I was at a book signing recently, where I had the opportunity to talk with lots of parents. Many were concerned about their child’s lukewarm feelings toward reading. Well, I have a theory on why many kids don’t like to read. They are forced to read books they don’t like and they start thinking, if all books are this boring, stupid, dull, who cares, I’m never reading another thing again. And yes, there is the whole competition with video games, apps, social media, and movies, but believe me when I tell you, find a book a kid likes to read and you’ll make a reader out of them. Because reading is magic.
When the Noodges were in elementary school I watched the school librarian discourage a few kids from reading and that was only the times I saw. How many other times did she do that? She’d say at a book fair, “don’t waste your parents money by purchasing books you can’t read.” Really??? Are you kidding me? If a child has any interest in a book, cultivate that interest. And don’t give me the, “they’ll be frustrated if they can’t read it,” that’s what parents are for. And yes, some kids don’t have parents who care enough to read with them, but that’s a discussion for another post.
Noodge 1 was an early reader and if I can brag for a second, an advanced reader which made finding books that were appropriate for him in elementary school difficult. I didn’t want him to lose his love of reading because he didn’t have choices. That same elementary school librarian apparently didn’t feel the way I did. When he was in the third grade, he had grabbed Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien off the shelf. The librarian said, “You can’t check that out,” and laughed at him. He said, “why is it here if I can’t take it out?” (Yup, that’s the Italian in him.) He put the book back. He came home from school and told me. I’m sure you can guess how this played out. I told her he could take out whatever he wanted from the library and she could keep her mouth shut. I was a little nicer than that. I think.
But then we have teachers who inspire the love of reading in their students and I applaud them. Recently, I was at Anthony Wayne Middle School where I presented a creative writing workshop to eighth graders. Their teacher chose my book and had them read it ahead of my appearance so we could discuss it while I was there. One student told her she thought the book was stupid because of the cover, but Mrs. R. wouldn’t be dismayed . She encouraged the student to keep at it and guess what? She was my biggest fan that day! You know what I’m most grateful for? That young lady learned that amazing stories await inside the covers of books if you just give them a try. She felt the magic of reading for herself. So imagine if she loved the cover, but a teacher said, “You? Read that?” Insert villainous laugh here.
I assure you, if you find an author or a genre your child likes you’ll make a reader out of them. Encourage them to stretch and try books that might be a little challenging. If they don’t know a word, the can look them up. And they can use an app for that.
Feel the magic. Read a book.