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.
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