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?