". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Trying to Nurture a Reader

My first and second born children were bookworms from the get-go. I never had to encourage them to read; they just did it. Number three is different. He was an early reader like his siblings, and he reads well and fluently, but he doesn't love it like they did. My daughter thinks he might simply be wired differently; I do think that is true but can't help also wondering if his different reading habits are at least partly attributable to the effect his birth order has had on my parenting and homeschooling of him. (Sigh--I'm older and tireder than I was with the first two.)

I suppose at this point cause is of little consequence. He is the reader he is, which means that for the last few years I have been trying to find books that will hook him to the point that he reads of his own volition, not because it is assigned (he will obediently read when I make him). I long to see him get lost in a book the way I used to, such that the outside world fades from view and the book completely captures his imagination for an afternoon, day, or week. Over the years there are a few things that have done that for him; I have listed below the ones I can think of right now.

Calvin & HobbesGarfieldPeanuts and vintage Archie comics
Newspaper funnies
Video game strategy guides
Magic School Bus series
Wayside School series
Encyclopedia Brown mysteries
Rush Revere series

This past week I took a chance and ordered a used set of the first five Hardy Boys books--the classic, not updated, ones. He is currently enjoying the first one, but it remains to be seen whether he will choose to read another. Some other series that have already been tried and rejected are Magic Tree House, Redwall, and Percy Jackson (we tried Percy Jackson because for a while he was enjoying reading D'aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, and he enjoyed it at first, but I think it was ultimately too intense for my HSC*). He does like the Narnia books, but maybe because he has seen the movies (?) he tends to read them in bits and pieces, skipping around, instead of sitting down and reading from cover to cover. So we just started The Magician's Nephew as a readaloud in the hope that maybe it will spark him to continue through the series in order.

Reflecting on all of this, I guess we are not doing so bad. I know there are parents who would be glad to see their children reading as much as my 10-year-old. I am just used to kids who read more! Perhaps I should not compare him to his siblings. But before he is beyond my influence I hope I can help him more fully experience the joy of reading. If you can comment with either commiseration or advice, please do!

*Highly sensitive child


Hamlette said...

This reminds me so much of my brother! He was an HSC too (as is my son -- WAY more so than my two daughters), and for years, the only things he read for fun were Star Wars catalogs (not books, catalogs for the different toys), some Star Trek encyclopedias, and later on, Popular Mechanics. So very different than I was -- I've devoured novels as fast as possible for as long as I can remember. My mom despaired of him ever reading novels for his own enjoyment. However, she read aloud to us for an hour before bedtime every night, and he was very engaged in the books she read to him, like the Narnia books, The Hobbit, and so on.

And then, when he was a junior in our homeschool high school, he read To Kill a Mockingbird for his English class. And re-read it twice of his own volition. Now, a decade later, he's a lawyer. And ever since TKAM, he's loved fiction.

So don't despair! Your son might suddenly switch gears too. In the meantime, I guess I'd say... keep reading aloud to him! Keep giving him tastes of different styles and genres, and see if anything clicks. Does he like classics? He might enjoy Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, The Swiss Family Robinson, or Robinson Crusoe. When I was too young to read the "real" versions of those, I read abridgments, which were such fun. And none of those are very intense. Barnes & Noble has some amazing abridgments that I've been kind of collecting -- they're like this, and gorgeous.

Oh! I see the Encyclopedia Brown books there. Has he tried the Boxcar Children books by Gertrude Chandler Warner? The first 19 (the originals) are delightful! Gentle mysteries. My HSC son adores them. He also really loves some of the American Girl books.

Cheryl said...

Thank you, Hamlette! I have read aloud a lot to him and will continue to do so--we have read The Hobbit and Tom Sawyer and some other great books. I love reading aloud to my kids and will keep it up as long as he's under my roof. Thanks for the Boxcar suggestion--great idea since he does seem to like mysteries and we have a few of them already on the shelf.

Spice of Life Mom said...

Does he like nonfiction? (I know that wouldn't be my choice, but when I was teaching, tons of boys would only pick nonfiction to read on their own.)

Myrtle said...

When I was younger (in the dark ages) one of my favorite series was Danny Dunn by Jay Williams. I devoured all of them and enjoyed them immensely. Danny has a friend who is a professor and scientist and always seems to find himself in complicated situations due to experiments. You might want to try them ... Like Danny Dunn on the Ocean Floor, Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Planet, Danny Dunn, Time Traveler, and Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy. The books are from the 1950s-70s and ever so much fun.

Cheryl said...

Spice Mom, he does sometimes read non-fiction, mostly in the area of science or computers.

Myrtle, thanks for the suggestion!

Hamlette said...

How about the Miss Pickerell series? Older books, from the '50s or so, all about various scientific things, like going on archaeological digs, going to the moon, fun stuff like that. Not as funny as Homer Price or Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, but amusing and engaging.