Benign neglect

Today I tested the theory of benign neglect as a means to encourage youthful reading. It works! The rules are fairly simple:

  1. Provide books, artfully arranged in bookcases, on all available surfaces, and even strewn on the floor.
  2. Strictly forbid any screen time of any kind — for the kids, of course. TV, video games, computer are all ruled out. Then write.
  3. Write the introduction to Henley’s 20th century formulas, which from now on will be dubbed “Make Anything 1914 edition”
  4. Studiously ignore all attempts to get your attention. No monopoly. No Uno. Respond to any request with a vague “in a minute, honey” while carefully avoiding eye contact.

Eventually the subjects of this experiment will tire of playing with legos, and they will even tire of bickering with each other. After a time of eery silence you can creep out with your camera and snap their picture. Then get back to writing.

Update:  I expanded on this idea and published a prize-winning article called How to Turn your Kids into Bookworms. In case you are wondering, the prize was NOT a Pulizer, just a T-shirt and a Knex Building set. Still made me very happy, and my boys were ecstatic.


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