I have a 7 year old son in 1st grade. His school is rather far away, and it takes about 40 minutes for me to drive him there. We are a very busy family, and so I want this time in the car to be "time well spent."
What I've been doing for the last few years is allow him to play educational games on his Leap Pad portable game system in the car. This has worked well on a number of different levels. Firstly, he's received a good jump start learning basic math, grammar, spelling, etc. Secondly, we live in a country where few people speak English, and so the games (which are all in English) help expose him to verbal and written English. This English language exposure is very important to me because I want him to be a competent bilingual. He also greatly enjoys playing the games (note: I only allow him to play them in the car on long car trips).
However, one thing that has been bothering me is that my son doesn't like to read (he says that books are boring). I read a lot of books when I was a boy, and I would like for him to have a more positive attitude towards them.
Anyhow, the other day I told my son that he won't be playing his Leap Pad in the car this week and gave him two books to read (not in English, because he is not as good a reader in English as he is in his native language). He refused to even look at the books and just stared out the window for the duration of the trip. The the day after that I told him the same thing, yet he somehow managed to find an electric toy lying around in the car and played that instead. The plan is to remove all forms of entertainment from the car except books and hope is that that eventually out of sheer boredom he will pick up a book and give reading a try.
My question is, am I doing the wrong thing by taking something away my son enjoys so much (i.e. the Leap Lap) that has shown to be beneficial? Is it possible that this strategy will backfire and make him dislike books even more? I don't think that he completely despises books because before bed I read to him English language picture books, which he enjoys. Also, I've seen him thumbing through some of the books we've read together on his own which is very promising.
Another thing to consider is that within a year he will probably "max out" his learning potential with the Leap Pad. That is, the difficulty level of the arithmetic, grammar, etc. problems won't be challenging enough for him.
Also, I imagine that it should hard for a book to compete with an interactive gadget complete with sounds and audio? Perhaps studies have been done on this. I am worried that prolonged exposure to the Leap Pad and other electronic interactive media will make it more difficult for him to find pleasure in books in the future.
Maybe I've written enough? Given the situation and concerns stated above, does anybody have any suggestions? Continue with the book only policy? Try something different?
NOTE: While I appreciate the numerous comments and responses on fostering a love of reading, very little has been said about the use of electronic media. If I allow him to use the electronic media in the car and allow him to choose his time freely he will most definitely not be reading.
In response to comments below:
Regarding car sickness: good point that I didn't think about. However, I don't think that this is a problem because I've had him read books out loud with me in a moving car a number of times. However, that is something that I am definitely going to pay more attention to in the future.
Regarding book selection: the books I gave him to read are not English books and were picked out by my wife (the language they are in is not my native tongue). Honestly, I haven't really looked at them. He is interested in bugs, trains, cars, and, superheros. I purchased some train themed comic books in his first language but was chastised by my wife because I guess that she thought that they were too difficult? Anyhow, he didn't really look at them. I feel more confident picking out English language books. Maybe giving him non-English books to read in the car was a mistake. I have been assuming that he should be a better reader in his native language and that he is not yet ready to read English books on his own but I am probably wrong. I purchased a set of Batman and Superman I Can Read books so we will see how that goes.
Yesterday my son picked up a kid oriented graphic novel that we had read together and started reading it on his own! I posted this question to SE the day prior to that so I didn't have time to implement any of the ideas in this thread. So I guess maybe I was doing something right all along!
Regarding the school commute, I think I am going to mix things up a bit. I'm going to give him English language books that I know he enjoys (rather giving him books in his first language that I have no idea if he likes or not; I suppose that it is wrong to assume that a child should begin reading on his own using books in his native tongue). I'm also going to try playing educational English language podcasts in the car like Brains On! and Wow in the World. The rule was previously that the Leap Pad could only be played in the car for longish trips (maybe over 30 minutes). Maybe I'll extend that to one hour.