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Shout out to Stephen King! - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shout out to Stephen King!
Just got a call from my mother, who often looks after a fourteen-year-old boy who, unlike everyone my mother is related to, is a very reluctant reader, often considering it "punishment" to be asked to read something.

Well, a friend of his left a Stephen King book lying around, and for the first time ever, he picked up a book and started reading it just for the hell of it... and he's so enthusiastic that he's apparently telling everyone he sees how great it is. (Mom didn't recognize the title; she thinks it involved "Wolf" or "Wolves," so I'm guessing either Cycle of the Werewolf or Wolves of the Calla, though there's an off chance that it's The Talisman, which has a character named Wolf.) He's even cautiously talking about hitting The Stand sometime, since he's now heard it talked about.

So, score for Stephen King! It rocks my socks to see someone really digging a book for the very first time.

(Also, a great big raspberry at people who think reluctant readers need to be given short books with small words and lots of pictures. Three cheers for common sense as well--give them stories that they like, and, gosh... they'll read! I keep trying to tell people this, but no one ever listens to me. I'm just a librarian.)

I feel a bit...: happy happy

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Comments
aiglet From: aiglet Date: July 25th, 2006 01:58 am (UTC) (Link)
That's awesome!

If he likes Steven King, he might like Christopher White or some of the Golden Age SF authors too... :)
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: July 25th, 2006 01:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, it's very rewarding. :)

victorialupin From: victorialupin Date: July 25th, 2006 02:12 am (UTC) (Link)
That's great. :)

And I know what you mean about trying to give them short stories with small words ... Sometimes finding something interesting to read really is the right answer, whether the book is long or short, difficult to read or easy.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 25th, 2006 02:26 am (UTC) (Link)
You'd be shocked how many people come to the library to find that magical book for a reluctant reader without bringing the reader in question. Or knowing what that person likes. This is a very common conversation--

Patron: I'm looking for a book for a reluctant reader. He's fourteen.
Me: What is he interested in?
Patron: Well, he's a reluctant reader.
Me: All right... what kind of book do you think he might like?
Patron: No, he doesn't like to read.
Me: Er... well, I like {whatever I happen to be in the mood to hawk}
Patron: Is that good for reluctant readers?
Me: (trying not to scream) Well... it depends on what the particular reluctant reader likes...

I'll note that I don't try to hit R.R.s with Tolkien, who is challenging, no matter how much I like him. But I've had this conversation with something as short and easily written as Lord of the Flies, or as clearly of interest to someone who spends all his time playing video games as Ender's Game (I use that one for the variant of the conversation that includes the annoyed comment that the R.R. "spends all his time playing video games instead of reading").
verdenia From: verdenia Date: July 25th, 2006 02:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Rough. People are crazy.
and, Mmm, Ender's Game. I finally just read that last year; I hadn't any idea previously. and I've been devouring books since, oh, the early eighties...which, when you consider I was born in the late seventies, is pretty darn great. ;P
So I was surprised that I hadn't known of it before. His Dark Materials, too--just found and loved them last summer!
I was very amused by the "what do I know, I'm just a librarian" in your initial entry. ;P
akilika From: akilika Date: July 25th, 2006 02:37 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm reminded of an episode of Arthur, where Buster doesn't read. And he keeps being given simpler and simpler books, and at one point you see him with a picture book called "Blue", with one line per page ("The sky is blue", for instance), staring out the window and sighing. Of course, by the end of the episode he's picked up the book that Arthur's been reading instead (Robin Hood), and is powering through it, 'cause it's way more interesting.

I don't know enough people who don't like reading to know for certain, but it makes sense that someone who already knows how to read, and has an okay vocabulary, doesn't need something easy-to-digest so much as something compelling.

(Even the one guy I know who doesn't like reading still likes a few books. He just won't read them unless he's in jail and there's nothing more to do. Sigh . . . though he did start on "Catcher in the Rye" when I left it on the table once.)
threnody From: threnody Date: July 25th, 2006 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)
He'll probably get bored with The Stand after it goes into the whole Evil Of Doom thing, but the rotting bodies are awesome to the 14 year old mind. :D
galaxianomiko From: galaxianomiko Date: July 25th, 2006 02:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Word on short stories vs. interesting stories. When I was teaching, the department head kept assigning really juvenile middle school books for my difficult 11th grade class because they didn't want to read or be there, and...it backfired every time. I wasn't surprised. Some of the students had expressed frustration to me that they never read books in school about issues that concern them (with the noted exception of Romeo and Juliet, which many of the kids had gotten very involved in).
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: July 25th, 2006 02:52 am (UTC) (Link)
(Also, a great big raspberry at people who think reluctant readers need to be given short books with small words and lots of pictures. Three cheers for common sense as well--give them stories that they like, and, gosh... they'll read! I keep trying to tell people this, but no one ever listens to me. I'm just a librarian.)

There's a great episode of Arthur (PBS kids, with a four and six year old, that's all the TV I ever seem to watch) about this. Arthur's best friend Buster (not the most diligent student, and a big TV/comic book addict) has to read a book for a book report in class. He confesses to his friends that he has never read a complete book before, so they give him all sorts of simple books to read and he gets bored and confused until he picks up Arthur's copy of Robin Hood and just goes to town because it's about all the cool adventure stuff that he likes on his TV shows and in his Comic books.

It also reminds me of an experience a friend and fellow officer had with one of his enlisted men. The kid decided to read The Hunt for Red October because he liked the movie -- he was reading it (lips moving and everthing) when he suddenly turned enthusiastically to my friend and said, "You can tell what they're thinking when you read the book!"

Anyway -- very excited for the young lad who has discovered a genre/style of books that he likes. Here's hoping he will expand his interest!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 25th, 2006 03:01 am (UTC) (Link)
It also reminds me of an experience a friend and fellow officer had with one of his enlisted men. The kid decided to read The Hunt for Red October because he liked the movie -- he was reading it (lips moving and everthing) when he suddenly turned enthusiastically to my friend and said, "You can tell what they're thinking when you read the book!"

Ha, that's one of the rare times I envy people who don't read much--they get that moment of realizing that there's this whole incredible experience out there that they never really understood before. That's why I occasionally will go on kicks to try and figure out modern art or dance or something--that moment of going, "Whoa... that's just cool."
nundu_art From: nundu_art Date: July 25th, 2006 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
My oldest daughter's transistion from 'youth' fiction to the heavy stuff came when she discovered Clancy's Patriot Games at the age of nine. She gobbled the book down in one weekend and went searching the home library shelf for the rest of his books (my husband had every one). She's been a reader since the age of three, but this was the 'big step'. My youngest daughter was our 'reluctant reader'. I thought she'd stay with youth focused novels forever (Babysitter's Club *rolleyes*) until Harry Potter arrived on the scene. Yes, it began as a youth novel, but after tackling Goblet of Fire she began to branch out to the fantasies that lined our library walls. Steven King caught her fancy. Now you can't get her nose out of a book either. She reads all genre and, bless her, keeps at least four books going at a time (takes after her mum on that one!).

The key is catching their interest. You have to find what they want to read about. There is no pat answer. You ask the right questions (What interests them?), the pity is, their parents/concerned adult don't seem to realize that the child's interest in skateboarding is just as sincere as the parent's interest in Hobbits.
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: July 25th, 2006 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)
My brother got his taste for reading back at the end of his adolescence when a family friend left T.C. Boyle's Water Music behind when we were on vacation.
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: July 25th, 2006 03:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Whenever I get a parent in looking for stuff for a reluctant reader I always bang my head against the wall because they won't take anything long. I offer collections of short stories, in the vague hope that one of them will catch a spark. Bradbury and Dahl are both good for that...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 25th, 2006 03:30 am (UTC) (Link)
A lot of them that I get, unfortunately, will reject fantasy and sf out of hand, on the thought that the kid won't be able to "relate" to it. It just always surprises me that it has apparently never occurred to them to think about what movies their kids have enjoyed, or what kinds of video games they're spending all their time one when it comes to finding books they might like. It's like they think reading is a totally separate and compartmentalized part of life, and what someone will like as a reader will have nothing whatsoever to do with what he or she likes in other aspects of life. My strategy when the kids themselves come in is, "What was the last movie you really liked?... Oh, Pirates... did you like the adventure part? {list adventure titles} The curse? {try some horror/fantasy} The romance? {maybe a bodice ripper}?" Of course, that doesn't help if the answer is "Johnny Depp is TEH HAWTNESS," but it's often effective. But it doesn't work if it's the parent coming in alone.

Sigh.

I always want to give the only really helpful hint I know for a parent--pick up a book that you like and read it everywhere where the kid can see you, until he starts asking, "Hey, what's that about?" Then hint that's very exciting, and give just enough to make him want to read it next. Or at least just show him that sometimes reading holds your attention just as a mode of entertainment. I have great memories of wasting whole days with my mother, curled up in the living room with our books. We once forgot to eat until almost seven o'clock--we'd read right through lunch and past our usual dinner hour. That makes a kid a reader. (Of course, to be fair, Mom had easy material with me; she often had to tell me to put the books down and go outside to play.)
harriet_wimsey From: harriet_wimsey Date: July 25th, 2006 03:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I got in trouble for that all the time--I used to sneak books into the bathroom with me, because then Mom & Dad couldn't see me reading and make me go clean my room or something. Of course, after I'd been in there for an hour, they got pretty suspicious. I always tell them it's their fault, though. They're readers and lifelong lovers of learning, so I got the genes from both sides of the family.

Asking what movie they liked and then extrapolating is a good tip. I'll have to remember that.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 25th, 2006 04:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh, yeah. When I was in first grade, Mom made the mistake of giving me Little Women. We always had to hurry in the morning, because she had to drop me off at the babysitter's on her way to work, and I remember her coming in and catching me in the middle of a chapter... with half my clothes on and one sock in my hand, utterly forgotten. She actually made a rule that I was not allowed to open a book until I had both of my socks on.
matril From: matril Date: July 25th, 2006 02:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
We had a no-books-at-the-table rule, in our home, because otherwise we'd have no dinner conversation, with all our noses buried in books. Also the books were in danger of being ruined by food falling on them. ;)
lacontessamala From: lacontessamala Date: July 25th, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have great memories of wasting whole days with my mother, curled up in the living room with our books. We once forgot to eat until almost seven o'clock--we'd read right through lunch and past our usual dinner hour.

When I wonder about what things will be like with my small son in the future, that's just the kind of thing I dare to dream about.

I got the reading bug from my dad--he's a factory worker, but he's constantly reading these huge James Clavell and Stephen King books. He also does the New York Times crossword in pen all week--talk about not judging a book by its cover. ;)

My parents and teachers used to punish me by taking away my books so I wouldn't find out how they ended. Man, that kept me in line. Except when I was supposed to be cleaning my room. I'd hide behind my bed and read like crazy, until I heard my parents coming. Then I'd toss the book under the bed and start virtuously sorting dirty laundry. Until they left again.
matril From: matril Date: July 25th, 2006 02:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I often suspect when there's a reluctant reader whose parent doesn't have any idea what would interest them, that perhaps it's the parent's example they've learned from. I mean, my parents love to read, so I couldn't help but do so myself. I know that's not always the case, but like you said, if a parent is showing obsessive interest in a book, isn't the child likely to follow suit?
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 25th, 2006 03:41 am (UTC) (Link)
A friend of mine has a son (just 15) who won't read. He's intelligent and is in extension classes for maths and science but just won't read. It's very difficult and he seldom offers any suggestions of his own. English assignments from school are terrible. She and I regularly scour our respective bookshelves for something he might be persuaded to read and will also fit the assignment. I know the temptation is to choose something short for him. I fished out a short story (he had to read 10 for an essay) that was only 2 and a bit pages (mind you, it was by either Umbereto Eco or Salman Rushdie so it wouldn't have been easy). However, the one book he absolutely loved was "The da Vinci Code", one neither of us had even read let alone thought of suggesting. Maybe I should suggest Stephen King!
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 25th, 2006 03:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Arggh! I forgot to sign again! The last post was mine, TDU
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 25th, 2006 04:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Can't hurt. da Vinci is a big conspiracy book... you might try him on other conspiracy books. If it's paranoia that appeals to him, then maybe Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: July 25th, 2006 04:42 am (UTC) (Link)
English assignments from school are terrible.

This may be because English assignments from school are usually terrible. I admit that there are some I'm glad I was prompted to read and/or analyzed, and having at least some of the vocabulary for analysis has been useful, but... There were books I had read and loved and reread before I was assigned them for English class that I haven't picked up since.
galaxianomiko From: galaxianomiko Date: July 26th, 2006 12:46 am (UTC) (Link)
A whole lotta word from over here. I swear I've burned out on reading after taking so many repetitive college English classes...and I love to read, and I love certain books, but damn, I really never want to see them again right now. There are only so many times I can perform the same assignment over and over on different books.
aiglet From: aiglet Date: July 25th, 2006 04:47 am (UTC) (Link)
If he's into Maths and Science he might like some of the newer space opera type stuff coming out -- it's all physics and FTL travel and stuff that we can't do right now. (Try David Weber, Elizabeth Moon when she's not in high fantasy mode, that kind of thing.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 25th, 2006 06:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the suggestions for sci fi and conspiracy. Neither are genres I read, though I have a few of my husband's.

I can remember reading books at school that seemed awful but I enjoyed later in life. The way we had group reading just killed off the enjoyment. This particular boy's assignments are actually quite interesting and creative - if you like reading! They seem to get a lot of lee-way in what they can read, so long as they OK it with the teacher (these are separate to the "set book" work). "The da Vinci Code" was actually one he chose to read for an assignment. I've been very impressed with what the teacher has done with English. I can see some of the students being really "wowed" by the work. He just doesn't want to read the books!

TDU
ratcreature From: ratcreature Date: July 25th, 2006 06:43 am (UTC) (Link)
You know, I'm not much into Stephen King and horror but when I was in high school a lot of people loved them, only they were regularly scolded by teachers for reading trash when they were seen with those kinds of books during recess. Same with most fantasy and SF books. It didn't even matter that some were reading them *in English* even, not in a German translation. And then they wondered why students "didn't like to read".
erised1810 From: erised1810 Date: July 25th, 2006 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
i cna't bleiv no-oen els sees the logicin this-one. Glad it worked fo rthis boy. it soudns mroe htan natural to me to sot out someoen's interests and helpign them find something i there.
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