-Carlton hotel. The Ritz hotel was an actual palace back in the Victorian days and is one of the most famous hotels in the world, while Ritz-Carltons are just nice hotels. One morning, my mother and I walked out of the Ritz and I saw what was for me the holy grail: a row of maybe fifteen Lamborghini Diablos. Even though I could barely talk, when I looked at the hoods of those beautiful cars, the muscles of my mouth relaxed, and I flawlessly, in a smooth and soft voice, said, “Lamborghini.” My mother couldn’t believe what she had just heard. And so we began buying car magazines for me, and that is how I learned to read – by focusing on what was most interesting to me: girls and cars.
There’s a good lesson in that. If your child is afraid to read or having trouble reading, you need to focus on what they are most interested in and find books or magazines that will hold their attention. For very young children, you can start out with fun picture books, like Cat and Dog, Bad Kitty or even Everyone Poops. If you have a teenage boy interested in cars, buy them car magazines. The same goes for fashion magazines for girls interested in clothes. Making reading fun is what it is all about. Oh, and by the way, I still have all those Playboy magazines, though unfortunately I don’t have a Lamborghini.