From The Record, April 21st, 2017
I have always loved reading, and it came relatively early and easily for me. That is a privilege and a gift I am very grateful for. It likely stems from parents who read to me, teachers who let me choose books for myself, and a bit of luck. Not everyone loves reading, and reading is not a simple or fun pastime for some people. For some young pupils reading is an arduous task which leads to frustration and negative feelings. As an educator I saw it many times, as young readers grew to hate the obligation to choose books to read at home or in the classroom. For some kids it is not an easy road; there might be greater intervention and assistance required to foster functional literacy skills. But for others the missing element may simply be a spark of interest.
There are a few different barriers that may hinder a disengaged reader from getting on board. Sometimes it is format, sometimes it is subject matter, and sometimes it is the very act of sitting alone and reading. One of the greatest gifts a parent or teacher can give to their students, regardless of age, is to read to them. Reading out loud allows the listener to sink into the text, and discover things they might not have caught if they were being taxed by the job of reading to themselves. My fifth grade teacher read Treasure Island out loud to our class, and it was amazing. At 11 years old, not very many of the students in the class would have been up to the task of plowing through that difficult text, but when Mr. Booth read it out loud to us, it unfolded in a magical pirate adventure before our eyes. And reading out loud doesn’t have to stop in elementary school. Share stories at the dinner table, read chapter books together and listen to audio books on car trips. It is good practice for the reader, and for the listener.
For kids who are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of fictional tale—which may or may not interest them—an information-based text or non-fiction book might be more appealing. I recently discovered a series by Montreal author and illustrator Elise Gravel, entitled “Disgusting Critters” which teach the reader all about everyday, wonderful, gross creatures in our world. The series includes delightfully illustrated pages and amusing texts with lots of facts about worms, toads, rats and head lice. These books might give adults the heebie-jeebies, but kids will love them (available at the Lennoxville Library – PB G7749spi Disco-E C-12). I know many kids gravitate towards illustrated encyclopaedias, National Geographic, or books of maps. Not every reader will be engaged by a story of imagined characters, but they might become a passionate well of knowledge about flags, or penguins or dinosaurs.
When I polled my friends and family, asking for inspirational books for kids who don’t like reading I had an overwhelming number of suggestions regarding comics, manga, and graphic novels. These types of books are still growing in popularity. Many people in my community who work with kids, or are parents to reluctant readers swear by comic books as a kind of “gateway” experience to reading. My sister-in-law recommended a wordless comic book for very early readers, called “The Adventures of Polo”. The 80-page illustrated adventure story allows young children who cannot yet read words have the pleasure of storytelling and the ownership of reading to one’s self, without the stress of words on the page.
Learning to read is a skill most people need to be function successfully in their lives. Loving to read is a gift that happens with gentle encouragement, excellent storytelling, and inspirational art. Let’s go out and find some Good Reads!
P.S. Articles abound on the benefits of reading to children. It is considered one of the best ways to instill a lifetime sense of the value of books and of time spent together as a family. With a view to promoting reading as a family pursuit, Lennoxville library will be hosting a series of family reading evenings. Library board member Charity McNally, thanks to a generous grant from the Townshippers’ Foundation, will be animating four reading evenings over the coming year. Each will focus on a selection of books from which talks, songs, art and craft projects, and other activities will be derived. Watch this space for announcements of coming events.
P.P.S. For older folkses: Students at Bishop’s University who are having a difficult time finding a quiet place to study are welcome to the Lennoxville Library. There are not a lot of seats, but it is generally quiet and conducive to swotting…and there is Wifi.