September 2, 2011

Guest Post by Kevin Craig - Making Reading Cool

For the Guys Friday is the time I step back and focus on the guy readers that I teach.  
My passion is to get every kid reading, and for some reason boys where I see the most reluctance to ready.  Because of that I feel it's very important to find books and authors that might motivate them. Through that - this weekly feature was born!
  If you are looking for more books/authors great for guys that I've reviewed or featured on the blog, be sure to click "For the Guys" above.

Today I have Kevin Craig author of Summer on Fire.  I'll be reviewing this book later today so stay tuned for that.  But right now I have a great guest post that Kevin wrote.  I love the topic he's looking at - the struggle of getting boys to read when they think it's "uncool" and how finding that just-right book will hook them in.  The exact reason I do this feature!

Please welcome Kevin!

As a child, I read voraciously. No book was safe from my clutches. Some of my earliest memories are of me wrapped up like a pretzel in front of the bookcase reading encyclopedias. My love of words began with Dr. Seuss and was soon followed by Roald Dahl. As soon as I read my first Dahl book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I knew like I knew how to breathe. It wasn’t a conscious thing, it was just there. It was this need to do what Dahl did with words, what Seuss did with words. I still get excited today when I think back on my childhood and all the great stories I discovered.

All writers are born from readers. When you love the materials—in this case words—you can’t wait to jump in and play with them yourself. Some writers, though, love words so much they put the architects of words up on pedestals. They think writing is too lofty a goal for them to obtain, as only a precious few are chosen to be writers. Once they get over that belief, though, they find out that anybody can write. And if you love words—if your idea of a good day is to spend it with your nose in a book—then you probably have a good foundation to begin writing.

The first thing you have to do is realize that whatever it is you choose to do, that’s the thing that’s cool. You can’t allow others to dictate for you the list of things-that-are-cool. I’ve seen my own son fall into this trap. He is a boy who LOVES a good story. But somewhere along the way he must have heard a whispered rumour around the playground that reading is un-cool. Despite everything we attempted to teach him about following his own path, he caved a bit to the pressure of his peers. There was a time where he either stopped reading altogether, or did it in the privacy of his room at night. Imagine trying to keep on the hush-hush that you enjoy reading a good book! I believe this is one of those things that happens with boys, to tell you the truth. They don’t want other boys to think they’re un-cool.

If you love words, though, nothing is going to put out that flame. You can try to be blas√© about books, you can stop reading, stop talking about the books you love. But you won’t be able to stay away. Books will call to you in your dreams. For my son, his weakness was a book called HOLES by Louis Sachar. As much as he tried to pretend he was over reading—and over being read to—he just could not keep his hands off that book. His original reading took place in one sitting! Yet, even in a home where books are idolized he tried to be clandestine about his consumption of that book. He’d be spotted in various positions around the house with the book ‘accidentally’ opened up beside him. When his mother and I saw the way he turned back to page one when he got to the end, we knew our fears were for nothing. He might have been attempting to come across as a non-reader, but he was hooked!

That’s what every boy needs to keep them reading, a book that is stronger than the peer pressure…and stronger than their desire to be lazy. When you read to your children from an early age, you sow a seed. You can only hope that seed eventually takes. In most cases, if you pick the right stories, it will. Remembering my own reading habits as a boy, the faster the pace of the story, the more engaged with the book I was. And humour. Always look for humour when it comes to boys and their books. Some scoff at Captain Underpants, but that series is really what ignited the flame our son now carries for books.

Another thing that has helped to keep boys reading in recent years—or at least our boy—is the magical phone app! Thanks to the changes in the ways we are reading, young readers can now read on the down-low without tarnishing that perception of cool they cling to so desperately. For that matter, old readers can accomplish the same thing with phone apps. Our son has a reading app on his smart-phone, and it works. Boys can now read when it’s convenient to them. If they are strong of personality and not bothered by the misconception that reading is un-cool, they can read anytime anyplace. But if they’re worried about others making fun of their reading habits, they can just quietly read on their phones now. No need to carry books around with them (Not that there’s anything wrong with books! I will never tire of the feel of a real live book!).

As parents, we do what we need to do to instill a love of reading in our children. There are easy ways to accomplish this. Besides reading to them from an early age, you can engage them by making trips to the library to choose their own books a common occurrence. If started young, it could become a lifelong habit for them. It’s Saturday morning, so it’s time for a trip to the library. And USE your librarian. They know the hot books. They know what will ignite the flame in young readers.

We’ve never been steered wrong by a librarian. It was a librarian who suggested Holes for our son. Out of every single book in the library, I firmly believe that was the one he needed to get into his hands on that day. Your librarian is there to help. Their reward is in seeing kids reading, especially when they handpicked the book they can’t put down. And don’t be afraid of the recent technologies that have changed reading. They are a positive force in the war against non-readers. If your child has a phone, hook them up with a reading app. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find them wrapped up in a pretzel in front of the bookshelf, reading from their phones.

Isn't that so true that if you can just find that one book you'll hook a reluctant reader in and show them that reading is cool!  Thanks Kevin for reminding us of that.  

1 comment:

  1. This has nothing to do with the interview, just wanted to say I really like your new design!