22 February 2014 by Published in: Uncategorized 34 comments

I received an interesting email from a high school teacher who was seeking my thoughts on how to get her male students more interested in writing, as either a hobby or a career (why anyone would want to make a career out of this escapes me, but play along).

My response was that to be interested in writing you first had to be interested in reading. That’s self-evident. If you want kids to be interested in playing rock guitar, the place to start is to have them listen to rock music so they want to be part of the experience. Same with reading and writing.

I understand her frustration. There is a growing culture of illiteracy that celebrates ignorance. One has only to look at the latest  masterpiece from Kanye West (which actually required a ghostwriter) to appreciate this trend. “I am a proud non-reader of books,” states the pop sensation. I don’t have anything I can add to that. And no, I’m not making this up.

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UPDATE: The Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) went well. Questions and responses can be viewed by clicking here!

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The teacher’s response to my observation was that of course reading was important, and that she thought perhaps some articles about Hemingway and some Steinbeck might fire her students’ imaginations.

I admire her ambitions, but my advice is a little different.

If you want to create readers, which is the first step to creating writers, you have to give them something that grabs them – that’s relevant, interesting, and lurid enough to capture the imagination of a 16 or 17 year old boy. Steinbeck ain’t gonna cut it. The immediate response (mine would have been at that age) will likely be, “great, another boring book about shit I don’t care about, written by a guy who was dead before I was born. Groan.”

My advice is different. I’d say get em to read JET. If they aren’t sucked in within the first three pages, wanting to know what happens next, I’d be very surprised. And once they’re in that world, it’s easier to demonstrate the hows and whys of writing – why something works or doesn’t, descriptive techniques that evoke versus fall flat, effective dialogue, etc.

That’s not to say my books should be used as anything but a cautionary tale. Rather, as a gateway to pleasure reading, which is the first step in creating a literate population. If you don’t enjoy reading you won’t do it, and if your school is making  you read a bunch of crap you have no interest in, guess what the chances are that you’ll be interested in doing more of it? What are the associations you’ll likely make about reading? What will be your takeaway?

Literacy is important to society because the written word is the primary way knowledge is passed from generation to generation, in the sciences, in the humanities, in virtually every way. A nation of sheep that has no interest nor ability in reading is a nation in decline. Literacy matters. But to convince people that literacy is important it has to be entertaining or they’ll tune out. People that don’t read, don’t read because they never learned the pleasure of reading, and view it as something unpleasant. That’s my theory, anyway.

So that’s my advice: buy my crap, see if the lads like it, and use it like a gateway drug. Get them into reading and then move them up to the harder stuff. Try to start them off with work that has “literary merit” and you’ll lose more than you’ll gain. I know that’s not very PC, where knowledge should be its own reward, but I have no philosophical axe to grind, and I don’t particularly care about having kids read only “meritorious” work. If they’re reading, whatever it is, that’s good.

As a civilization it’s not a good thing to have a populace that can’t or won’t read. I mean, if what you want are voters who don’t understand any issues beyond what they see on Twitter or on TV it’s perfect, but if you want a population that can actually reason and appreciate nuance, forget about it. I personally believe that’s been part of the great social engineering experiment that’s been going on in the U.S. for years – the dumbing down of society, resulting in adults with the reasoning abilities of children – the perfect consumer society, but not one that’s going to result in positive social change, much less revolutionary ideas.

That engineered illiteracy ensures the mantle of power stays with the elite, whose children go to the best schools and are taught how to read and write and count, ensuring that no meaningful competition develops from upstarts outside that elite class. It’s perfect: as George Carlin liked to say, “a population that’s just smart enough to operate the machines, but doesn’t question what the machines are ultimately doing,” being ruled by elites who are the custodians of knowledge. If that sounds medieval, it is, only with 50 inch TVs and a new car every three years.

Throw in a heaping dose of irony and apathy with your illiteracy and the job’s done. Foster the idea that nothing’s worth trying to change because it’s pointless, and nothing’s worth understanding because there’s no value in understanding – just in consuming, in indulging one’s appetites like, well, spoiled children.

Reading can be transformational. But it’s also dangerous to a status quo that depends on dullards for voters/subjects. An informed citizenry is a dangerous one for despots and tyrants. Information is power, best limited to the erudite who are “qualified” to run things.

Reading encourages thought. It is antipodal to the short attention-span mentality of TV, where you don’t allow someone on a show who can’t articulate an idea in two minutes or less. Noam Chomsky speaks of that: it results in “news” and “commentary” that regurgitates accepted truths and chills original or controversial thought, because those thoughts often can’t be easily explained in 90-120 seconds.

The internet has changed the way many read. People want all the info in one or two paragraphs. If it takes more than that, they tune out. But the problem is that complex, nuanced messages require in-depth explanation and exploration of the issue at hand, not just a capsule summary with easy-to-digest sound bites. And that can rarely be done in two paragraphs. I mean, sure, I can explain the physics of how a 747 flies in a couple of sentences, but it takes considerably more to understand the physics (the upper surface of the plane’s wing is curved, the bottom flat, so that at a certain speed it takes longer for the air to travel over the curved area due to resistance than over the flat, creating lift). And again, to understand, we need to read.

Which brings me full circle to writing. To communicate ideas or experiences, especially complex ones, writing is the time-tested method. And to have stuff worth reading someone has to write it. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are more than enough books already in print to last a hundred lifetimes. There’s more than enough commentary and information on the web and in magazines to last a thousand. But people like the latest shiny thing so more often than not that’s all ignored and what’s focused on is the latest, greatest.

That being said, readers need writers. Just as writers need readers. They’re both solitary occupations, wherein the writer is able to affect the reader in a one-on-one manner that’s unique. Film can’t do it. TV can’t do it. Even audio books can’t do it.

What do I mean? The above control the velocity of how information is disseminated. But with reading the reader controls it. If he/she wants to go back and reread a section, fine. If his/her inner voice decides to read fast, versus at a moderate pace, super. Dialogue takes on intensely personal characteristics based on the reader’s interpretation of the written word. At the point a narrator reads it or it’s filmed someone else is interpreting it.

But back to 16 and 17 year old boys who are primarily interested in the opposite sex, hunting, and four wheel drive trucks (this is in Kansas, BTW). How to get them interested in writing? Get them interested in reading, and in understanding that unique connection a reader and writer can have, and demonstrate the power of ideas, of information exchanged in written form, not as images or sounds. In other words, make reading and writing relevant. Which has to begin with making it enjoyable.

Marketers know this. They convince countless millions to smoke every year. To take a noxious smelling substance that’s expensive, tastes terrible, and will destroy your health, and convince folks that it’s sexy or makes them independent or rebellious or whatever else they want associated with inhaling smoke into one’s lungs. They understand that to get people addicted to a substance, they have to make it appealing – enjoyable, at least in terms of perception.

We can learn from that. To make reading vital it must be enjoyable. Readers have to see something in it for them. Well-intentioned ideas about self-improvement or gaining knowledge are fine, but before any of that gains traction, reading must be enjoyable for the target audience. The rest will follow.

And for some, once they enjoy reading, they’ll think, “hey, maybe I should try my hand at writing!”

And thus are writers born.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Sat 22nd Feb 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Years ago I wrote a post that addresses the same issue from a different angle: “Reading: Wheaties, marijuana, or boring? You decide.”

    There seem to be two loose schools of thought in the “getting kids to read camp:” the eat-your-Wheaties camp, which wants more Milton and Steinbeck and so forth, and the gateway-drug camp, which wants kids to read pretty much anything, as an introduction to the practice. Like you I fall mostly in the latter camp.

    I get the impression, however, that most teachers and other professional reader-types fall into the former camp, and in doing so they’re mostly doomed to a failure of empathy.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 22nd Feb 2014 at 3:58 pm

      I tend to be all about results in anything I try. But I can see the problem teachers have, especially if the curriculum is dictated to them from above.

      Reply
  2. Lizz Napolitano
    Sat 22nd Feb 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Well said. I’ve never been without a book as far back as I can remember. The late nights under covers with barely a beam of light from a flashlight as a tried to finish just one more chapter. My fondest memories of school were ‘free reading’ . I’m employed in one of the top public school districts in the country. There is such a strong push for academics, however, without reading the can be no learning. After all, isn’t reading ‘fundamental’ ?

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 22nd Feb 2014 at 3:59 pm

      Of course it is. But nobody ever got fired by recommending the safe choice, even if it doesn’t work.

      Reply
  3. Sat 22nd Feb 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Hi Russell!

    Where I come from (Mauritius) I was constantly telling some friends who started a school that EVERY CHILD loves to read. If they don’t its because they haven’t read the right book yet.

    Avid readers often enjoy some of school taught literature, whereas students on the fence tend to hate it and it pollutes their opinions of books for the future.

    I encouraged them to start them young, as teachers, and find a story that sparked the kids interest. It’s often (sadly) easier for girls. But for boys I listed everything from the Famous 5 to the Hardy Boys, the Adventure series, Jules Verne, Michael Morpugo to new things like Eoin Colfer’s books / Percy Jackson /Harry Potter, Maze Runner/Hunger Games. Sometimes kids don’t like certain books because they don’t connect with that genre, but there is a story for everyone, no matter their age or sex because human beings love stories and thats all that books are.

    Case in point, a 14 year old friend of mine who outspokenly said she didn’t like to read, read through the hunger games trilogy in less than a week when I handed it to her…. this from a girl who doesn’t like to read. The Harry Potter series has so many similar stories.

    Sometimes finding out a kids genre is as easy as asking what movies they love… hey presto, I know what books you will like as well. With ‘non-readers’ it’s important to put aside literary snobbery and use whatever you can to get them hooked.

    Hook em young, thats the trick!

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 22nd Feb 2014 at 4:29 pm

      That’s my motto!

      Reply
  4. Sat 22nd Feb 2014 at 6:15 pm

    This is a fantastic post on a tragic topic. I agree with you 100%. Unfortunately, English teachers (literature teachers…whatever they’re called these days) have little flexibility in what they can assign students. Schools that assign The Hunger Games must be in progressive school districts with subversives on faculty. I’m not saying The Hunger Games is great literature, but at least it’s popular and has captured the imagination (or brief attention) of millions. Fahrenheit 451 or Animal Farm AIN’T cutting it anymore. Reading is too important of a life skill to risk on Grapes of Wrath. I’d rather read street signs at this point in my life than commit to a Steinbeck novel…and I was an English Lit major. The burden of promoting a lifestyle of reading falls on parents, and probably always has.

    The first books I truly enjoyed were Stephen King novels and books like The Amityville Horror. Books I wasn’t supposed to read, but my mother left out for me…she never said a word when they disappeared. Most of these books would have been confiscated from me if discovered in school. I feed my son and daughter books I think they will like, starting with JET and BLACK FLAGGED. Just kidding. In all seriousness, if they want to read a book and are enthusiastic about it, I don’t care what it’s about…as long as it’s not in this new Monster Porn genre. With a pedophile on every street corner, I don’t need them worrying about getting raped by Big Foot. I guess that wasn’t so serious, but you get the point. Sensible censorship.

    Great, thought provoking post, Sir Blake!

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 22nd Feb 2014 at 6:33 pm

      I was reading as a toddler, and I devoured everything I could get my hands on. That’s carried through to today, and I don’t own a TV (other than one hooked up to a DVD that I haven’t had time to watch for about a year). I prefer reading, although I’ll freely admit I get sucked in when I see something on a friend’s TV – because of the novelty.

      Of course it falls on parents. If mom and dad value literacy and the ability to reason above most things, that will rub off. If the parents are themselves largely illiterate or uninterested in reading, that will be passed on to the kids. That’s the insidious part about cross-generational transference – the dim tend to raise more dimwits, and it’s particularly hard to break that cycle. A shame, because I believe most children are innately curious, and it’s the job of the parent to determine how they satisfy that curiosity. I can understand the impulse to hand the kid a tablet to play video games on rather than a book or kindle to read, but it’s a damaging as second hand smoke, in my opinion, and is nothing more than the modern equivalent of parking the kids in front of the idiot box for hours of electronic babysitting.

      Not that I have an opinion.

      Reply
    • Dorothy  –  Sat 22nd Feb 2014 at 7:55 pm

      “Reading is too important of a life skill to risk on Grapes of Wrath.”

      Ha, I had to teach that novel to my most advanced students in Morocco. Adults for the most part, but also one 12-year old girl whose English was high-level because she’d lived in the US for five years. I asked her once how she was doing with the book, and she said, “It’s OK, I guess, but I wish we could read something that was really good.” So I asked her what a ‘really good’ book was. “You know, like Sweet Valley High.” Well, when you’re 12, it is, right? My son at that age ate up the Dan Brown canon. Those are perfect for a 12-year old.

      Reply
      • Russell Blake  –  Sat 22nd Feb 2014 at 8:28 pm

        Sigh…at least I’ve got that to look forward to…being perfect for a 12-year old…

        Reply
        • Dorothy  –  Sat 22nd Feb 2014 at 9:54 pm

          Well, many 12-year olds read on an adult level. What my kid didn’t want was sex scenes. He just wanted page-turning action. Depth was fine, information and puzzles were great, just no explicit romance. He’d have loved a PG version of something like Pillars of Earth.

          But yeah, your books would be fine for many middle and high school students. I think it’s a myth that 14-year olds only want to read books about people who are 14.

          Reply
  5. Sat 22nd Feb 2014 at 9:28 pm

    My nephews are like that. They’re sweet kids but don’t like to read. They prefer to skateboard and watch YouTube videos. The youngest one attempted to read my first novel, just because Auntie Kim wrote it, but he never finished it. Like the kids in the teacher’s class, he just wasn’t interested. But he mentioned loving the movie Into The Wild. And when I told him it was a novel, he said he’d be interested in reading it, so I bought him a copy. That book he finished. Just like adults, kids have to find what interests them. They don’t enjoy being force fed books on a school’s agenda.

    Reply
  6. Sat 22nd Feb 2014 at 10:56 pm

    I loved your post. I home schooled my two children for six years until we made a mutual decision for them to enter public school. It was the social life they craved and they are doing well. However, about reading – I always read to them before they were old enough to talk and reading was a way we bonded. My girl has been a reader from the start and she reads a lot, in fact, she writes very well. When my son was young he loved being read to, but as he got older, and I schooled him at home, he became a sort of challenge for me to get him to read. Then one day it hit me like a ton of bricks, give him stuff he is interested in. My daughter would read anything I would send her way; she’d get lost between the bookshelves of libraries we visited. But my son was all about outdoors, the woods, riding his bike, fishing, tinkering with fixing things and hunting. Finally I got him a book about Fred Bear, a really thick book, about the life of the man as an archer and his bow making company. My son read it cover to cover and loved to tell me all about what he had read with pride. It was obvious that he was comprehending and enjoying what he was reading. We went on to find him book about hunting, guns and archery or knife books, and many books on fishing. He began to appreciate reading fiction on his own too, although he prefers still to read non-fiction and he learns a lot of stuff from his reading. When he entered public school in 7th grade, it became immediately apparent that the teachers followed a dictated curriculum, that is, they were instructed to have the kids read only certain books – the boring ones! I think your advice is the best I have heard; I learned it from experience. And what you said about keeping the population of “sheep” dulled down is ironically sounding the same as what I have been studying in Economics class as a college student (yeah, I went back). About how the big corporations control the government, pretty eye awakening stuff! (It is not your typical Econ class!) So I just had to comment, thanks for allowing me to ramble. It is nice to hear an opinion like yours that I can relate to! Take care, Karen

    Reply
  7. Old Git
    Sun 23rd Feb 2014 at 12:46 am

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Though over here we don’t hunt the opposite sex in 4WD trucks due to the price of gas because you guys have most of it.

    But yes, JET is a prime example that hits the ground at terminal velocity and is up to date with stuff like Parkour. It has that tractor beam factor.

    A few years ago when I was at the PTA my son’s English teacher announced he was featuring da Da Vinci Code. I wasn’t uber impressed but he had the right idea I suppose. Sent me to sleep though…

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 23rd Feb 2014 at 3:07 pm

      No question that something like DVC would have more appeal than Grapes of Wrath for the average high school student.

      Reply
  8. Sun 23rd Feb 2014 at 7:00 am

    Another of your great (sadly poignant) articles. But the love of reading, like good manners — say WHAT? — needs to start early; in the home. And then, they should read YOUR books! Everything you say does bring out the frightening realization that the greater populaces (everywhere) are in a cultural decline.

    Hence, we can only wish for Prophet Russell to be heeded–as I did after reading your piece on book covers; at once, I changed the cover for KHAMSIN, The Devil Wind of The Nile (little plug here), but this is my great thanks for the inspiration–with its accompanying kick in the ‘arm.’ I needed that.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 23rd Feb 2014 at 3:06 pm

      I’m glad that Prophet Russell is being heeded. Bodes well for the species. Wink.

      Reply
  9. Sun 23rd Feb 2014 at 10:11 am

    Russell,

    I agree on all points, but I think the parents have as much (probably more) responsibility than the teachers. I’m a lifelong reader and the very first things I remember reading were comic books. It doesn’t matter what the hell you read, as long as you enjoy it (within obvious, age appropriate limits). My wife spent hours reading to our sons (now adults) and encouraging them to read themselves. They’re both avid readers.

    My opinion is that teachers can be most effective when building on the earlier efforts of parents. It’s a bit like giving someone a plowed field and telling them to plant a garden, as opposed to taking them to the edge of the forest and handing them an ax.

    However, they have to do the job regardless of the circumstances, so I think your idea of starting with something the kids might actually LIKE to read is a good one. At least then they’re starting with a chainsaw.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 23rd Feb 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Parents are always where it starts. But the teacher in question is stuck with what has walked into her classroom, and there’s no undoing 16 years of whatever has happened. My strategy is to give em what they’ll find cool and interesting, and work from there.

      Reply
  10. Sun 23rd Feb 2014 at 2:51 pm

    This is a spot on article. Kids should be first taught to LOVE reading, then their own desire for more will lead them on the path towards ‘literary’ or ‘books of great importance’.

    I have to say, your books serve that function for me in reminding me just how much I love reading. so, well done and a big thanks for the books and the blog.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 23rd Feb 2014 at 3:03 pm

      Glad you enjoy the work. Obviously I’m not shooting for Tolstoy, but hey, a guy’s gotta have fun sometimes, even if it’s guilty pleasure.

      Reply
  11. Sun 23rd Feb 2014 at 11:55 pm

    I reblogged this on my site and made a few comments. This is a good post and on point. Thanks.

    Reply
  12. Sean
    Mon 24th Feb 2014 at 9:51 am

    When I was little, I read everything I could find. But my younger brother despised reading.

    He eventually started because of a pack of ‘choose your own’ stories. They were badly written, vapid crap by any literary standard. But twelve year old him devoured them the way a fat kid goes through unattended cake.

    It worked. He moved on to reading more meritorious literature, and now writes. It’s not where you start that counts, it’s where you finish.

    Reply
  13. Mon 24th Feb 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Great article, Russell.

    The first book I read as “lad” was Old Yeller. I was so upset by the ending I swore I’d never read another book. Then I found out there was a sequel…

    I started out reading books about hunting and fishing and dogs and sports. Nothing too deep, but just the right thing for a kid in grade school. And it made me love reading. From there I went on to enjoy Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Faulkner and Percy and many, many more “literary” writers.

    But that isn’t to say I still don’t love a good noir detective story, or horror/thriller, or spy novel.

    I agree that the key is to get kids reading. Once you get the ball rolling they will find what interests them. Some will even go on to try their hand at writing. But it all starts with reading…just not Old Yeller as a first book.

    Reply
  14. Tue 25th Feb 2014 at 9:49 am

    Amen, brother. I’m finding a whole generation of military vets that barely read as children and are now gobbling up writing like ours, fast, action-packed and minus the snob.

    Let’s keep writing to entertain and hopefully we’ll grow some new readers in the process.

    Congrats again on all the success!

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 26th Feb 2014 at 1:42 pm

      Thanks, and here’s to hoping that people continue reading our work!

      Reply
  15. Tue 25th Feb 2014 at 4:50 pm

    I remember in 7th grade we had to read “Summer of my German soldier.” This is perhaps the most boring book in the world to a 7th grade boy. So I didn’t read it and thought I hated reading. Then I got in trouble and got sent to detention, and I was so bored I picked up “Wishsong of Shannara” by Terry Brooks. This book had the cover ripped off, but I read it anyway because I had 7 hrs to sit there with nothing to do. And it was one of the most important days of my life, learning that I could read “words” and find them enjoyable.

    Reply
  16. Robert Jones
    Tue 25th Feb 2014 at 11:05 pm

    The whole literacy/dumbing down shtick has been going on for a very long time. I recall reading that even before the internet, newspaper articles at one time started being geared toward placing everything of importance within the first couple of paragraphs and writers getting ticked off because no one bothered to finish reading their articles.

    I hold the media responsible as well…a smiling face that tells you life is useless and you don’t even have to read a newspaper article because we can not only tell you, but show you some nice live footage as well. We’re a society that’s geared toward creating zombies. Is it any wonder zombie stories are so popular?

    I recall that Stan Lee once said that comic books were a way of drawing kids in with their fantastic art and action scenes, but in order to find out what was happening, kids might actually be encouraged to read something.

    I had a teacher in the fourth grade who had a small table piled with novels. She told the class if anyone read a book they would get extra credit. She never pushed any of the students toward the table, but having the books there invited their perusal. I read my first novels that year, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Paper Moon.” I liked them both, but really like TKAM, probably because it dealt with kids and a spooky neighbor. It drew me in. And when I got to the courtroom scenes near the end, I found I really liked those as well. It’s all about exposure.

    I was not a kid of above average intelligence. The only thing I had read up to that point were comic books. But the experience of reading those novels stayed with me from an early edge. I understood reading a novel could be an experience both exciting and enjoyable.

    By the same token, I had a cousin who never so much as picked up a comic book. His parents were the type who thought such things might rot his precious brain, or–gasp!–might even be an evil influence. And his reading skills by the time he reached his teens was poor, embarrassing for him as well. He would quickly grow bored and that became his entire association with reading. After a time, he just considered himself not to have enough of an attention span to read–a total cop out. The walking dead can put any label they like on such things and figure out even a complicated diagnoses for their short-comings after the fact. It’s almost as scary as it is pathetic.

    What it comes down to is kids are shut down fast and early when they should be more exposed to what’s out there in the world. If they are going to have half a chance at being anything other than a second or third generation zombie, they need to be awakened from their sleep as early as possible. It isn’t the questionable reading material (isn’t it all questionable by chief zombies and censors?) that damages their minds, it’s the total lack of it.

    Reply
  17. Louis
    Wed 26th Feb 2014 at 12:04 am

    I was quite lucky in this regard, having learned to read when I was 2 years old. When you have no memories of a time when you couldn’t read and didn’t love to read it’s hard to understand people who don’t enjoy it. To me it seems like the best thing is to let each child come to reading by starting with what they like to read. Like a lot of kids, my brother learned to love reading when he got paperbacks of Tolkien’s books one Christmas. Others seem to get it from Harry Potter or even comic books. Whatever it takes to make another reader that’s what you use. Don’t worry if it’s not on any lists of the great books. Nice post, Russell.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 26th Feb 2014 at 1:34 am

      I was reading at about two, as well, so there’s no point I can remember where I wasn’t nose down into a book.

      I blame my pathological lying on my parents for filling my head with all that fiction. Like finding a good woman. Or evil being punished in the end.

      Don’t get me started…

      Reply
  18. Alan
    Wed 26th Feb 2014 at 4:38 am

    G’day from Downunder!

    It’s all soooo true!! It’s got to start young, and must captivate the young mind, or that young person will be at risk of losing interest in reading for a long time, if not nearly forever!! I grew up (in the 50′s and 60′s) in a home where books, other than school books, were rare. The Readers Digest monthly was about it other than the daily newspaper.

    The yearly school reading list was tragic at best for all the same reasons mentioned in previous posts. Then, courtesy of my then girlfriend, I discovered Gone With The Wind!!! I was hooked – forever!!! I can even remember feeling sooo angry when I discovered that Margaret Mitchell had been killed by a taxi driver shortly after the book was published!! :-(

    My children started school in Hawaii at age 3. Where they learned phonics. What a blessing!!! My son and daughter were reading the local newspaper by the time they were 4. We later moved to Australia where ‘word recognition’ was being taught instead of phonics. ALL of the other kids in their classes were so far behind in their reading skill it was scary.

    They both still burn through the books with great joy. Harry Potter, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and James Marsdens’ books plus many, many others fill our home library shelves. No one ever mentioned to them that Tolkien was considered ‘heavy duty’. They both just enjoyed it!!

    I have been relegated to the Russell Blake ‘tragics’ list! LOL!!! Can’t get enough of Jet and Black (and Roxie and Mugsy!). I’ve been enjoying Claude Bouchard, and LT Ryan as well recently, while waiting for the next sensational tome from “The Man”!!!

    It’s all about getting them started young!!! AMEN!!!

    Reply
  19. Wed 26th Feb 2014 at 4:49 am

    Russell, I agree completely. I studied English Lit at high school and hated it. In fact, I stopped being an avid reader during my high school years, mainly due to the books we were “supposed” to read.

    If teachers could get past the snobbery you might see comics, thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, etc, on the curriculum.

    Reply
  20. Wed 26th Feb 2014 at 9:39 am

    I don’t know when I started reading on my own, but my parents read to me when I was little. My favorite books in those days were Curious George and the adventures of Babar. I loved those books.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 26th Feb 2014 at 1:41 pm

      I loved Babar. And the Little Prince.

      Reply

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