Turning a Reluctant Reader into a Booklover
Listening to: Silversun Pickups, “Lazy Eye”
So my little brother has been a little less eager to read than I’d like.
He’s 11 years old now. When he was younger, I used to read to him before bed whenever I visited home. He’d pick out a few books (usually Dr. Seuss, as I introduced him to the wonder that is There’s a Wocket In My Pocket and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish), I’d read them to him, give him a hug and a kiss and tuck him into bed. It was my favorite part of every visit.
On one memorable occasion, I tried to read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree to him. I started crying about halfway through. He took the book from me, closed it, and said, “No, Sissy.* Let’s try another one.”
And on another extremely memorable occasion, he took a Dr. Seuss book from me before I’d begun and said, “Okay, I’ll read the first page and you can read the next.” Then he just started reading aloud, as I sat there completely flabberghasted and so very proud.
I visited his 1st grade class and read some Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein to a little crowd of adorable kids.
My brother is the boy in the black and red striped shirt. Yes, he’s a little cutie =)
Over the years, though, he’s become more interested in video games and less in books. I bought him the first Harry Potter book for Christmas, and although he seemed to enjoy it, he hasn’t asked for the sequel. His grades in his language arts (reading, grammar, & spelling) have been declining. I tutor him, I quiz him on spelling words, and it helps–but it’s not enough. Not for me.
I grew up so addicted to books that many pictures taken on family occasions–Christmas, vacations, what-have-you–feature me with my nose in a novel. Actually, speaking of vacations, I usually pack at least a dozen books for a week-long beach trip. And I’ll frequently speed through two in a day.
My whole family loves to read. We are READERS. And being so immersed in literature from a young age, I believe, did a lot for me. It increased my vocabulary, taught me the basics of writing, and provided a wonderful escape as I grew up and real life occasionally got to be too much. I want all of that for my little brother, but I didn’t know how to get it.
And then something occurred to me.
I have books he could read. Books I’ve written.
My last several books will have to wait, as they’re firmly in the YA category and a bit too old for him, but the first few I wrote skewed a bit younger.
So I asked him. I didn’t want to force the books on him–I wanted him to make the choice. He seemed excited to see my work. I believe his exact question was, “Are any of the characters based on me?”
I printed out a copy of my very first novel, Whispers of the Past, written when my brother was about five years old–right about the time I was reading him to sleep. I took it to him last Friday. He took the book and went back to his video games.
And then that night, my mom texted me. “He’s reading your book and comprehending it very well. He’s read the first few pages and told me all about it.”
Needless to say, there was much excitement in my house. Especially since weekends are the only time he’s allowed video games.
And then last night, he persistently shouted in the background when my little sister called me. “I need to talk to her! Give me the phone!” And then his little voice came on the line.
“I’m on chapter four. I love it. I can’t believe you had them break the glass horse! Is Ben based on me? Or Seth? I wanna know what the other kids’ powers are! Tell me!”
I grinned so widely that it hurt my mouth.
I’ve given my books to friends. I’ve given my books to other members of my family. Heck, editors at some of the publishing houses I’ve dreamed of all my life have read my work and said wonderful things.
No one’s response has ever made me as happy as my little brother’s.
I don’t know if this will make him a more eager reader. If it does, I won’t necessarily credit my gorgeous prose and riveting plots (especially not from that first book, har har)–I’ll credit the fact that my brother knew the author and therefore was more interested in the story. But the why doesn’t matter.
It’s the results that count. And I’m very excited for him to reach that last page–and I dearly, dearly hope that he does what every booklover does and asks for more.
*That’s his nickname for me. He was not, in fact, insulting me for crying.