Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Another take on the Love of a Good Book

There is much written about getting your family to read.

I have read blogs about well adjusted, functional families who read until their eyes seize up in their brains. Babies who were born clutching 'Step Into Reading Level 2' books. Children who shun TV and computer games for the written word, and who can be found at all hours of the day and night clasping a book to their bosom, avidly devouring fiction, poetry, biographical tomes etc etc etc ... kids who are so eager they literally EAT books ... spit staples, chew words and swallow chunks of meaty prose.
OK ... maybe not.
Is it just me, or do others out there get a little ... is the word I'm looking for ... jealous? of the parents whose children are such wonderfully avid readers?

I thank my friend Sherri for pointing me in the direction of Pioneer Woman and her blog on a homeschooled family who read like there's no tomorrow. Her Idyllic world really does seem like a form of heaven. Children who go to bed early and curl up with a good book. Kids who, once their alloted screen time is up, dutifully trot to the bookshelf and select a new read. Kids who delight in visits to the book store, library or ... anywhere books can be found.
I love to read. I really do. And I would gladly give my new reading glasses for my kids to be as keen as me. (yes, reading glasses ... finally I have made it to Middle Age)

My children, like those of Pioneer Woman, are surrounded by books. Shelves and shelves of the things. They too are taken to places where there are even more books. Books stores. Second Hand book stores. Book fairs. Libraries. They too have been read to from a young age. They have a mother who read while they were in the womb, read while in labour. If the actual process of giving birth hadn't been so painful I would have read on the delivery table. If it was legal I would read while driving. I read whilst cooking, cleaning, gardening ... I read therefore I am.

My children read because they have to.

My oldest, now 15, used to read. But then puberty, followed closely by adolescence, rendered the hobby unfashionable. Who has time to read when there's all this texting to be done? And she was put off reading for a while after I, perhaps ill advisedly considering her delicate hormonally unbalanced condition, encouraged her to read Meg Rosoffs "How I Live Now" A truly wonderful book, but void of a traditional happy ending. My then 12 year old daughter was outraged, incensed that I had made her fall in love with the characters, forced her to become so entrenched in their world that she was unable to cope when things went wrong in their lives (actually I blame Meg ... she's the one who writes so well that we can't help falling in love with her characters)
My daughter sobbed and sobbed. She had wanted a fairy tale ending. She told me she was not ever going to read another book which did not include "and they lived happily ever after" on its final page.

My second oldest daughter was an avid reader. She would devour novels and poetry. She still does read, but not as much as she did. Her new laptop took over ... who has time to read when you can watch all those online episodes of The Simpsons ?

My third daughter has never liked to read novels. I have tried and tried to get her to settle down with a good book. I have read with her, to her, given her time and space and all the encouragement I can, but she just isn't into reading "stories".
She does,however, love the new Anime style of literature. And publishers seem to have cottoned on that there is a market out there. You can even get Anime Harry Potter these days. And writers too are becoming increasingly aware of children who can be drawn into a story by starting it with animation, then switching to prose, then back and forth, for instance G.P.Taylors series . She has also been forever interested in "fact" books ... big fat hard back books about Egypt, Wild Cats and How Things Work. And who can resist a book with the title "How Your Body Works" ... the chapters on the gory goings on of the digestive system are well thumbed.

My youngest daughter loves books but is slow to read. I am perplexed by a school system which purports to hold to the philosophy "every child is an individual" - telling parents that children learn to read at their own level; but which then sends out a panic inducing letter informing said bewildered parents that their child is failing a benchmark in reading. A slight conundrum I feel.
But I have no doubt that she will get there eventually. With all the books in this house, she doesn't really have a choice. And until she can form those letters and words herself into sentences that make sense, she always has me to come to. That is if she can persuade me to put my book down for the 5 minutes it takes to help her with hers.


Annie said...

My First and I share similar "learning differences", and I found out...somewhat late in the game...that his voracious appetite for detail, and his ability to absorb even the most minute speck...made him a slow reader. In high school, the huge reading assignments of glorious literature were nearly torture. So, I started reading to him, and finally turned to audio books of his homework. (Most were available at the public library.) On CD formats he could even speed them up to get through the material faster and his retention/comprehension certainly did not suffer and probably even improved. No surprise to those who know him, as a tyke he tested out as primarily an auditory learner. Like your Third, he devours anything related to his interests: music, spiritual growth, revival, and all things geeky (math, physics, etc.). Literature not so much.

My Second will read anything between two covers. She abhors poor writing, rejects bad grammar, and will not tolerate being patronized by an author. She is a tough customer, but is already a very good writer.

Love you. Love your blog. Annie

Recovering Sociopath said...

Hm. Well, my oldest is only just now learning to read, so I don't really know what to expect. Peter and I were both the "rather read than do anything" kids. We discovered that we both, when children, would read the backs of cereal boxes and the ingredients on toothpaste if that was the only reading available.

Here's the thing: I do not know quite how my parents cultivated the love of reading in me. It just was. They didn't curtail my TV viewing that I remember-- I just always preferred books (well, unless a Star Trek rerun was one, ohyesIamsuchadork). We had video games in the house which I sometimes played, but again, I mostly found books more interesting. So, as much as I loved the PW post, and I'm trying to follow the advice therein to some extent...there's still an element of mystery there for me. I hope my kids love reading and books as much as Peter and I do, but I don't know of a sure-fire way to achieve it.

Lynne said...

thanks both of you! Comments helpful and interesting.
I found so many "ultra positive" comments at the end of Pioneer Womans post that I thought I must be the only person with normal kids ... in fact I was beginning to think they weren't normal after all ...

Annie said...

I think the most important thing is to make sure that our children are ABLE to read, read well enough to be able to learn, follow a recipe and an instruction manual, and be exposed to good reading material. (I TOTALLY read the back of Kleenex boxes and shampoo bottles in the bathroom. When I finished those, I would read them backwards. Out loud. Now who's the dork?)

Children also need to be exposed to Star Trek re-runs (grew up impersonating Lt. Uhura) and of course Dr. Who. And great art, music, theatre, architecture, ideas, nature, science, sport, hobby, food/nutrition, and of course ministry. They will gravitate to their natural areas of gifting and interest. THEN you keep providing opportunities for them to explore those areas. Girls rugby, anyone?

TV and video games are not evil in and of themselves, obviously. There is good stuff out there. If nothing else, it is an opportunity to hone discernment about quality and how to make good choices for spending time.

kathryn evans said...

Stop it right now! Your Pioneer Women didn't make me jealous, she made me feel sorry for her kids. I read AVIDLY as a child because I was so damned miserable and longed for escapism. My husband didn't read a whole book voluntarily until he was in his twenties (happy childhood) and now he's never without a book.
Teach them to read, let them see you lost and in love with a book, in time they will come to it, we all do. Now, I don't know your pioneer woman and her kids may be very well adjusted and happy, but, with their mother swanning around telling the world how perfect she is I DOUBT IT.

Mark my words, those kids will rebel - before you know it, they'll be reading Jilly Cooper. http://mrsbung.wordpress.com/

Recovering Sociopath said...

Pioneer Woman is one of the most hilariously honest-about-herself internet writers I've read. Touting her own perfections is not something I have ever seen her do.

And, for the record, that particular post was a guest post by Heather of Oh My Stinkin' Heck, not by P-Dub.

Lynne said...

Thanks for setting the record straight Sherri ... I hadn't seen it was a guest post ... And I have to agree with you that other posts I have read by Pioneer Woman have been great reads.
Kathryn .. I was weaned on Jilly Cooper. Love the woman, and owe my love of reading to her :)

DANA! said...

Yay! I've been waiting for your next blog. So nice to hear from you all.
You are in good company! Jackson hasn't been reading as fast as he should. To me, he reads well. Just slowly. A few weeks ago the school hosted an AR parents night. I think AR stands for advanced reading. The kids read a book and then take a quiz on the computer. If they pass the quiz they get points. I don't know what they do with the points, but KIDS LOVE POINTS!
SO- I went to this AR night. Jackson was one of TWO students in his class that went. The other student must have read 10 books and taken 10 quizes while she was there. Her mom cleaned out her desk and found 18 books hiding in there! She obviouly loved to read. Sweet little Jackson read two books!! He got 100% on his quizes though. Which tells me his comprehension is there. I've also noticed that when he reads aloud to me, he is quick to correct himself. Which tells me his metacognition is. . .working :)
Now Noah and Micah love books, and Noah is reading already. I wish I could say that I had something to do with it. But, I don't think so.(sigh)

Meg Rosoff said...

How do you think I feel? My daugher (13 yo) won't go near my books ("sorry mum, but they're just not the sort of thing I like" -- oh, and "If you wrote a book as good as Twilight I'd read it.") So there's no winning. She also hates art. Her father's a painter. Coincidence? Maybe.

Miss Em said...

I hope you didn't give her "What I Was" by Meg, then. I was just as shattered after that as I was after "How I Live Now". Definitely not a "happily ever after" book. But truly a wonderful, "keep the characters forever" kind of book.

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I have been married to Andy since 1991, we have 4 daughters, 2 dogs, 2 cat, 4 rabbits (and various baby rabbits) and a hamster (not dead). We have lived in the U.S.A since 2000, and are citizens of the U.K. I miss many things about the U.K.(pubs, old buildings, red post boxes, church bells,narrow roads, a good joint of roast lamb with mint sauce, to name but a few) but I have grown to love the U.S.