Books for certain readers can be intimidating and overwhelming. My daughter, Ashlyn (21) has Dyslexia. (I interviewed her about how dyslexia effects her here.) Even though I read to her from a baby, gave her own books, her own library card and she has always read, she would feel intimidated by large books. For example, the whole volume set of The Chronicles of Narnia my children bought me one year, or Lord of the Rings. She would take one look and run to the proverbial hills.
I am a proponent that you need to keep encouraging children to keep 'tasting' different books. Eventually, they will find one that they will devour, gain confidence and keep going. And this is the key—confidence.
My daughter and I recently watched the entire Harry Potter movie series. She enjoyed them so much she bought the book series. We have always made it a habit to discuss the books that we are currently reading. We discuss the things we love, the things we hate, and the things we don’t understand.
From the first book, Ashlyn raved about how Joanne’s descriptions transported her into the world of Harry Potter. It made her feel compassion for Harry, and she got to know and love other characters like the Weasley family, Hermione Granger, and Hagrid.
Intrigued, as I had not read the series, I said once she had finished with the first book, I would read it. I am normally a fast reader, and she reads slowly (it took her a year to read Black Beauty). We both figured I would be waiting for her to finish the next book. (It has happened before). We also had planned when I finished the book we would watch the movie together. The race was on. (You may have followed our race on Twitter or Facebook).
And so, together, we entered the world of Harry Potter.
To both of our surprise, Ashlyn was the one waiting for me to finish—rather impatiently too, I might add. I have reasons as to why I wasn’t reading as fast as usual: blogging; re-working two picture book manuscripts and getting them ready for submission; work; and working on my first novel.
Still, it came as a surprise to both of us how she was tearing through these books. By the time Ashlyn had consumed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (190,637 words), she was ready to tackle Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (257,045 words). Ashlyn is currently reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at a mere 168,923 words. Stats from Wordcounter.
She has caught herself shaking her head in surprise at the thickness of the novels that used to intimidate her. Now, to her sheer amazement she is looking forward to tackling those same thick volumes. That is an achievement worth celebrating. Woohoo! Happy dancing!
This brings me to my first point—keep encouraging children to 'taste' different books. Eventually, they will find one that they will want to devour. They will gain confidence and go on with reading. And this is the key—for them to gain the confidence. You can read more on my blog, '10 Practical Ways to Encourage Reluctant Readers.'
Ashlyn explained to me that part of her problem (lack of reading confidence) began in primary school. As she had difficulty with reading and comprehension, she was placed on a low reading level. One day she found a fiction book about Alexander the Great that interested her. However, as it was above her (then) current reading level, she was told that it was too hard for her and she was to pick something else.
From that point on, Ashlyn said that it was as if they had put her in a box. Then she put herself in the same box with a tag that said, ‘You are too stupid to read that. It’s too hard’. It is only as she has gotten older and realised what had happened, and she knows that she is smart and capable of learning and reading, she is no longer restrained by the negative thinking that held her back for so long.
Don’t get me wrong. She has always enjoyed reading, just not the thick books.
So the Harry Potter race continues, though no longer at the frantic pace that it began. I know Ashlyn will finish the next book quickly and be on to the last book in no time. As for me, I will sit back and be happy that she has discovered that she does not need to be intimidated by a thick book, and now she can even enjoy them.
Now excuse me, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is calling me.
“I hate books!”
“I hate reading!”
“Books are boring!”
These are comments that are heard in household and at school. And it is becoming more prevalent. To me, this is a tragedy. Books can open up the world to a child. The can learn new things. They can escape to another time, another place, another country, or even another planet or alternate dimension. Reading books can be relaxing, exciting, or just pure escapism.
Reading was not always fun for me. I have dyslexia. My parents loved books and learning. I grew up with my mum saying to me, “You can a new thing every day of your life. It can be a word, a new skill, or a piece of information that you did not know before.” This statement is true, and is something that I have lived my whole life and have passed on to my own children. But in the beginning it was not easy. My mum helped heaps.
Everyone is different. With my dyslexia, the words tend to move about the page. I mix my b’s and d’s and even, at times, the p’s. I get words mixed up when I read. My eyes pick up words from above or below the line that I’ll be reading.
When I write, I find that I still drop off e’s off words. I can mix letters up in words, or whole entire words and sentences, as my brain races ahead. When writing on the computer, the red line will appear, and I know the word is wrong, but can’t figure out how to correct it. I can even pick the correct word from the list, but can’t figure out where I went wrong. I am getting better. It is hard work, but so worth it.
As a child my mum showed me how to place a ruler above and below the line that I was reading, and to place my finger under the word that I was reading. As I got better following the line, I took the top ruler away, then eventually the bottom ruler. Then I didn’t need my finger and I could track across the page and not get lost. Well not often. And I learnt to speed read. However, even now, there are times, especially when I am tired that I still pick up words from around the page and I have to re-read the same passage a couple of times before it makes sense.
I believe that if a child is interested enough in a book, they will read it. My parents let me have access to their library from an early age. I read the usual books for that era; lots of Enid Blyton.
The Folk of the Faraway Tree, The Wi