Friday, June 5, 2009

How a Non-Reader Becomes a Reader

A Lesson in Humility and Patience

With two kids who were early readers and who love to read, and one child who was a late reader and who loves to read, the normal child who read at six and reads well, but only when asked, was a worry. Sure, I might give him a passage to read, and he'd read it flawlessly, and he loves to listen to audio books, but he just would not pick up a book on his own for the longest time. I resorted to letting him read selected comic books, telling myself: At least he's reading. I had heard those words used by well-meaning moms to justify the most twaddly book selections at the library, and swore I would never say them.

At least he's reading was usually accompanied by a knowing glance from a beleaguered librarian, who wondered aloud to me once whether she worked in a library or a video rental establishment. A short stack of Captain Underpants books was better than a Pokemon DVD, right? At least he's reading. Not my children, I thought, with my armful of classics chosen by the first three children. Of course they are reading. How could they not? There is a bookshelf in every room in the house. We homeschooling parents read all the time. We visit the library, and the children's idea of a fun outing is an afternoon at Barnes and Noble. When the UPS man comes, my small bibliophiles look for the logo. When they visit friends, they look for the bookshelves. They had literary discussions with their friends in the hallway of the college where they took music lessons, finding kindred spirits among the young musicians. They acted out scenes from their favorite books...they devoured literature at an astonishing rate.

But not this child. He just didn't want to read. Back at the library, I looked at the pile of Junie B. Jones books that one mother was checking out for her daughter and sighed. At least she's reading.

Then, things changed. Not overnight, mind you, and it is still a process, but he has surprised me lately. First, he read a complete novel. He chose a science fiction novel called The True Meaning of Smekday (my review here) over which we readers were all fighting. And he read it.

That was last October. Things were biblio-quiet after that, except for As You Like It, which he read in preparation for our annual Shakespeare production. At least he's reading.

Yesterday, we were at the library, and I sent him off to find a books. Hope springs eternal, don't you know. I spied him at the computer, and later in the stacks, as I sought several books for myself. As we were ready to leave, he brought me his selection: The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Hardcover, 1216 pages. I blinked and muttered shocked approval. He beamed.

Last night, he sat reading the book with a look of sheer delight on his face. At one point, he looked up and said, "Oscar Wilde is quite different than Shakespeare."

"Quite," I replied.

Still later, I told him to put the book away and go to sleep. "But," he retorted, "I'm reading."

Not at last.


Jennifer in TX said...

Congrats to your Wilde fan....:)

yesterthoughts said...

What an inspiring post, MacBeth! Thank you.

Stephanie said...

(phew!) I wondered what that breeze was ... it was YOU - letting out your breath. I should have recognized it, because exactly the same thing happened here. Exactly. And now, my late-reading, never-in-the-children's-books, dyslexic, generally sanguine son turns 21 this summer and keeps a book going all the time because .... (ready for this?) ... "I can tell a difference in my brain when I'm not reading. I actually feel more stupid." (lol!)

They learn it when they learn it, and if we keep reading and talking about the good stuff as if the late reader is a perfectly normal person who will join when ready, he actually gets ready. (And then he chooses something like Oscar Wilde! ah well ... at least he's reading)

ReginaR said...

Hi MacBeth,
A Cathoogle search for opinions of Junie B Jones brought me to your site today! What a neat read~thank you!
(still searching for JBJ info....we've not read them around here and our Matinee Ed series is bringing the play to our area~seems as though I've read negative notes on little Junie B elsewhere, I'm sure of it.)
Pleasantly pleased to find your blog in my search this morning!