Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ode to Oz, Reeling in the Reluctant Reader

The first time I handed Rhubarb a book (at 22 months, in the orphanage), it was like watching someone fall in love.  The connection was instant.  That love has never wavered.

For Eggplant, it has been a much slower relationship to form.  He has always been very visual.  Reading a book to him is like taking a journey through his brain.  He (still) stops us about every two sentences to ask questions prompted by, though not always related to, the reading.  In order to make family reading harmonious for everyone, we had to create a rule that when we read to more than just him, he has to wait until the end of the page to ask questions and comment.

When he was first learning to read, he spent a lot of time pointing out the visuals.  Where there were no pictures, he often pointed out the patterns of the words.  "Mamma, this word here looks like the word three pages ago, except backwards."  There were even instances where he disappeared in the middle of a sentence to go draw what he was imagining, again not always related to the reading.

So, despite the fact that Eggplant picked up phonics pretty quickly and can easily memorize words by sight, he has taken a long time to get to place where he wants to read for pleasure.  

Until now!

The entire Wizard of Oz series has sucked my boy into his very own biblio-vortex!  Combined with the additional pleasure of reading from an electronic device (in this case, the Nook), he is absolutely enthralled.  For the first time in his nine years (a little over seven of them with us), he has spent several hours in a row sprawled out on the couch reading, occasionally leaving me to basically beg him to put the book down long enough to put on his shoes for a class or walk.  He is on the fifth book now and fights with his sister for possession of the Nook (where, incidentally, the entire series costs 95 cents).

Bless you Mr. Baum.  He was homeschooled too (one source credits his lack of social opportunities as the root of his imagination -- though we do not lack for social opportunities, nor do most homeschoolers, I thought I'd throw that in there for those who worry that loner homeschoolers will grow up to stalk movie stars and snort cabbage recreationally).  Perhaps that is why his brain so fluidly connects with my son's brain.   Or maybe it is just my son's time and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Book 1 in the series) was the first piece of literature to cross his path.  Whatever the reason, I am thrilled to welcome my son to the world of bibliophilia.

With that, I encourage other parents out there whose kids don't seem all that thrilled with the written word to stay the course.   Keep reading to your child.  Keep introducing new materials for them to consider.  Get them audio books, either for listening alone or for listening as they read the book.  Let them see you reading books that you enjoy.  Take them to the library.  Offer literature in a variety of forms -- books, magazines, newspapers, on the computer, an e-reader, audio on ipod, etc. (truthfully, I think the fact that the Oz series is on the Nook contributes to about 50% of his enjoyment).

And wait.  Patiently.  If you are like me, you will compare (in your head) the poor child to his sister, who has to be reminded not to read while crossing the street, and you will despair.  Try not to do that.  It really doesn't help anyone.  Trust me.

If your child never comes to a place of enthusiasm for literature, well, try not to despair over that either. HotNerd can probably count the novels he has completed on two hands, but he has read more resource books, tech magazines, newspapers, and blogs than any human being should ever have to admit.  And he turned out super duper smart and reasonably well-adjusted.  Your child will too.

P.S.   If you had told me all this 3 years ago, I might have responded with a series of rebuttals.  I have now seen the light and apologize to any and all who fell victim to my arguments when they were just trying to be supportive.  Hugs.  Kisses.

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