- Nick Adkins
The True Story of How an Author, English Major, and Book Lover Failed at Raising Readers (Almost)
Once upon a time, an avid reader had two young children and read them books everyday. He took them to the library, he took them to the book store, he took them to their grandparent's house, where all of his childhood books were. The children too became avid readers and the parents patted themselves on their backs for a job well done. The end.
Okay, so I'm going to break from the fairy tale theme from here, because I can't stand writing like that. But obviously, that was not 'the end.' This is a direct quote from my youngest (newly 12) when I suggest he read something: "I hate reading! It's just staring at words on a page!" Every time he says this, I die a little bit inside. So what happened to the kid who read the entire series of Bone in just a couple of weeks? The same kid who was burning through I Survived books on a weekly basis. Where did I go wrong? And to make matters worse, my oldest (12 for two more weeks) has started saying that he hates reading as well. The same kid who read the entire Harry Potter series twice through before his 11th birthday. My god...
But I wasn't going to give up there. I took a step back and looked at the big picture. I was about the same age when I stopped reading for pleasure. I went from Animorphs at age 12 to Harry Potter at age 18 with only school readings in between. That being said, I didn't intend to let the same happen to my kids.
So I went with the throw a bunch of 'stuff' at the wall and see what sticks method. First, I looked for graphic novels that were recommended for kids who like Bone. Turns out, my kid did not like those. There was something very specific about the Bone series (humor, action, character development all in perfect harmony) that these other books seemed to be missing. Next, I tried non-fiction (which he likes, but wouldn't pick up on his own), then fiction about sports (which wasn't a hit), magazines (he just flipped through and looked at the photos), and then I landed on a pretty new genre. Non-fiction graphic novels are a little hard to come by, but that seems to be a sweet spot, at least for now. I picked up a copy of the graphic novelization of I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916. It had lots of illustrations, lots of information, and some good old fashioned shark attack action.
My oldest was easier--he is a bit of a sci-fi/fantasy nerd like me and I found that recommending readings above his grade level helped him come around. He's currently reading Ready Player One. There is some salty language, but it's a trade-off. He's not using the salty language and he's reading, so I call it a win.
The lesson I'm taking from this is that these aren't permanent fixes. They are growing up fast and changing a little each day, so I'm going to keep throwing 'stuff' at the wall to make sure they don't go on a literary dry spell like I did.