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.