Other than playing Minecraft and watching Modern Family, my 10-year-old son does not willingly remain still for more than 10 minutes at a time. This personality trait does not naturally gel with a love of reading books.
Teaching him to kick back and enjoy reading has been essential to me as a parent, so I have worked at it over the years by helping him seek out just the right books to hold his attention. His ideal reading material is suspenseful without being too scary, funny without degenerating into total stupidity, informative without being boring, and most important, not terribly sad. Death, zombies, deadbeat parents, kids being really mean to each other—this stuff sends him running for the hills. Finding his favorites has involved some serious research, often on my part.
When a friend invited him to join a bookgroup last year, I was thrilled. I thought, yippeee! Here would be a great source of cool kid-approved books and what fun it would be for the boys to have an excuse to get together.
Alas, the bookgroup did not work out the way I had envisioned. A few challenges arose right away. One was that this group of five to six boys ignited each other’s energy levels like wildfire. Before the adults could channel them into a meaningful book-related discussion, they morphed into a pack of rowdy monkeys—hooting, throwing snacks at each other, and bouncing off the furniture. I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised by this behavior. We’d known these kids long enough to know how enthusiastically boys react to their friends, but our idealism had naively led us to believe we might be able to foster a meaningful discussion.
Another challenge was that scheduling times to meet was virtually impossible, with sports, music lessons, the needs of siblings, etc., all interfering with our desire to meet and talk books. This was the obstacle that inevitably broke us down, reluctantly abandoning this group reading endeavor for our boys.
Even so, I don’t consider our book group experience to be a failure. The few times we met, the boys introduced each other to appropriate and exciting books that they all read, if not cover to cover, maybe just enough to get a taste of a new piece of literature. Some book-related discussion happened, albeit maybe only a few hectic minutes worth, but that little bit most certainly still counts.
At this point, I am proud to report that my son is growing into an avid reader. His school participates in the Battle of the Books (www.battleofthebooks.org) program and his team has advanced to the fourth grade finals. When he came home from school yesterday to share how well his team had competed, he sported the same triumphant glow he has following a soccer victory. Perhaps there’s hope for another book group adventure?