Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.
As a mother, I don't know that there's any other single thing that has brought me more joy and filled me with more excitement than watching all three of my children develop a love of reading. (First steps? First words? So overrated.)
I picked up Raising a Reader simply because the title caught my eye. I usually don't go for subtitles, but this one--A Mother's Tale of Desperation and Delight--described my own emotions so perfectly that I felt compelled to see what was inside.
It is a memoir of sorts: a memoir of reading. Doesn't that just sound lovely? It is broken into sixteen short chapters, each one of them focusing on a different attribute (characteristic? quality? element?) of reading. For example, in the chapter entitled "Obsession," there is a somewhat humorous and (for me) all-too-relatable story about the first time Jennie's oldest daughter tore the page of a book (out of frustration and spite). In her own words, Jennie "yelped" and drastically brought two large boxes into her daughter's room and began packing away all of her books. This story was meant to illustrate what can happen when we become a little too obsessed with our passions (although I think it made such an impression on her daughter that she never mistreated books again).
Through these different topics (abundance, delight, arrogance, togetherness, etc.), Jennie explores what reading has done for her family.
This will not be a five-star book for everyone. In fact, it probably won't be a five-star book for most people. But it definitely is a five-star book for me, for the simple reason that this is my story. Yes, I'm aware that I have three sons instead of two daughters and that I'm not a professional writer and that I do not live in California. But those things are all beside the point.
The point is, I have tried before to describe why I love reading so much and why I am so completely obsessed with guiding (a much better word than "forcing") my children to love it, but I haven't been able to find the right words. Jennie Nash found them.
When she said that their trips to the library weren't just about "getting something good to read at bedtime, it was about feeling like we were getting away with something too good to be true [my emphasis]," I knew exactly what she was talking about. (I currently have 55 items checked out from my library. That's hundreds of dollars worth of literature! You tell me that's not too good to be true.)
When she said they would bring "home fifteen, seventeen, twenty books, and pile them at the end of the girls' beds where they could, almost literally, wallow in them [my emphasis]," I looked at the state of my own bed and saw our own wallowing pile (which Mike sighs about almost every night as he's stacking up book after book to make room for himself).
When she told the story about the little girl in her daughter's class who was absolutely brilliant, and she realized that "a talent like Alexandra's [the classmate] that had obviously sprung fully formed seemed so much more pure than a talent like Carlyn's [her daughter] that had been coddled, nurtured, and maybe even tricked into fruition [my emphasis]," I recognized my own silly pride in Aaron's success with reading.
It was these examples and more that made this book cross the bridge for me from something that was just an enjoyable read to something that spoke to my soul. Her words resonated with my own ambition, passion, and interest. It's always nice to know that someone else, even if you don't know that someone else, understands exactly the way that you feel. It's even better when she can put those feelings into perfect words.
I will say that if you're looking for a book to actually help you "raise a reader," this is probably not the book you want. Although Jennie does give little tips or ideas at the end of every chapter (things like word games you can play or how much of a chance you should give a book before giving up), it is less a step-by-step guide and more just a recounting of one family's journey with books. Inspiring for sure, but maybe not very hands-on-helpful.
Also, even though it was written in 2003 (which really does not seem that long ago to me), some of it already feels dated. For example, her suggestion to keep a "What to Read" file where you can write down the names of future books you want to read. Um, ever heard of Goodreads?
If you find yourself reading this blog and thinking you and I might be kindred spirits, then chances are you will love this book, too. I think I'm just going to buy my own copy (since it's going for cheap on Amazon), so I can revisit a chapter here and there whenever I feel like it...or whenever I need a little reassurance that there are other people in this world who are as obsessed with books as I am.