Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Tale of a Reluctant Reader

Today is my son's birthday - hip hip hooray!  He arrived three weeks late one hot July evening and his first six months were shaky, but once he'd settled down he became an easy child to deal with, except he wouldn't read.  He could read, that was obvious, as he would read his reading books but reading for pleasure was unknown.

What he liked were fishing catalogues.  Long car journeys were enlivened by him asking for quizzes.  I'd give him a page number, and he'd tell me what was on it.  'Pole rod, telescopic, £48' and so on.  That went on for quite a few years.  Still no books.

He liked being read to - I have read the whole of Lord of the Rings aloud to him - but he wouldn't read himself. Then one of the booksellers in Waterstones in Salisbury suggested trying this first novel which had just come out in in paperback by someone called JK Rowling. I read chapters 1, 2 and 3, but chapter 4 he did himself, and then we alternated chapters.  I was so delighted I bought the second Harry Potter book in hardback, and he read most of that himself.

But he was still a reluctant reader.  This continued throughout his school years, and into university.  I dedicated my second novel Nice Girls Do to him:  "For Nicholas, who lights up my life even if he won't read my writing".

Then, there became a change.  He read all of Evelyn Waugh, then Hemingway, then Roth.  Dickens - the works.  The reluctant reader had become the omniverous reader.

This May, he became an editor at a leading international publishing company.  It's ironic that that reluctant reader and writer now makes his living from reading and writing.  Blood will out?  I don't know, but I learnt 2 things: firstly, JK Rowling deserves every penny she has, and secondly, there's nothing like being handsold a book by a good bookseller.  

Happy Birthday, Nick.


Anonymous said...

The day the second Harry Potter was published, I walked into my classroom to twelve boys sitting in silence, reading. I remember the sun pouring into the room, the bees buzzing at the window and the long, corn-filled view to the valley from the windows, and the deep, palable concentration from this group who normally might glance at Captain Underpants and the Toilet of Doom, but would prefer to engage themselves in footballing knots in the playground until the last possible moment before school began. Thank you JKR. Jacky

Sarah Duncan said...

I love this story Jacky. Harry Potter must have converted hundreds of thousands of boys to reading (if not millions).

womagwriter said...

My son's another... he was also a reluctant reader, actually, a lazy reader. He liked being read to but couldn't be bothered to put in the work (when aged 6,7,8) needed to become a fluent reader himself.

So, deciding that the end justified the means, I bribed him. I put all his books in order of difficulty, about 25 books starting with very easy readers and ending with Harry Potter book 4, and paid him a pound per book read, and £5 for the big one.

It worked. He put in the practice, got fluent at reading, loved it (as I knew he would!) and in less than a year had got through the whole shelf. He's not looked back since.

BTW I also read the whole of LOTR outloud to him - what a feat of endurance! Took me a year.

Sarah Duncan said...

Love the story Kath. I've always maintained that being a parent you learn a lot about low cunning and dirty tricks...