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Parentlode Book Club: Teaching Kids To Love Reading

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KIDS READING
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I was a child who loved to read. For me, the best part of any vacation was the stack of books in my suitcase, and the moment I got to open the first one on the first night away from home.

Books are still much of the reason I look forward to vacation as an adult. Time away from the usual routine is also time to immerse myself in fiction. (My husband does the same with non-fiction.) I had hoped -- nah., assumed -- that I'd have children who would feel the same way, and imagined each of us sprawled on our own beach towels, with a pile of sandy books.

So I was mystified when my older son reached first grade, and then second and had very little use for reading. In his case it wasn't that it was hard for him to read, but rather that it just wasn't worth it to him. He did as his teachers asked, but not more. There was no excitement. No losing himself in a the pages. No love.

Then, one Sunday afternoon, we went to a neighbor's house for a barbeque. The yard was filled with children playing with every shape and size of ball (and yes,my hope was that my kids would love physical stuff too...) but inside there were two boys, twins of about 9, who were sitting side by side on the floor with a book. I watched as one read a chapter, handed it to his brother, then waited patiently for his turn to read the next chapter. Back and forth they passed this book. I cornered their mother and asked: "Whatever that is, how do I get a copy?"

It was a British book, she told me, and was only available on Amazon.com in England. That was the first I'd heard of Harry Potter; days later I started reading Evan a chapter a night. It didn't take long before he grew impatient with the pace, turned on his bedside light after I'd left, and read for most of the night. He came down with that bleary but satisfied look that I remember from my own childhood, and, hugging the paperback close, his face lit up.

"Mommy," he sighed. "There's a whole world in this book."

That is the way we want our children to feel about reading, right? Would Evan have gotten to his love of books eventually -- if not Harry Potter, then some other literary flip of the switch? Or did I stumble onto his magic trigger? And how can all parents do likewise?

These are all questions we'll be exploring over the next few weeks, in this, the inaugural gathering of the Parentlode Book Club. In future months we will do the more usual book club thing -- choose one title and discuss it in a series of posts, interviews with the author, and maybe even a real life get together.

But this first installment of PBC will be a little different. I have sitting in front of me as I write this a stack of books not about teaching children to read (although there are many of those out there) but rather about teaching children to LOVE to read. We will be talking about all of them, and delving deep into the ways we might spark that distinct look in our kids' eyes.

The books we will be reading, or, at least, alluding to, are:

Help Me Get Ready to Read: The Practical Guide to Reading Aloud to Children During Their First Five Years, by Susan Marx and Barbara Kasok

The Book Whisperer, Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, By Donalyn Miller

Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives, by Pam Allyn

What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read to Your Child -- and All the Best Times to Read Them, by Pam Allyn

The Hank Zipzer series, by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

How Reading Changed My Life, by Anna Quindlen

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading, By Nina Sankovitch

So go get yourselves copies of whichever of these appeal, and start reading. We'll have our first club "meeting" next week.

And meanwhile, use the comments to tell me about where the sparks came from in your own reading life. Have you been able to pass those along to your children?