Reluctant Reader, Kindles, & FreeTime Unlimited

As a lover of books myself, it has come as a great source of disappointment that my oldest, at a whopping 7 years old, has little to no interest in reading.

I suppose it would be like Michael Jordan’s son not liking basketball.  Except that I’ve made precisely zero dollars from reading a book, and besides the free personal pan pizzas you used to earn back in elementary school, I have yet to have anyone give me a ring for finishing a series.

While I knew going into this parenting gig that all bets were off in terms of being able to predict anything at all (besides, general chaos), it still made me a little sad to find myself with a reluctant reader.

In fact, reluctant isn’t quite strong enough a word here.  I’m thinking more like the kind of reaction you would expect to get if you said something along the lines of “Hey Henry, I think you should go lick that toilet this afternoon…”

Of course I’ve tried all kinds of things to get him interested in reading (including ordering Pokemon books…kill me), but with little success.  He’s always seemed interested in my Kindle, but that’s mine and I don’t share all that well.

So when I got an email from Clever Girls reminding me that March is National Reading Month and would I like a Kindle and a year subscription to Kindle Unlimited, I thought “Hmmmm, I wonder if this might help Henry?”

When the box came, he immediately jumped down my throat with questions.

“Mom, who’s that for?  But don’t you already have a Kindle?  Can I have that one?  I’ll take your old one…”

This was going far too easily.



I set the device up (easy peasy), and told him that it was tentatively his.  Provided he was respectful of it and didn’t leave it lying around the house for the littles to find.

And for the last several weeks, I find him around the house like this.



Books.  That have no pictures.  AND I DID NOT ONCE ASK HIM TO DO IT.

He spends some time searching around for a free book download using the FreeTime Unlimited service…and you know what?  He’s downloaded a few, started them, proclaimed them “boring” or “lame”…and moved on.

THIS IS GENIUS.  They always say that the trick to learning to love to read is to find the right books.  As a mom who doesn’t want to blow her budget on dozens of books only to be told they are terrible, this is FANTASTIC.

(FreeTime Unlimited starts at $2.99 per month and kids get unlimited access to hundreds of hand-picked chapter books and early readers, all curated for age-appropriateness, so parents don’t have to spend time and money guessing what their kids will enjoy. FreeTime Unlimited includes favorites, such as the Harry Potter series, The Borrowers by Mary Norton, Big Nate and Friends by Lincoln Peirce, and Newberry Medal and Honor winning books.  If you have a Fire tablet or Amazon Fire TV, you can also use FreeTime Unlimited to access to over 5,000 kid-friendly books, games, educational apps, movies, and TV shows.) <---- I copy/pasted that straight from Amazon. If you couldn't tell. IMG_9130

I noticed that he set the text to GIANT.  I know his eyesight is fine, so I asked him about it.

“I like the words big because then I don’t lose my place so easy…and I get to push the screen faster to go to the next page sooner than if I had it tiny.  I like pushing the screen for the next page…”

A-HA!  Unlimited selection and the ability to feel like you are making progress and not be overwhelmed!!!  I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before!


Look, while I own a Kindle myself, I’m still the girl who swoons when she walks into a used bookstore.  The smell, the yellowing paper, the weird lighting…gah!  The best.

But at the end of the day, if my boy can learn to love to read…and it takes a device (and in this case, this is a standard Kindle.  He can’t do anything BUT read on it.), then I’ll take it.


Because there are few things more delightful than realizing it’s quiet…where’s Henry…oh, he’s outside READING.

I could just die.


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.

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  1. 1

    This is so exciting! Whatever works! My son never enjoyed reading (except for Michael Crichton as he got older) – but got through his schoolwork and was an excellent writer. He’s a electrical engineer who was always building with legos as a kid, and enjoyed writing music. As a young adult he read a lot of John Steinbeck and Kurt Vonnegut. His wife is a reader, so there’s hope! But I don’t expect that we’ll be sharing book reviews…

  2. 2

    I too could never u der stand why my two youngest never read. All I ever heard was I hate reading. They did what they needed to do and that was that. They grew up around readers. My oldest, my husband myself. Them….never. When I read Fifty Shades I mentioned it to my middle daughter and eventually she read it. She read it and would not stop. Bang her door was open. She read all three and moved onto other novels. Then the Catching Fire series came out and my youngest also an adult saw the first movie and read the series along with her middle sister and now these two never stop reading. Several a week on their iPhones with the kindle ap and have been to so many author conventions it’s funny. I love the smell and feel of books but hay what ever gets you reading.

  3. 3

    I understand your excitement over Henry reading, but I guess I can’t get past the fact that it still involves him staring at a screen.
    Yeah, I suppose I’m old school (mid-thirties) and always will be. But his mention of enjoying “pushing the buttons” etc. makes me think it’s more a technology enjoyment than a long-term love of reading. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong! But something about a kid in a hammock staring at a screen vs. a real, live book makes me sort of sad.

    • 4

      I fully understand that, and of course I’d rather him read an actual book, but I wonder if that’s more of a generational thing (because I’m with you)? I don’t think that it’s the actual “pushing of the button” that is exciting for him (because literally, you just tap the screen and it goes to the next page), but the fact that he can move forward. I think he gets overwhelmed when he sees full pages of text…but this makes him feel like he’s making progress faster (which isn’t really true, but he feels like it is.) That being said, I’m hoping this is a good stepping stone, or at least part of a more full range of mediums for him to read. But I do agree. An actual book would be so much better for my Norman Rockwell perception of what this scene should look like. (And I solace myself in the fact that this Kindle is the base version: no colors, no backlighting, no dinging or noises of any kind. He can’t play games on it. He can’t watch videos. Just read.) At the end of the day, I’m just glad he’s reading (and in this case, it’s Harry Potter…so it’s not cheesy Pokemon or Hot Wheels stuff.)

      • 5

        True! And maybe once he gets the hang of reading, you could get him to split his time between the Kindle and an actual paper book. I do understand how fewer words on a page would feel less intimidating. I get that way sometimes too & it can prevent me from starting a book because those first few pages especially can feel a bit overwhelming when you’ve got hundreds left to go :)

        • 6

          I think this is amazing! And with it being a traditional kindle, you’re good to go! I am with you on the smell of books, and I really like the covers and having a good book shelf, and giving someone a book when I’m done with it. But I have an old kindle with a cover that has a light, and man is it nice to read in bed at night.

          Depending on how you guys do birthday and christmas gifts…maybe you make it a rule that they get a physical book included in the gifts? Thankfully with him being your oldest you can set the expectation now, so that when (I can’t believe I”m typing this) pork chop gets around to reading by himself he’ll know what the deal is?

        • 7

          My 8 year old loves stories, loves to read, but is generally lazy. He rejects books that I pick for him because they look too long. But if I give him an equivalent book on the kindle, he reads it no problem. He likes that it shows how much of the book is read. He likes that it estimates reading time left in the book, based on how fast he has turned the pages. And he also changes the color of the page and the size of the font.

  4. 8

    I was the same way as Henry. I had no interest in reading until I found books that truly interested me. That’s when I got hooked on reading.

  5. 9

    My two older kids are voracious readers. Anything you put in front of them, they’ll read. If they’ve got a book they’re halfway into upstairs and find something different downstairs, they have no problem starting another one. My youngest was not as easy to get into reading. He does great at school, he’s reading ahead of his grade level, but he just didn’t love it the way the other two did. I tried SO HARD to find “real” books he’d want to read, instead of the comic book style ones he preferred.

    He’s in second grade now and a few months into the school year, he found a series he loved – Little House on the Prairie. Which is totally fine with me, I loved it because I had the series when I was younger and I remember reading them all. It was just so not what I expected from him. Suddenly, he was sitting down and reading! Because he wanted to!

    Now he’s finished with that series and he’s on the second Harry Potter book. Yay!

  6. 10

    As an only child all I did was read. I could easily knock out a novel in the backseat on road trips. I could disappear deep into the pages of whatever I was reading and not come up for air until my eyes shut themselves or there were no more pages to read. Even then, I might have started the book all over again just to keep the adventure going. That being said, my biggest problem is that my younger stepson has trouble reading. I know that he has the imagination to love books just as much as I did (and do!) but it breaks my heart that he can’t escape into them. But this idea of his own kindle in which he can adjust the size of the font to whatever his little heart desires until he can conquer just a few words at a time sounds amazing. And sound possible. And I am so so excited to open this new world up to him!