Monday, February 23, 2009

Luring Children to Books


I was recently asked to compose a piece of promotional work titled Meet the Author. The instructions were to keep it short and chatty. This is what I came up with.

In Shelley Hrdlitschka’s childhood home, the children had a choice ~ pitch in with the housework or read a book. Shelley, of course, chose the latter and became an avid reader early in life. (She still tends to read when she should be doing housework, it’s a learned behaviour.) She rediscovered her love for children’s literature when she began teaching school in the 80’s and went on to write books while on a parenting leave. Now that she has her own children, she encourages them to do the housework so that she can continue to read books. Needless to say, she lives in a rather untidy house.

That may be rather tongue-in-cheek, but there is an element of truth to it. Why do some children become avid readers, while others don't? Last Friday my friend Diane Tullson and I presented at a Literary Conference for teachers. Part of our presentation was on reaching 'reluctant readers'. I began by reciting this quote by Orville Prescott. "Few children learn to love books for themselves. Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word: someone has to show them the way."

This is so true. Teacher's, librarians, parents, booksellers, aunts, uncles, friends, writers... we have to keep luring children in... showing them the magic of stories. And we have to provide time to read, as my mother did in her own funny way. I'm delighted to see that high schools are going back to providing school-wide silent reading time.

The picture is of a young friend who, I'm told, discovered books after reading my novel, Dancing Naked. Here she sits on a BC ferry reading Gotcha! I believe there is a magic book for every child, one that will turn them on to reading. We just have to help each child find that book.

11 comments:

Leslie said...

The book that turned me on to reading was "The Girl of the Limberlost" by Gene Stratton Porter, first published in 1909. OK, that shows just how old I am!

A few years ago my eldest daughter, Jennifer found an original copy of this book (on ebay!) and gave it to me for Christmas. I will always treasure it.

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