Sunday, February 15, 2009

Reluctant Readers & The Underneath

My 10 yo son is a reluctant reader. Very bright, but also a typcial boy who is struggling with growing into all things "cool."

Yesterday, we were relaxing, resting, after a long day of skiing. I was trying to entice him into Kathi Appelt's The Underneath, and read the first few lines to him.

He rolled his eyes and told me he liked very few books, but said he did like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and said I should read the series, and that it wouldn't take me long to do so.

So, I told him I would, and then a few minutes later, started reading aloud from The Underneath (call me persistent, and maybe also a cheater, because I had skipped ahead a few chapters, and had deliberately picked out a few lines where things started getting scary....well, not Stephen King scary....but there was definitely a hint of horror to come, perhaps some fantasy, and mystery).

His ears perked. He scooted next to me to read the text. Then, he made me go back and start at the beginning.

After a few chapters, I put the book down to get dinner ready. He picked it up, and started reading on his own. Later, I had to pry the book away to get him to eat. Then after watching a family movie, (Pirates of the Carribean 2), he had his nose back in the book again even though it was after 10pm....

This book is not written in Diary of a Wimpy kid style. It is literary. It's almost poetic. But it has an amazing voice. One that definitely connected with my son, which is so cool.

This is the second "long" novel I've gotten my son interested in reading, after he had initially said, "no," (the other was The City of Ember). Yes, he was judging the books by their covers and length, and thought there was no way he'd want to read them. But all it took was five minutes of reading aloud, five minutes of mother-son time, and he was hooked. Now I'm in the situation of having to read to catch up to him, so we can continue to read aloud together.

The Underneath is a great read-aloud--mainly because it is so beautifully and flawlessly written. I highly recommend it, particulary if you can share it with a reluctant reader--open their world of books to something they normally wouldn't choose for themselves, or even, something you normally wouldn't choose for them. The chapters are short and switch from character to character, which keeps it interesting and relatively fast-paced.

This whole experience has made me question what "makes" a reluctant reader. Do kids fall into this category themselves? Do we hold that label over them? Do they hang on to it?

Or, are they willing to eventually let go? And if so, how will they do it?

(Here's an article by author John Green that tackles adult expectations vs teen preferences, where he too, was surprised by what teens liked.)

I'm not even sure my son knows what reluctant reader means, or if he even knows the term exists. I haven't ever said, "You're a reluctant reader." But I have lived with the frustrations of dealing with a child who doesn't really want to read much, besides nonfiction and his favorite sports magazine. Thank heavens he's beginning to open his eyes to other things, namely longer works, which require some thought, attention, and commitment.

And thank heavens, I took a chance with The Underneath. The result was completely unexpected, but so much appreciated.

9 comments:

  1. What a wonderful endorsement of The Underneath. I forwarded your blog to Kathi Appelt who was my instructor at the BYU conference last summer. Hope that was okay!

    Jean Reagan

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  2. Absolutely! Thanks so much for letting her know. You must have had a great experience with her. BYU is one conference I've always wanted to attend, but one that always conflicts with our family summer plans....Lucky you!

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  3. I grew up as a reluctant reader. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that girls and boys hate to put down. My web site is at http://www.maxbooks.9k.com and my Books for Boys blog is at http://booksandboys.blogspot.com

    I also have a short story in a new book called Lay Ups and Long Shots, published by Darby Creek Publishing. It's a Junior Library Guild selection. I'm also featured in an article in the 2009 edition of Children's Writer Guide.

    My other books are all ranked by Accelerated Reader

    Max Elliot Anderson

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  4. That's so wonderful that you're connecting with readers, especially since you know where they are at in terms of style and interest. Keep it up!

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  5. Shaunda, Kori just read The Underneath and encouraged me to read it. She thinks it's her favorite book ever. I didn't love it as much as her, but would heartily recommend it to kids. It was heartwarming, and different! And I think it would appeal to kids who like fantasy (like mine.) Hey, I blog now! You can check me out
    http://www.thompsonmania.blogspot.com/
    See you, Michelle

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  6. Hi Michelle!
    It's great to see you here. I always love reading your book updates on goodreads. I dove into Ally Carter's spy series after reading your praise of it. I liked it, too. Now Jo is reading it. It's nice to have fun books like that are clean and aren't loaded with too much attitude for tweens.

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  7. Hello

    Awesome post, just want to say thanks for the share

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  8. Wonderful! thanks for stopping by!

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