Book Fair

I spent this morning working at the book fair at the kids’ school.


Preteen Girl A: Ooh, The Lucky One by Nicolas Sparks!

Preteen Girl B: That’s a movie.

Preteen Girl A: I know…this is the book it was based on.

Preteen Girl B: So why read it? I’m just going to watch the movie version.

Sigh. So sterotypical, Girl B, so stereotypical.

My husband and I were both into reading as kids. We were the kind of kids who snuck under the covers at night with a flashlight and a novel, who thought they were totally fooling their parents with their surruptitious glances at the book on our laps under the dining room table. We were the kids who would rather sit inside on a warm summer day because the glare of the sun on our books make it hard to focus.

I remember my mom yelling at me about ten times a day to PUT THAT BOOK DOWN and come and do something useful, or engaging, or physical.

Now I’m at the other end of things – I wish our kids were readers. Actually, Gal Smiley shows early signs of possibly enjoying reading, we have caught her sitting with a comic book or even a short novel a few times lately, all without prodding. Then Sir Monkeypants and I make mad hand gestures at each other and mime how EXCITED we are to see one of our kids reading, but of course we can’t make a big deal about it, but it’s a BIG DEAL. Do you know how hard it is to mime out how long do you think before she is ready for Lord of the Rings?

But the Captain. Oh, the Captain. He is a guy who is Not. Into. Reading. In general, he’s not into schoolwork – always rushing to get it done as fast as possible, with the minimal acceptable effort. He’s passionate about Lego, video games, The Clone Wars, and kicking everyone’s butt at Sorry. Reading? Not so much.

It’s such a dicey thing, because this is one of those things that we desperately want him to take an interest in, but we know that if we push it, he’ll end up seeing reading as a chore and hate it even more. Others have recommended comic books to us, but he’s lukewarm about those too; he says he’ll read Star Wars novels if I buy them but it turns out to be a scam just so he can get the free Darth Vader bobblehead that comes along for the ride.

We had heard from several parents that the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan was The One that transformed their non-reader into a reader, so a few weeks ago I bought the whole set from Scholastic. They were nominally for bedtime reading – we still read to him before bedtime, and he LOVES that – but Sir Monkeypants had a secret plan to read him only some of the book, then encourage him to read the rest on his own. It is…sort of working. We still have to tell him that it’s reading time, and he is to go in his room and read now. But once we can convince him to be there, he will read (for the minimum required time) and enjoy the story (to a minimum degree). So I guess that’s progress.

What I really want is for him to discover the wonder of storytelling. To have his imagination fired up by stories that serve as the seeds for new tales to grow in his own mind. To devour books like they were chocolate-flavoured Pez and to come to us with complex questions like “what does ‘lackadaisical’ mean?” and “are any of my grandparents Greek Gods?” To curl up next to us on the couch with a book and then not be able to resist telling us about this funny part, or this scary part, or this sad part.

Is there a way to make that happen? Or is it just an inborn thing? Are some people born to read, and others born to travel lightly on the open road?

We’ll keep reading to him, and keep hoping. And make him read the book before seeing the movie, dammit.

19 thoughts on “Book Fair

  1. How old is he? I ask b/c my now 12 yo ds (who also loves Star Wars Lego but none of the books I bought him on that theme) didn’t really start reading until he was 8 and now never stops. Bone graphic novels got him hooked and by 9/10 he’d finished Lord of the Rings, Redwall, etc. My DD who just turned 9 was also a reluctant reader until this year…and now she is reading of her own accord every day. I think you are right not to push – that’s our natural inclination I know, but like you I never wanted it to feel a chore. We allow 30 extra minutes of lights on for reading at night. Kind of a reward if you will.

    1. The Captain just turned 9, so maybe I just need to wait it out. We just started giving him the extra time to read before bed – so far he has PREFERRED GOING TO SLEEP (giant sigh), but maybe it will catch on soon.

  2. I so know what you mean about impatiently waiting to introduce Lord of the Rings. DD is only 2.5 and I can’t wait for her to be old enough to enjoy that series.

    I don’t know if a love of reading is nurtured or natured into us. Maybe a bit of both? I loved reading as a child – would sometimes prefer to read than play with my friends.

    We read as a family quite a bit and make frequent trips to the library where DD gets to pick which books to bring home (she can’t read yet so her selection is obviously based on the book cover) 🙂

    I like Denise’s idea of 30 extra minutes of lights for reading at night.

    Good luck, Lynn!

  3. I don’t know. My boys both still like to be read to. They do like reading, to a certain extent, depending on the book of course. They aren’t like I was when I was a kid, I was like you – always reading. But…maybe this is who they are. I don’t know.

  4. twohandsfull

    my 10yo loves to read but he doesn’t like a big deal to be made out of it. This year he is attending an after school homework club. He said he loves it because he can go there and read quietly. I was happily surprised by this response. I also find that every time I buy him a book he resists reading it, but if he picks the book he will read it.

    1. Maybe that is part of the problem – up until now I have done most of the book selection, a combination of classics I would like him to read and crappy Star Wars novels I think he might be tempted into. Maybe I just need to let him pick his own thing and remove the pressure. Parenting is just sooooo hard :).

  5. I forget how old the Captain is. For Liam (who will be 9 in June), giving him extra time at night after it’s lights out for his younger siblings has helped immensely. I don’t care what he reads, but he has to read. So far it’s been a bunch of comics/graphic novels (Star Wars based, Calvin and Hobbes, Tin Tin, etc), but also some novels (Pilgrim’s Progress, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Indian in the Cupboard, and he just started on a stack of Beverly Cleary books that I found at Value Village here on the Gatineau side). I *looooove* seeing him read!

  6. I was that kid who loooved to read, and had to be told it was rude to read at the dinner table 🙂

    But my brother was not a reader. I think for him it didn’t come easily – it was hard work for his brain to read the words and understand them at the same time. I don’t think it was due to any kind of learning disability, it just was more work than it was worth for him.

    That makes me wonder if reading is just harder for some people? And that makes them enjoy it less?

    On a related note, my husband isn’t much of a reader (for pleasure) though he’ll read the occasional nonfiction. He just doesn’t enjoy it that much and he also can’t read if there’s other noise in the room. He’s an engineer, and super smart and great with hands-on stuff and likes video games too.

    So I wonder if it’s a thing about how one’s brain is wired that makes reading more enjoyable/easy for some people.

    1. CapnPlanet

      I’d say it’s definitely different for different people. I enjoy reading, but my wife reads far more quickly than I do, and she can also focus on a book for much longer than I can. She will often get hooked on a book and stay up until 2 or 3 am just to finish it, which is just inconceivable to me.

      So yeah, while we both enjoy reading, it’s a very different experience for both of us. I’m sure it will be even more different for kids – so many things develop at different rates, and only gradually (and only partially) even out as they get older.

  7. I don’t think Angus really read until he was older than the Captain, and he reads quite a bit now – he’ll tear through a series and then take a break and then get into something else. Right now he’s reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children but he has to read it beside me in bed because it freaks him out. 🙂 Eve’s a reader like I was (and you and your husband, but not mine so much I don’t think). The difference between us may be that I will NEVER expose my kids to the Unedited Abominations that comprise the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Hope we can still be friends.

    1. CapnPlanet

      LOL – “unedited abominations”! While I don’t despise them the way you do, I’m also a bit unclear on what the fuss is all about. I’m not at all ashamed to say that as a teenager I read the first two books, started the third and never finished it. Meh.

        1. CapnPlanet

          I actually remember liking The Hobbit, which was what inspired me to read LOTR. But that just went on forever…

          1. Okay, I confess I also had trouble reading LOTR. I read The Hobbit and really loved it, but I tried to start LOTR at least three separate times and never made it past the first 150 pages. Then Sir Monkeypants found out about this, and after we were married insisted I would LOVE IT (I think the vague threat of divorce was in the air), and so he actually read it out loud to me. The whole three books. It certainly was worth it in the end, but it takes a devoted fan to help get over the hump.

            I cannot believe, though, Capn, that you quit in the middle of the third book! I could never walk away like that. Don’t you wonder how it ends?

          2. CapnPlanet

            (replying to Lynn’s reply to this, reached indentation limit)

            I dunno, I think I can enumerate all the times I’ve walked away from a book without finishing (besides LOTR, I think it’s just Dhalgren and one of the Dune books). But I think this was the summer before grade 12, I was just so into music at the time and I think I intended to finish it but it just became less and less important as other things crowded my view. Still, no regrets; I never ended up getting interested in the fantasy genre, I’ve always preferred SF and non-fiction.

  8. rheostaticsfan

    In addition to the bribery scheme my parents had (which I told you about), I suspect that what worked for me was the promise that my parents would read to me as much as I wanted for as long as I wanted. So, I grew to love books. But, I remember at one point I wanted to read this pre-teen girly book and my father proclaimed that he didn’t find the story interesting and why didn’t I read this one for myself and we could choose a different book for him to read to me that we would both enjoy.

    I recall that his reading to me dropped off rather naturally as my taste in books evolved and I did more reading for myself of things he wasn’t interested in. My father liked mysteries and adventures (mostly camping and/or sailing based) and I drifted into teen angst and science fiction.

    1. I had forgotten that story, about your dad’s promise. Maybe that is part of it – he values the nighttime reading too much and is worried it will stop. I’ll have a chat with him about it.

  9. No time to read all the replies, so perhaps someone has already said this but…

    Remember how this was the kid that you still had to feed by hand *after* his kid sister could feed herself?

    You’re making it too easy for him.

    I think he likes books and stories, but if he doesn’t like *reading* and you guys keeping reading to him, what’s the motivation for him to read on his own? He gets a story *every night*. Geez, that would stop me from reading, too.

    Or maybe his not *that* into books and stories, and he gets overloaded with the reading he has to do and the reading you do for him.

    I know it’s drastic, but have you thought about stopping reading to him for a long period of time to see what happens?

    That’s me though. Tough love.

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