I’m lucky to have two children who are both good readers, but they are different too. One is like me, a hopeless bookworm – the sort who reads at the breakfast table and bumps into things because he is holding a book to his face and the wall just seems to jump out of nowhere.
The other reads slower with more detail, he is a lot more discerning in his book tastes.
I remember a feeling of panic a couple of years ago when the youngest reached that ‘danger period’ for boys and stopped reading.
It crept up on me slowly. He was an independent reader and no longer needed me to read to him or help him select his books – or so I thought. I was wrong!
One day, I realized that he was barely reading at all. He never came home with books from school. He said he had read them all, and they were all boring.
When we went to the library, eldest son went straight to the catalogue where he poured over all the choices. He always came out with a bag of books that must have been at least half his body weight – and he read every single one.
Youngest son on the other hand, wandered from shelf to shelf and came out with nothing – or perhaps a couple of books that he borrowed because he “had to borrow something”. These books generally never left his library bag.
I panicked. I had never thought that a child of mine would stop reading. What I soon realized was that he still wanted to read…he just didn’t know where to go to find the books he liked. That’s why schools need trained teacher/librarians.
Fortunately, in grade 4, my son had a teacher who was switched on to his quirky sense of humor. She brought him books from her own private collection, which he eagerly devoured. I spent a great deal of time with him at public libraries asking the librarians for recommendations, and trawling the bookshelves with him. We also started reading together again as a family, and it’s something we still enjoy.
For my son, ‘the danger period’ when boys stop reading wasn’t brought about by him deciding he didn’t like books anymore. It was caused by having nobody, particularly at school, to guide his reading. I wonder how many other kids stop reading for this very reason – they simply don’t know what book to pick up.
I implore the people with the decision-making powers to employ MORE teacher librarians, not the reverse. If our politicians want improved literacy skills, then they must do their part to ensure that all kids have the resources they need to keep them reading.