As a school teacher-librarian (media specialist), I often find myself trying to find just the right book for a student. Many times I have seen a student that did not like to read suddenly get turned onto reading when they connected with the “right” book. My first two children loved to read for as long as I can remember, but my third one was a hard sell. It took several years to get him to actually read a book for pleasure. Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, was the book that did it. Fortunately, his 6th grade teacher was willing to let him read everything Paulsen ever wrote. Unfortunately, his love of reading does not continue today.
What can we do to influence children to become life-long readers? I do not ever remember not reading. Reading is so much a part of my life that not a day goes by that I do not read for pleasure as well as to learn. I have 2-3 books going at any given time. I actually panicked last summer when I was invited to enjoy a beach house for the week and I did not have a stack of books on hand! It was Sunday and the library was closed. When I was growing up, there was no library nearby, but I dearly loved the bookmobile. The screeching of the tires was music to my ears. I remember loving Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Tales of Uncle Remus, Pollyanna, The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and many others. I combined my love of music with the book Oliver and the soundtrack from the movie. I cried my way through My Friend Flicka and literally devoured my mother’s monthly selection of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. I always loved when a Mrs. Pollifax mystery was included. There were times when I would search the house for something new to read. One day, in the far reaches of a cabinet, I ran across The Sensuous Couple. I read it cover to cover in one day and put it right back where I found it! I couldn’t believe my parents did any of that!
So why am I still a reader and my son is not? What can I do to help my students become readers? Is there some gene that some of us have that makes us readers? I’m going to keep working to connect my students with the right books in any way that I can. Currently, I have begun using Edmodo, an educational social media platform, to have students write book reviews and encourage each other through comments. Tomorrow, I am starting a group that will create video book trailers to share with others. We’ll see what else the future holds!
Many of these books have undergone a facelift since my childhood!