Happy Raising Readers Monday, everyone! I’d like to introduce this week’s guest blogger, “Funny Author Lady” Tara Lazar. I first came across Tara with her laugh-out-loud sense of humor and excellent advice for writers in her blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them).
Tara’s picture books include The Monstore (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2013); I Thought This Was a Bear Book (Aladdin/S&S, 2014); Little Red Gliding Hood (Random House, 2015) and 7 Ate 9: the Untold Story (Disney*Hyperion, 2016). She is also featured in a book of essays for teens entitled Break These Rules (Chicago Review Press, 2013). Tara may be best known as the originator of PiBoIdMo. (That’s Picture Book Idea Month for those of you not immersed in kid’s writing!) Here she shares a bit of her experience as a mom who loves books working to pass that love on to her own children.
My daughter is a reluctant reader who reads every day.
What? Tara, that doesn’t make any sense. And yet, it does.
As soon as I had my first daughter, I was dying to get to the library. I signed us up for baby story time before she could even sit up on her own. The other moms must have thought I was eager for companionship or that I just wanted to get out of the darn house. No. I wanted her to hear stories. I wanted her to be surrounded by books. I wanted to raise a reader, like me.
My own mother was the library mom at school, and I recall being so proud that she was the one stamping our books. But my mom didn’t read anything but People Magazine. While I collected tales by Roald Dahl, Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary, she glanced through piles of celebrity fodder. One day we went to an antique bookstore and it was intoxicating to me, being surrounded by gorgeous leather-bound tomes. Oh, the scent of it all! My mother thought they were gorgeous, too, so she bought them to decorate the house. She never read them. This is not how I wanted my daughter to grow up, without reading for pleasure.
So I took her to the library every week. I read to her every night. I bought books—hundreds of them. (And yes, I bought bookshelves, too.) And when she finally learned to read, she was reluctant to do so on her own. She still wanted me to read to her every night. I obliged. After all, I loved that special time together.
Then in second grade, her teacher told me that she could no longer check picture books out of the library. She needed to be challenged; she needed to move up to chapter books. I was disappointed, but I listened to the teacher. I encouraged her to read chapter books. I let her choose them. She skimmed. She flipped. I don’t think she ever read a full Rainbow Fairy book and understood it. I didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t interested in reading, after all I had done to ensure I’d raise a bibliophile.
Then she discovered DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. She devoured it. She couldn’t wait for the next one to be released. She read them repeatedly. Then she found ELLIE McDOODLE and DORK DIARIES. She was a bonafide graphic novel junkie. But her teacher complained; she should move on from graphic novels. And she should stop reading them umpteen times each. This time, I disagreed. I was happy that she was reading, and more importantly, ENJOYING what she read.
So for a few years, graphic novels were all she read. Again, her teacher expressed concern for her reading level. I didn’t worry. “Let her read what she wants to read,” I said. I felt if you forced reading upon a child, it would certainly make it a dreaded chore.
And then, this year, in 5th grade, something interesting happened. She lost interest in the graphic novels. She began reading HARRY POTTER and SWINDLE and THE HUNGER GAMES and now DIVERGENT. These are books that were thought to be above her reading level. But they are not. She needed to discover them at her own pace.
My daughter sees me read every night before bed, so this has also become her routine. And when we go out and she knows there will be downtime, she grabs a book. A BOOK. Not an iPod, iPad or DS or any other electronic device. A good, old-fashioned hardcover book. Proud Mama here.
So what have I learned about raising a reader? I’ve learned to surround them with a reading culture, but not to push. Not to demand. It will grow on them as they find their own way.
Now my second daughter is seven years old and her first grade teacher insists they fill out a daily reading log. Frankly, this made reading a chore to her. So I asked the teacher if she could skip it. Instead, I email the teacher with her book list. Does she read every day? No. But that’s OK with me. I still read to her every night, cuddling in bed. It’s still a time for us to enjoy a story together, until she’s ready to discover a book she loves…all on her own.Another Great Big Thank You to Tara Lazar for contributing this post. If you haven’t been by her blog yet, you certainly should go now! Next Monday I’ll dazzle you with tales of my 3rd favorite thing to do with books (after read and write). You may think “covet them?” but it’s actually to throw a book-themed birthday party! Until then, happy reading!