As a teacher, I often hear adults telling me that it's such a shame that kids don't read or write anymore.
They haven't been to my school!
Of course, there are always kids who don't like to read, just as there are always kids who don't like to play volleyball, or study Science, or do long division. On the first day of school, I always ask who likes to read. Generally I get about two-thirds of the hands to go up, leaving me with one third I have to work to convert. When I tell them, they'll all like reading by Christmas, they give me sympathetic smiles and shake their heads.
They're almost always wrong.
Most of the people who don't love to read have some sort of struggle with it.
• they struggle with phonics and/or sounding out words
• they can't visualize in their heads as the story unfolds
• they have no interest in fiction
• they have some kind of learning difference or disability
• they need glasses
• they have low self-esteem or self-confidence
• they're not risk takers
There are (obviously) many ways to solve all of the above troubles, but one of the best ways to encourage kids to love stories is to read aloud really good ones. I try to choose books that encourage conversation and books they've never encountered before. I very, very rarely choose books that have been made into movies (and I get really annoyed when the powers who be turn one of my faves into a movie!). Maniac Magee. Underground to Canada. The Giver (BOO to the movie people!). Ranger's Apprentice. The Shadow Children. And Then There Were None. Hatchet. Ice Dogs. And so many more.
Despite themselves, students get caught up in our stories and discussions. I NEVER turn a read aloud into an assignment. It's all about pleasure.
I've had classes beg to hear the ends of stories. One class insisted I read aloud on a bus ride because they HAD to know what happened next. I've had entire classes in tears when we got to THAT scene in The Outsiders. I've had students rage and argue about book endings (I'm looking at you, Lois Lowry!). I've had students write to authors on their own to talk about books. I've had students who professed to hate reading turn into some of the most passionate readers I know.
And I've had students create magic by writing their own stories.
Confidence starts early. By reading and hearing really good books, students learn how stories work. They inhale the rhythms of language and plot. They know the joy of the happy ending and the incredible power of a not-so-happy ending.
People are natural story-tellers, but we often have the squelch our innate tendencies as we learn to behave 'properly' in public. Kids are more willing to take risks, and, as adults, we often need to take ourselves out of their way and let them create.
Maybe one day, authors will be more filled with confidence than you and I, and we won't need wonderful sites like the IWSG! While that day isn't today, I have faith it won't be that far into the future!
So, tell me, do you have any memories of favourite books you had read to you?
Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs and tweets while searching for those HEAs.
*Voting for the IWSG anthology contest genre has ended and the winner is - FANTASY! Keep watching for the theme. Contest opens in September.*