A few weeks ago at school I taught a mini-lesson to my students about being a voracious reader. It's important, of course, that kids learn not only how to read, but also that they learn to love reading. We want kids to not want to put their books down when reading time is over, to hear them say, "one second" when we ask them to mark their pages and put down their books.
Actually, I secretly smile when I notice children in my class sneaking books into their desk drawers so they can keep reading once everyone else has moved on to Social Studies or Science or Math. Obviously I do have to bring them back on task most of the time, but it's in those moments that I know I've achieved one of the most important things I can as a teacher - I've helped instil in them a true love of reading.
Not that I think I'm the only influence at work on my little voracious readers. We know, in fact, that one of the most important influences on young readers is their parents. And actually, it's not even being read to by a parent that seems to be the best predictor of reading success, but rather having a parent who loves to read and reads a lot themselves. So it would seem that in reading, as in most other parenting goals, modelling the behaviour yourself is what works best.
If that's indeed true, then my children will not be able to help becoming voracious readers. That's because I read. A lot. Usually I come home from work, get the kids settled with a snack, and then retreat to my room to read for half an hour or so. Once dinner and homework is out of the way, and lunches are made for tomorrow, I take out my book and read a bit more. Then I manage the bedtime routine before settling down to read again before bed.
I read for enjoyment, primarily. That means you're not likely to find me with a large, dry non-fiction tome on my bedside table, but rather a gripping novel. I'll admit that I don't always choose the latest book-club literary pick, although I'm not opposed to them either. Sometimes it takes me a few years to get to the books that Oprah and Heather and everyone else thinks I should read, but I don't mind that. (So in other words, Fifty Shades of Grey is not making it into my library any time soon). In the end, I read what appeals to me - it's as simple as that. It might be mystery, sic-fi, fantasy or historical fiction (a guilty favourite). There's a very real chance that it will even be young adult (some of the best series I've read in the past decade were aimed at teenagers, in fact). I might pick up a book because the title appeals to me, or because of the cover art. I might pick up the latest novel by a cherished favourite author (anyone from Maeve Binchy to Margaret Atwood). I often choose books based on recommendations from my sisters or friends. Jen turned me on to The Hunger Games last summer, and my BFF Laura is the force behind my current obsession, the Song of Ice and Fire saga, famous for its first novel, A Game of Thrones.
Last year, Laura watched Game of Thrones on HBO and decided to read the books because she liked the show so much. Based on her reco, I nabbed the first four books in a boxed set at Christmas time. I started reading them just after Christmas, and I'm still chipping away at them nearly six months later. In fact, I'm 2/3 of the way through the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, and I plan to devote the better part of my summer to reading the fifth, A Dance with Dragons, in which I hope no more of the characters I have come to love is violently killed. (I know, not bloody likely!)
But here's the thing about being a voracious reader - you need to have the time to do it in! That's why it's taken me the better part of half a year to read nearly four books (albeit 1500-pagers). I am at work all day, and busy working at parenting in the evenings. The little time I have to myself I have to divvy up between housework, laundry, errands and reading. Today I promised myself I would read after I finished running errands and mowing the lawn. When I finally sat down with my book, it took about four minutes before I fell asleep. Plus: I lost my page. I hate when that happens.
But in the end, it's all worth it! After working my way through these four brick-like paperbacks, I plan to buy number five on my Kobo, so it's easier to hold and also so I won't lose my page if I fall asleep reading it! Once I finish the books, I'll reward myself with a special treat - the HBO series. Once again, I'm a year or so behind the fad, but I don't mind. Especially since Sean Bean plays Ned Stark in season one...