Thursday, July 05, 2007

What The Heart Wants

It's summertime here at 4boyhouse, and that can only mean one thing: forced reading.  Yes, our particular Bridge on the River Kwai is being built from books off of the school reading lists of not one, not two, but three boys.  And I thought paying for school was rough.

At least Stephen (7 and a rising 2nd grader) and Jonah (6 and a rising 1st grader) have the same list.  It's huge at 3 pages long and has some nice features.  For example, we can apparently count towards the reading list any of the books on the list that we've read within the past year.  We're halfway home right there.  Also, having gone through this list twice with Timothy (9) and once before with Stephen, we already have lots of these books and already know which ones are winners and which ones are snoozers.  (That was not an intentional pun, but I'll leave it there, just to bother you, gentle reader).

So there's no doubt about the 1st & 2nd grade reading lists getting done.

The 4th grade list, for Timothy, is a different matter.  First off, Timothy and fiction are not the best of friends.  He likes "fact" books, especially ones about animals.  Encyclopedias, Eyewitness-type books, even the gross-out books from the book fair all thrive in stacks in every room in our house, lest the boy be unable to quench his thirst for animal facts at a moment's notice.

He's been this way for years, much to the consternation of his mother and me.  He's an avid and voracious reader, but fiction did not fly, in spite of  our best efforts.  The Hobbit?  Yawn.  Narnia?  Nope.

Then along came Harry Potter.  At 7 (a year earlier than I had planned), we read our oldest boy the first Harry Potter book: The Sorcerer's Stone (apologies to overseas readers and book snobs).  Timothy loved it.  He enjoyed it so much that we went ahead and read him the second book in the series a year early.  He had to wait until he was 8 to read the third and fourth book, and until he was 9 to read the rest (which he read on his own; I cried just a little).  He and my wife are waiting rather impatiently for this month's release of the seventh and final book.

But he's semi-hooked now.  I read The Hobbit at bedtime this Spring, and he listened.  We're reading Treasure Island at bedtime, and he's enjoying it.  He read The Magician's Nephew without telling us.

But he still prefers, when reading on his own and on a day -to-day basis, to read animal books, which remain scattered throughout the house.  And the absence from his Summer reading list of books about the grossest eating habits of African lizards has put the fate of that list in doubt.

It's a short list of longer books, and he has to read 4 of them.  He can pick any 3 to fill out the list, but there was one mandatory book.  That one book took weeks, and only got finished because of a couple of back-to-back car trips in which we took away his GameBoy.  Read two chapters, play until the next stop.  Read two more, play until the next stop, etc.

It didn't help that the mandatory book is one of my wife's favorites, so her patience and understanding were a little tested.  But he finished it.  The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe took a little less time and a little less prodding, and Timothy finished it with a smile on his face.

Now he's reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.  And he can't put it down.  He sits on the couch in the living room, reading intently.   "The movie is good, but the book is better," I heard him tell his brother when asked why he didn't just watch the movie instead.  

So that's three books down and one to go.  It may be an uphill battle again, though, since most of the rest of the books on the list are "girl books," as Timothy so gently put it after reading the descriptions.

But he's reading, and reading fiction, and that's a good thing.  Now I just have to convince his mother to let us read Lord of the Rings.


At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's too young. You didn't start reading them til you you were in 9th grade. 4boymom

At 9:43 AM, Blogger 4BoyDad said...

Hmmm. Not a persuasive argument. Just because I read them late doesn't mean he has to. I also have many other faults, and have made many other mistakes in my life that I don't want him to repeat.

Beginning LOTR late is merely the most printable.

At 9:20 PM, Blogger fiorinda said...

We decided to let the boy watch the LOTR movies. He made it halfway through the extended version of Two Towers.

Our kids seem to be enjoying books. P. regularly falls asleep reading Richard Scarry. The girl has been bringing her books to the table to "read." P. always brings home "fact" books from the library, but likes to read stories at bedtime. I don't know what I'll do if any of our kids don't like books.

At 11:03 PM, Blogger 4BoyDad said...

Two Towers, eh? I can't make it through the first movie without falling asleep. But that's just me.

Did you read him the books first? That's been our rule with the HP books & movies. Book first, then the movie.

But they watched the animated Hobbit somewhere and all through the reading of that book they kept talking about the movie. Ditto Treasure Planet and Treasure Island. It's very, very annoying ("Dad, which one's the cyborg?"). So they won't be watching LOTR movies until they've read the books.

So say we all!

As for kids not reading, I guess (speaking hypothetically, of course) that we'd just love them anyway. Is that the right answer? Just imagine what you'd do if they had an extra arm or something. Not read? That's really kind of out there. Don't scare me like that.


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