Raising a Reader

My kid is at that age where he and his peers are learning to read. Most have moved into basic chapter books, some have moved into full chapter books. My kid is struggling through the books just before basic chapter books. In short he is a bit behind. We’ve put in the time, he has put in the work, but my son still doesn’t enjoy reading. Currently I have him reading the Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold. The best he can say about them is that he doesn’t hate them. I think he almost likes them, but he wishes he was reading something more like an early chapter book about detectives and super spies. He isn’t ready for those yet. I wish he was, but he isn’t.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about him not liking to read is that we have done all the ‘right’ things. We have done all the things the articles say to do if you want to ‘Raise a Reader’. We’ve always read him stories before bed and during the day. My husband and I read books both on our electronic devices and in paper copies. We keep magazines and books by our bed and at the end of his. My couch always has a small pile of books, and the dinning room table usually has to have a book or two removed before we can sit to eat. My kid can’t go to sleep without a bedtime story. He will even make up his own stories if someone else is willing to write them down for him.

We did all the ‘right’ things, but my kid isn’t a reader. He is an “I’ll only read if I absolutely can’t get out of it and you make me read” kind of reader. When other parents brag about ‘raising a reader’ I get a little jealous. They probably didn’t do anything more than I did. In many cases they have done much less! I’ve realized though that the problem isn’t that I did something wrong, it’s that I’m looking at it wrong. I can’t force my kid to love reading. I did all the right things, and while he isn’t a reader he is a lover of books, stories, and knowledge. Maybe it was the article title that was wrong. It shouldn’t be ‘How to raise a reader’, but ‘How to encourage your child to be love books’.

My kid loves books. He will sit and listen to us read to him for longer than I am up to reading out loud. He thrives on new facts and knowledge from non-fiction books and magazines. He will retell the story of our latest spy novel over the dinner table. He looks through Dwell magazine and points out the things he likes and the things he doesn’t. We have given him a love of books and learning, and I’ve finally realized that is even more important than a love of reading.

Do you have any young readers in your life? What books did they enjoy when they weren’t quite ready for early chapter readers?

Teaching my Reluctant Reader

Popsicle stick word gameMy son is a reluctant reader. I actually feel like this term isn’t quite right. He is more like a “violently against anything that remotely resembles reading, ESPECIALLY if it has to be done out loud” reader. On a bad day I can spend 2.5 hours getting him to do ten minutes of reading. (these days we are down to 15 minutes of complaining before 15 minutes of work)

His reluctance for reading is particularly hard since we are a family of readers, and we did all the ‘right’ things. My husband and I read both electronic and paper books. We are both big fans of (over) researching new hobbies and skills both online and in library books. When my son was little we went to the library weekly (now it is every two weeks). We have always read him stories before bed. We read to him in the middle of the day when he has had too much TV, but we need to have a calm break. We have succeeded in giving him a love of books … as long as someone else is reading them to him.

Last summer I put in a lot of time teaching my son to read. He made great progress, but he was still behind. Over the course of the school year he made slow gains, but he never caught up. He is still about half a grade level behind. So we are back at our reading lessons this summer.

This year we are focusing on fluency more than getting to a higher reading level. So we are working on sight words, letter recognition, and of course just plain old reading practice. Here are a few things that are making our reading work a little less onerous this year:

  1. Fiddlesticks – He actually LIKES playing this game. We use about 35 words at a time from the dolch list and four red tipped sticks. We usually play for between 2-5 minutes. I write the words on with a black coloured pencil not a marker.
  2. Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold – These are slightly below my sons reading level. They are perfect for fluency practice and read alone practice. Plus he doesn’t hate them (this is HIGH praise for a book he can read himself).
  3. The Alphabet – we have been practicing his printing (when we can since his dominant hand is currently in a sling). Before we start we always sing the alphabet while looking at our alphabet chart. I think part of his struggle to read is a lack of confidence about the alphabet.
  4. b d mouth formation – my son has a really hard time with b and d. He is fine with p now, and doesn’t struggle with n and m, but b d has been a real struggle. Teaching him about the mouth formation has not completely solved the problem, but when he is willing to use the trick he hasn’t gotten it wrong.

What early readers did/do your kids like? Do you have any other word games that might be a big hit?

Jump-starting my Writing

I haven’t been writing much … or at all really. I haven’t been reading much … or at all really either. I have a lot of (good) reasons for not reading and writing. Things were busy and stressful at work and at home, I was sick, I’m just not motivated, and I don’t have time. Some of those excuses have improved, and some I just need to learn to live around.

Since setting a schedule to write hasn’t been working so well, I called in reinforcements. I have a writing afternoon planned with friends later this month. I also sent out a call for a writing get together before that one. I know from experience that once I start writing again that carrying on writing gets easier. Having a few friends around to word war with or talk out ideas and stumbling blocks will get my fingers flying across the keyboard.

As for the reading thing, well I have some books on hold at the library and I’m just waiting for them to show up.

Have you been writing lately? Have any books you’ve loved lately?

The Books that Shaped Me

I wasn’t a reader as a kid. In fact I really struggled learning to read. I hated it because it was hard. It didn’t help that I was behind due to being in another province for several months of my primary year. I spent years being the kid who had to work with the resource teacher a few times a week.

It wasn’t until early university that I discovered a love of reading for fun. I’m very sure it wasn’t a matter of not being exposed to books before that. My father, in particular, was a lover of books. He read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, books, and newspapers. It wasn’t lack of exposure. I watched my Dad read regularly, I knew my Mom read before bed, and I was taken to the library frequently. My parents read to me before bed, and at other times.

I started reading a little bit in Jr. High and High School of my own free will. In Jr. High I started reading all the Nancy Drew books in my school library, but that had more to do with it being something to do that made me look busy over lunch than anything else. In high school I decided to read my way through all the books my parents and others had bought me over the years that I hadn’t been interested in. Books like the entire Narnia series, A few Hardy Boys, The Zucchini Warriors, and Twin Spell. I know there were others, but those are the ones that stand out for me.

The two books that really made me a reader though were Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, and Bitten By Kelley Armstrong. Harry Potter was fun, fast, and light. Bitten was adult urban fantasy. Both made me want to read MORE. It also didn’t hurt that I start dating my husband in early University and he reads at least a hundred books a year. He also loved to introduce me to new authors and genres. Without him, Harry Potter, and Bitten I might not be a reader at all.

Do you read for fun? What first made you want to read all the time?

Why did I Read that Book?

Over the last few weeks I have been re-watching Alias. When I hit the second season and many of my favourite Vaughn and Sydney moments I remembered an old Roswell fic I’d loved with a small crossover into Alias. I couldn’t get it out of my head, so for the last two days I’ve been rereading the fic. It got me thinking about why I read what I read.

Why I read new to me books
Most new books I read because I love the author, they were recommended by a friend, or I’m curious about the source material for a movie or TV show. Sometimes I find a review online through goodreads or amazon, but for the most part I prefer recommendations from people I know in real life.

Why I reread old favourites
I don’t reread a lot of books. Partially I think this is because there is only so much time and there are so many good books to read. It also boils down to if I am going to reread a book I have to really love it.

Very occasionally I will reread a book because the final book in a series is coming out and I want to review everything that happened. A perfect example of this is the year the final Harry Potter came out. I spent almost a month before it was released rereading the entire series. More often than not I will find a summary of the previous books online to refresh my memory before diving into the newest installment.

When I bought my first ebook reader I remember wanting the first book I read on it to be something I loved. I reread “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen because it is a deceptively complex classic love story. I love how after you’ve read it the first time you can see how precisely she sets up the different plot points in advance.

When my father died, a few years ago, I struggled to get back to reading. I pulled out some of my old favourites and skimmed through them only reading the ‘good’ bits. Books like “The Last Dragonlord” by Joanne Bertin, and even the first Rowell book by Melinda Metz. I also binge watched several seasons of “How I met your Mother” including the episode where Marshall’s father dies.

Sometimes I will reread books because something reminds me of them, like the Roswell fic I’m rereading because of the Alias crossover. When this season of Bitten, the TV show is over I will likely go back and reread the book by Kelley Armstrong to get the story straight in my head again. I sometimes pull out Harry Potter because I want something fast, easy, and satisfying. I have books I rely on when I’m sad, and books I rely on when I can’t sleep.

How do you decide what books to read? Do you ever reread books? What makes you pick up a book for a second time?

Book Recs – The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Book: The Rithmatist
By: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: YA

What it’s about: The main character, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatist’s are this worlds magic users. They use chalk to draw lines and creatures which can protect and attack other people by moving along floors, walls, and ceilings. Joel lives on the campus of the prestigious Armedius Academy where he watches as other students who have passed the test learn to become Rithmatists.

Why I read it, and why you should too: I had heard of Brandon Sanderson before, but I had never read anything by him. I think it was mostly a case of I read a lot of YA and he usually writes adult books. My husband is a big fan of his and recommended this book to me after he finished it. Since my husband is usually right when he says I will love a book I gave it a shot.

I loved this book! The magic system (I know, I know Brandon Sanderson writes amazing magic systems, but this was my first book by him) was interesting and a lot of fun. I enjoyed the characters and their development. The story also wrapped up well, but left me with plenty of questions for the next book in the set.

After reading this book I also started going through the Write about Dragons lectures. I have learned so much from watching those videos and I am still only about halfway through them. I can’t wait to see what else I learn as they continue forward.

Book Recs – Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

Book: Shade
By: Jeri Smith-Ready
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: YA

What it’s about: Aura’s boyfriend, Logan, dies after playing a gig with his band. The twist? Aura can still see and hear him. Aura, like everyone born after the Shift, can see and talk to ghosts.

Why I read it, and why you should too: I picked it up because it was a recommended read on Amazon when I was on a big YA kick a few years ago. I kept reading it because of the world building. The how and why of the shift kept my interest from the first few pages. The idea that an entire generation can see and talk to ghosts fascinated me. Plus I read a lot of books with love triangles around that time and the fact one of the boys in this one was a ghost made it far more interesting.

All three books in the trilogy are quick, fun reads. I particularly love that while everything is tied up at the end of book three it isn’t one of those endings that is so perfect it makes your head spin. It was a wonderfully realistic happy ending even for a fantasy book. It felt like the kind of happy ending you could expect in real life, not just in a fairy tale.

What books have you read lately? Do you enjoy a  good love triangle or do you think they are overdone?

Book Recs – Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Book: Leviathan
By: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: Steampunk
Audience: YA

What it’s about: Prince Aleksander is on the run from his own countrymen. He crosses paths with Deryn Sharp (a commoner) who disguises herself as a boy in the British Air Service. This book is the first in a trilogy that covers this pairs round the world adventures.

Why I read it, and why you should too: I read this book because I was desperate for something to read and it was sitting in my study. I had read and loved The Midnighters series by Scott Westerfeld many years ago. It made sense to give this title a go.

It took me a little while to get into this book. Once I got over that initial bump though I was on the hunt for the second and third books so I wouldn’t have to pause between them. The action is fairly constant without a lot of repetition. The differences in technology for the two sides of the war (the British and the Germans) are interesting and well thought out.

Perhaps my favourite part of all the books was the mini history lessons at the end. The author talks about the ways he has changed the world for this series beyond the obvious machine and animal technologies he has invented. Once you get into this book you won’t stop until you have read the entire trilogy.

Have you read Leviathan? Did you read it all in one sitting or over a few days?

Libraries are a Girl’s Best Friend

Katherine Jay was talking about how libraries fit into her life over on Stompydragons and I couldn’t imagine squeezing all my thoughts into one tiny comment. Instead I’m going to ramble about libraries on my own blog.

My early memories of libraries are not as positive as hers. I remember visiting the library in my first public school. We had library once a week and because I was in grade 5 we had younger reading buddies  we helped. I admit to hating it because my reading was below par which made it stressful. My father took me to the library when I was young and made sure I had my own library card, but I don’t have distinct memories of us going together.

My memories of the library start when my boyfriend (now husband) moved into an apartment downtown. I started reading for pleasure in grade twelve, and we started dating in my first year of university my love of books exploded. My husband introduced me to “Bitten” by Kelley Armstrong, I found “Sabriel” by Garth Nix, and read “Pride and Prejudice” for the first time.

We went to the library so often that everyone who worked the checkout desk knew us by name. Some of them would see us arrive and pull our holds so they would be ready and waiting when we finally checked out our stacks of books. One of the librarians put aside the latest issues of Dwell, and Bike so we could get first crack at them. I learned to knit, cross stitch and sew because of books I got out of that library.

Then they announced their plans for a Central Library. We went to every planning meeting. (The ones before they had picked the architect and started the actual design). My husband was even interviewed by a local TV network after one of those meetings. I remember how nervous he was that he hadn’t made his point, that people wouldn’t understand how valuable a central library would be to the city.

The first time my mother watched my son it was so my husband, father and I could got to one of the later meetings when they had picked the architects that would develop the plans for the building. We were broken into groups and our feedback was used to help determine what types of spaces the new library would need. People voiced their opinion that there wasn’t as much need for book space now that ebooks were taking over. Others argued it was important to have an even larger paper book collection in the new space. It was lively and passionate.

Now the new library is open. We visit it frequently. I hunt through the YA section for new reads. My son builds with lego, picks out books about firetrucks, and plays with the light wall. My husband disappears into adult fiction or non-fiction to hunt for books on whatever topic he is currently interested in. I did my first (and only) reading in one of their conference rooms during Word on the Street.

The new library is an essential part of downtown. People gather there in the evening for studying, on the weekends to play games, and during lunch breaks to read.

Do you have a local library you love? Do you use it regularly?

Book Recs – Shadowland by Meg Cabot

Book: Shadowland
By: Meg Cabot
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: YA

What it’s about: This is the first book in Meg Cabot’s Mediator series. The main character is Suze, a teenage mediator. Suze’s mother has just remarried, so Suze has moved to a new house, new blended family, and new school. Because she can see ghosts she hates old buildings (this is where ghosts hang out).

Why I read it, and why you should too: I think I read this book because it was a recommendation in an article for those who liked the Roswell books by Melinda Metz. Lets just say I read these long enough ago that they were still under Meg Cabot’s pen name at the time.

The books are short and quick to read. I love the story between Suze and Jesse, the ghost who lives in her house. Suze is also a kick butt heroine. She doesn’t always go with the flow, and is even known to embarrass herself socially (not on purpose). As a somewhat socially awkward person her ability to do the wrong thing and keep her head held high appeals to me. If you are looking for a light YA supernatural story with a romance, this book is for you.

As an added bonus a new adult release for this series is set to come out in February of next year.

Have you read any of Meg Cabots’ books? What was the last book you read and loved?