Monday, November 03, 2008

Encouraging Reading, Part 2

My younger brother Joe just read Small Steps by Louis Sachar in less than a day. I just loaned him A Wrinkle in Time by Madeliene L'Engle, which I've been re-reading lately. I figure he'll finish before I get a chance to read it again (NaNo takes time!) so I let him have it tonight.

My brother never really was a reader, but suddenly he can't seem to get enough of books. He'll read a book every now & again, but they're usually for school. A great motivator for him though, is to see his friends read a book, or to convince him that it's the "cool" thing to do. (And btw, reading is cool)

Another great way is to find a book that he really loves, and this is usually the hardest part. His class is currently reading Holes in school, and he finished far before the class did because he liked it so much. This was only a few days before I went to see Louis Sachar at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL with my mum, so we brought him along. He seemed to really get into it and we bought him his own copy of Holes which he got signed. In his presentation Sachar mentioned Small Steps, which I had always seen around, but never knew the story of. Joe really wanted to read it, but we were already buying so much that night, we passed on it. The next week I bought one of the signed copies Anderson's had from the event. Then a few days after that my mom caught Joe reading my sister's copy of House by Ted Dekker, which she thought was too scary. To keep him from reading that, I presented my new, shiny copy of Small Steps, which he immediately devoured.

So, this just adds to my theory that all you need to do to get a child hooked on books, is to find that one right book for them. Holes is one I like to suggest, as is The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (this one looks daunting, but it's half pictures & flip book! Kids love that). The other night a mother saw me looking through the children's books at the Sachar event and asked me to recommend a book for her daughter, and after talking to the woman I suggested The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by EL Konigsburg.

I think the problem is that most people don't pay attention to a child's unique interests enough to be able to pick out the right book. They'll suggest something new, or a best-seller, or maybe something they loved as a child. And sometimes these work, but some children are really stubborn and they need that exact right book for them, not for you. So talk to your child, find out what they want to read. My children's literature professor last year said that she's sometimes annoyed with the fact that all her son wants to read are Pokemon novelizations, but that she'd rather him read those than read nothing at all. If it gets them started reading, I agree with her. If they find something they love to read, they won't find books so boring or scary, and maybe they'll pick up another. And another. And another.

Just listening to your child is probably the best you can do in any situation, in my opinion anyway. I don't think parents always do that.

...Okay. Back to my NaNo, I promise. (I've written about 1700 words today so far)

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