Ramblings On Reading

I pour a cup of coffee and prepare to immerse myself in a library book—until Joel wanders by. Reading is not his idea of entertainment, so he doesn’t understand my inability to concentrate on a book while carrying on a conversation about his missing socks.

Though his teachers taught him to read, they were unable to inspire him to love doing so. And that’s OK.

During my career, I worked with various committees on curricular goals for literacy. Frequently we had heated discussions about an objective often found in such documents: “Students will read for pleasure.”So nicht!

I remember a stern fellow who taught middle school arguing against the inclusion of such a goal in a literature curriculum: “Only English teachers would think everyone should love reading. What’s wrong with learning to read so you possess a necessary skill? Math teachers don’t think their students should solve equations for pleasure.”

He had a point.niña leyendo

We’re told that when children see their parents read for pleasure, they’ll choose to do the same. Yet, when teaching, I often heard parents say, “I don’t understand why my child doesn’t like to read. I read all the time.”

I understand their lament.

Capable readers, my grandchildren don’t turn to books for entertainment. When they were toddlers, I managed to capture their attention with picture books and word games, but as they entered school, their interest warped to math. When they asked me to quiz them on math problems; I gamely asked, “What’s 42 minus 16?” and praised the correct response — when I knew it.

I wasn’t thrilled with this game. Their grandfather, a former math teacher, was: “Did you hear how she broke that problem into groups of tens and ones to solve it?”

Whoopee. But then, this is a man who makes up and solves word problems about distance, speed, and mileage for entertainment when we travel.

When discouraged, I’d go in search of Walker, a grandchild I managed to influence beyond the early years. He visited us in Craig when he was three. He and I dragged picture books off a shelf, chose the best — though I never did understand his toddler’s criteria — and I read them to him every time he asked.

Jabberwocky

I heard somewhere that little ones like to be read to because of the physical closeness and undivided attention they enjoy. But this tyke seemed to find the same pleasure in interesting words used well that I did. The book he chose most often was The Jabberwocky about a creature “with eyes of flame,” that came “whiffling through the tulgy woods and burbled as it came.”

We read together until age and computer games diverted his attention; but we continue to talk about books now and then.

280px-George_Foreman_2009

Though I read for pleasure, I never look askance at those who don’t — I love and respect too many of them. But I enjoyed an interview with George Foremen, two-time world heavyweight champion, in the AARP Bulletin of October 2014.

The interviewer asked, “What makes big ol’ George Foreman weep?”

Foreman replied, “A good book. Writers make me cry. I love reading.”

So do I, George, so do I.

 

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28 thoughts on “Ramblings On Reading

  1. Reading is my escape. But that is not true for my husband. He would rather work with wood or metal and turn it into something functional and beautiful. When we first got married, I would often recommend books that I thought he would enjoy and then quietly pick tgem up from the library and leave them on his nightstand. They were never touched– and I was heartbroken. I have since come to appreciate these differences. I will never understand his fascination for sanding and grinding and welding and painting, and he honestly does not “get” my passion for the written word, but he excitedly sits down and reads my blog posts every time I announce that I have written one. I count my blog posts as perfect, if I can either make him laugh or cry. 🙂

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    • Becca, we married men from the same mold. Joel is very proud that as an adult, other than required academic or professional reading, he’s read a book. Yes, one book: The Perfect Storm. And he seems to think it can never be equalled, so why read another. Yet, he is the first reader, best critic, and biggest fan for my columns and blogs as well as for my book. When he edits something and draws a star on it, I know I’ve done well.

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  2. I’m imagining that I know just the “stern middle school teacher” you mentioned. 🙂 When I was teaching I didn’t think I’d really done my job if I hadn’t inspired a LOVE of reading. Yeah, I admit it was a pretty high standard. That’s why I tried to find the key for every child. Robots? Kittens? Jokes? Motorcycles? Spiders? Sure. Whatever. I knew there had to be a key somewhere. There had to be a way in. And if I didn’t find it, I hoped the next teacher would.

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  3. Great post Janet- Ma read to us every night until I was about 11 and she resigned from parenting. We all loved to read. The much maligned Mrs Cox read us The Lion, The Witch, ect in grade three, not a long book so must have taken her all year, on our last day of reading someone irked her and she refused to finish the book. To this day it is my frame of reference to complete outrage- I was gutted, still read it every couple of years, to remind me of all I learned in retrospect from this horrible person. Oh to read, and you will never be alone..

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    • You are so casually hilarious, Sheila: resigned from parenting, not a long book so took her all year, reference to complete outrage. I snort, guffaw, and giggle when I read anything you write.

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  4. Having just delivered our two grandchildren home today, I shall miss them. No. 2 doesn’t like competing with his older brother, who is a voracious reader. We did some reading together, but he’s reticent. When we went out for lunch today on their return, No. 2 went to the toilet, No.1 came back and whispered,’J. didn’t read the sign, it said STAFF Toilet, very concerned that J. had made a mistake. I didn’t like to say, maybe he did read it, and just didn’t care! 🙂

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      • Thanks Janet- some days I am surprised to have any bladder control left….with the guffaws. Something of note to be thankful for, the 12 years I lived in Northern Manitoba at least half of the women I worked with could not read, the older ones had no chance ,no schools, a lot of the younger needed to raise siblings or help out on the trap-lines. I was shocked by this, and think of the girls when I gripe about Mrs Cox..

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      • That is shocking, Sheila, that our nations, which can do so much, cannot educate those who need it most.When I used to complain about mean teachers or boring classes, my mom would say I should count my blessings then tell me to wash out the baby’s diapers or weed the garden.

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  5. I read every day. I have developed a fascination with books about Appalachia. Currently I am reading a book by James Michener, but I find his books a little long. I have mixed feelings about finishing a book. On one hand I like the feeling of completion, but on the other hand I want it to go on. That’s why I pick a lot of books that are written in sequence. That way I have the best of both worlds. I don’t remember being read to, but as a kid I loved the Hardy Boys books.

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    • No doubt the Hardy Boys helped shape your enjoyment of sequels as the books that followed Little Women did mine. I know what you mean about wanting to go on. I can tell when I’ve finished a book that will linger with me through the years: I go through a period of mourning after finishing it.

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  6. I remember how I got hooked. My grandmother gave me a box of old school books. In the box was a history book that had all these great paintings of battles and explorers. I would look at the paintings and wonder what they were about at first, then as I learned to read, I read the captions, wanting to know more, I started reading the text.

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      • Reading has been such a big part of me that when I meet people who don’t read, I find myself thinking of them as alien to me, from another tribe, a tribe of base primates–I was married to one. When I would sit down to read, she would get this look on her face as if somebody had defecated in her mess-kit. I think about our divorce and say, “Thank ye Lord.”

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  7. I am fortunate to be in a family of readers. I used to worry about Jake not reading for pleasure. When he moved to Sheridan and couldn’t afford cable his reading blossomed. I, sadly, got out of the habit of reading, but I am back in the groove and loving it! I have learned that it is not my place to judge if people read for pleasure or not. The old saying “different strokes for different folks” applies here. (it seems funny that that quote from that song is now old) Am I starting to find that wisdom of all of those women I have admired in my life?

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  8. I agree with Janice….try not to judge and don’t give up on your non-readers. My son was in his thirties when he discovered non-fiction autobiographies that he found fascinating. Now he shares favorites with his son, my grandson, and they both read and discuss them. Yay.
    My monthly book club gives me great pleasure and has led me to read genres I wouldn’t have chosen. I knew I was in the right group when we all agreed one Salaman Rushdi book in a lifetime is enough. We read current and classic novels with about half either liking or disliking the book. Our discussions are very, very lively and long. I highly recommend a book club for those that don’t share space with other readers.

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  9. I remember your boy listening quite raptly when I read aloud to my 4th graders — if it was the right book! If it wasn’t, he listened politely but lacked enthusiasm. I envy you your book club experience. It sounds perfect. I’ve never belonged to one that discussed the books read with detail and depth.

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  10. I love to read – I love the sound of the words, the different ways to you can put them together. I read an interview article recently where the person interviewed said he never reads fiction because there are so many fascinating things that are true. I contend that just because a person is a great traveler, or has had an adventure, that doesn’t make him a good storyteller – or a good writer. I read both fiction and non-fiction, but heavy on the fiction. Love your stories, Janet, as they always bring memories to mind – I guess I can relate to much of what you write about.

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    • I, too, read mostly fiction, Sparky, but also well written nonfiction by writers like Jon Krakauer or Sebastian Junger. Thank you for reading and enjoying my stories. I like hearing that people can relate to my writing.

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  11. How great that your grandchildren have grandparents that speak to both sides of their brains!
    You might enjoy the blog “The Journey Toward Literacy Begins at Birth”; you are definitely speaking the same language.

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    • I’d never thought that as their grandparents Joel and I encouraged our grandchildren to use both sides of their brains. I like that thought. Thanks for the blog tip as well, Shelley, I’ll check it out.

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  12. So do I, Janet, so do I. Love reading, that is. (Hooray for George Foreman!)

    However, I know that not everyone is happy with their head buried in a book and, with your math analogy, you’ve enabled me to have a new appreciation for those who do not share my love of the written word.
    Two of my sister’s three boys have almost no interest in reading, besides for using it as an acquired skill. But what a thrill to watch the youngest one (age 14) dissect a passage in a book, or try out different words and phrases when working on a writing assignment! There’s still hope…

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    • Thanks for mentioning George. I loved his quote. It’s always interesting to me how the same parents can raise decidedly different children. The nature and nurture question looms large in our lives.

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