Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Confessions of a Non-Reading Child

Jean Todesca is a children's librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin on May 25.

If you ever told me that I would grow up to be a librarian, I would have looked at you cross-eyed. It is still hard for me to believe the profession that I have chosen and how much I love it.

Tomboy, “rough and tumble” and constant motion are the terms I use to describe my younger self. The thought of sitting down and reading seemed like such a waste of time.

My brothers and sisters loved to read and would easily spend as far as I was concerned a “LAZY” afternoon enjoying a good book. Why sit around when there was so much to do and see? I’d be outside riding my bike or throwing a ball. Maybe I’d read a comic book that my brother left on the bathroom floor, but that was the extent of my pleasure reading.

For school assignments, I would choose the shortest and easiest possible book for reports. I still remember I read almost every book in the series, What is a Pig?; What is a Dog?; What is a Cow?. I think they had only 40 pages tops and I was in the 5th grade! If there was an incentive reading chart in the classroom, as long as I had a few stars on it, I felt I had made the proper effort.

This is the background that I bring to my position of Children’s Librarian. Often parents will say their child won’t read and they’re frustrated. I totally understand: My Mom couldn’t get me to read either. There is a twist to this story. As an adult and young adult, I became an avid reader. It happened slowly over time. First with reading in bits and bytes, I read magazines, newspapers and comic books. In time, short stories in magazines caught my interest.

If I enjoyed a short story, I would look to see if the author had other works and soon I was on to novels. I remember reading The Shining by Stephen King on cloudy days while life guarding on the Cape, and being so engrossed that I hoped the weather wouldn’t clear up. So, parents I know it is hard, but do not fret.

Here is my advice for parents. Any reading is OK whether your child is reading magazines, cereal boxes, comics or small books. Always try to find a hook, something that will draw your child’s attention. Often I recommend a high interest graphic novel or comic which comes in a series for example The Adventures of TinTin because the reader always wants the next one. Once your child sees some value in reading, then he or she can be guided to try more complex works. Also, don’t forget nonfiction section, children love to read about real things.

There are many titles designed for casual reading with pictures and captions that will not overwhelm your reluctant reader. Be a positive role model, read for pleasure in front of your children. Just remember we all find our path to reading in many ways and if one thing doesn’t work try something else. Happy Reading! P.S. I’m currently reading 3 books at once. Not bad for a nonreader!

Read more: Morrill Memorial Library: Confessions of a non-reading child - Norwood, MA - Norwood Bulletin