“I hate reading.” Writing. Math. Science. Sports. Students say it, and hear it. Teachers and parents hear it (and sometimes think it). Often, though, it’s followed by another word: “except…” So what do we do?

Emphasize the exception.

“… reading.” Except for mysteries, or romances, or sci-fi, or adventures, or fantasy, or how to, or manga, or whatever. So read a lot of that. On the page or online. There’s good writing in every genre. Aficionados learn to recognize it. They become fluent readers, with taste. What more can we ask? Well, we can hope that in some time and place they’ll apply their skills more broadly.

Some college composition students say they hate writing… except creative writing. OK. Telling stories well means learning to say things clearly, grammatically, perhaps elegantly. Coercion with explanation can help. Years ago I taught business writing to students of graphic design. The unit was compulsory. They hated it. “We think spatially, visually, not verbally. Why write?” “How will you apply for a job? Or a grant for that project? How well are your websites selling your services?” I asked. “Oh” they said.

S/he hates math. But s/he’s a sports fan, and that means statistics; more and more statistics. Baseball was once about batting averages, home runs, wins and losses. Today, it’s work for sports fans with computers. Virtual sports are all statistics. From there it’s a short step to the stats that tell us about politics, purchases, contraception, the environment… the sort of math we all need to know.

“I hate science… but I care about trees” or animals or people, and want to keep them healthy. So you do what you have to do. Sciences are the basis of health care, veterinary care, conservation, etc. Some doctors say that pre-med organic chemistry was their greatest challenge. But worth it.

“I hate sports.” It often means team sports, or competitive sports. So run, hike, or bike alone. Try Tai Kwon Do. Get fit and stay fit. Then when your friends need one more player, you’re ready to try a sport.

In high school David R Jones hated sports. In graduate school he played tennis with his professors.

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