Thursday, February 18, 2010

Aidan's Reading Miracle

I'm so pleased to welcome a great friend and fellow writer to The Book Chook, to share a story that may give hope to other parents and grandparents of dormant readers, and re-confirms my belief in the power of wonderful school libraries.

Gloria Blanchard is a Canadian author, whose writing has been published in The Verb, The Vancouver Sun, Rainbow Rumpus, and soon, Cricket magazine. As a mother, she raised two readers, then found herself bringing up her grandchildren too. While her granddaughter loved to read, grandson Aidan was a different story.

I began buying books for my grandchildren before they were born. I had a plan. My grandchildren would learn to read early and well. We would have fun!

Like most plans, this one didn’t quite work out. My granddaughter loved reading from the start. My grandson, not so much. He couldn’t keep still. He interrupted every couple of moments. He didn’t particularly care about the stories, except for a very few, Tikki Tikki Tembo being one. Aidan preferred creeping under the blankets, hooting like an imaginary animal, and best of all, annoying his sister. Reading at night left me exhausted and irritated. Reading together became torture. By the time Aidan reached grade three, he could barely read basic words like “and” or “the.” I was beside myself.

Realizing I had to save my sanity, I decided one day to opt out of the struggle. I told my grandson if he wanted me to read to him, I’d be happy to as long as it was at a reasonable time. I no longer picked books for him when I went to the library for myself. I felt as if I was deserting him. The school delicately suggested he be tested for ADHD and when the paediatrician confirmed the diagnosis, my grandson began to take medication.

This marked a turning point for Aidan. Finally, he could sit still long enough during reading time at school to make an effort. He had always been more interested in non fiction books, especially if they were about gruesome critters. The colourful pictures and small blocks of interesting facts weren’t intimidating for him so I made sure he had access to plenty of non-fiction. However, it wasn’t until the fifth grade that my grandson found a fiction book he loved.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney was the first fiction book he devoured. He read every one in the series and sometimes read to me.

The next book he fell in love with was
Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel. I was stunned. This is a thick, meaty book and Aidan wanted to read the entire series. He couldn’t stop telling me about the plot of the story and what was happening to each of the bat characters. It was all alive to him, the way a book should be.

He is now in grade six and his current passion is
Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the series by Rick Riordan. Seeing him immersed in a book feels like a miracle to me.

Do I feel guilty that I gave up on the struggle to help Aidan learn to read? Not at all. In spite of his ADHD, Aidan learned to read for several reasons and with the help of many people. First, his medication gave him the ability to still himself. Next, the school’s policy for a required reading time, up to 40 minutes per day, was essential. Equally important is our school’s great library, run by an experienced teacher-librarian. Aidan kick-started his own reading habit because he found the right book by himself, written by a wonderful author in a library filled with unlimited choices.

Thinking about it, libraries are a kind of miracle too. What would kids like Aidan do without them?


  1. Latest Book Chook post: Aidan's Reading Miracle

  2. This story could almost have been mine! I too have a reluctant reading 10 year old, who has just discovered The Diary of Wimpy Kid' and he is loving it. Glued daily for at least 30 minutes it's fabulous. I just hope we too can transfer this to other similar books, thanks for this great post.

  3. Terry Doherty19 February, 2010

    Gloria left out one thing ... she surrounded him with books! It is so nice to hear a positive story that reminds people that ADHD is about attention span and/OR hyperactivity, NOT brain power. Having watched my own daughter struggle with the ability to focus/stay on task, it is so wonderful to hear Aiden's story.

  4. Aidan's Reading Miracle - I am so lucky to work with a media coordinato<wbr></wbr>r like this! #ncta #tbwlf

  5. Great testimony for the power of librarians (as well as gma's, all her reading DID make a diff)

  6. Welcome to The Book Chook, Passionate Librarian. Librarians are my heroes, so I hope you feel right at home here! And you're right, there's a lot of factors involved before that wonderful "click" moment.

  7. Yes, I agree. I'm sure Gloria's love, support AND print-rich home made an impact. I'm glad this story gives hope to others in similar situations, Terry.

  8. Henrietta, such an exciting time for you when he is teetering on the brink of becoming a book-lover! I think once it all starts to come together for kids, once they realize they can handle the mechanics of reading AND that it brings immense pleasure, they are off. Before we know it, we are pleading "Come on, get your head out of that book and get ready for school!"

  9. Dawn Riccardi Morris19 February, 2010

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story. It just goes to show that one size does not fit all children. Bravo, Aidan!

    40 minutes of silent reading time is amazing, and unusual, at least in the USA. It's great that there are so many choices in the school library, too. What a wonderful resource.

    I agree that the example Aidan's grandmother set, through modeling a love of reading and surrounding him with books, probably had much more of an influence on him than she'll ever realize. I'm so glad it worked out in the end.

    Thanks for sharing this story with us, Susan!

  10. With so much pressure on schools to provide a diverse curriculum for kids, and also ensure that kids do well in batteries of tests, I would think it must need very strong leadership to ensure 40 minutes SSR a day too. Great choice, Aidan's school!

    I agree, Dawn. One size doesn't fit all. There are many pathways, and we need to support individuals on the one they choose.

  11. I loved reading about Aidan's developing into a reader. I have ADD (non-hyperactive type) and although I love reading, it is very hard for me to focus. I can only read in short bursts. I can't read one book at a time usually. I am very intimidated by thick books and long chapters. I was diagnosed 2 years ago, although I had it, of course, my whole life. I am not on medication but I am told that even a very small dose could make a huge impact on my ability to focus and I could get more done. I am looking into it further now. It is great to read success stories for people with ADHD.

  12. This is such an inspiring story! Thank you so much for opening your life and sharing it with us!!

  13. Book Chook31 March, 2010

    Rebecca, I hope you'll let us know how it goes. It is such a credit to you that you have your wonderful book blog despite being only able to read in short bursts!

  14. Book Chook31 March, 2010

    I'll pass those thanks on to Gloria, Tif.


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