My sons did not build the book habit as babies. I adopted them from the foster care system when they were seven and nine. For the next five years, I did everything I could to turn them into readers. I read aloud three or four or ten books a day. Every night, we had family reading time where all three of us sat down with a book or magazine for 3o minutes. I took them to book stores and bought magazine subscriptions. I made sure there was lots of interesting stuff laying around- shark books and sports books and joke books. I made sure they were exposed to lots of other print-- recipes and lego directions and craft projects.
Despite all my efforts, my sons, as high schoolers, are not readers. They read the stuff they have to read for school (sometimes) , but they never, ever, of their own volition, pick up a book. It breaks my heart. And so I have become a reading espionage agent--
Sunday morning, 6:30 a.m.--
I dig frantically through the trunk of my car for a Christmas bag that has slid way to the frontmost corner. Every year I give the boys a book for Christmas. This year (before I knew about the controversy surrounding it) I purchased I AM NUMBER FOUR for Son #2. He opened the present at my mom's house, put it in the car to bring back to Denver, and never touched it again. After we saw the movie yesterday, I reminded the boys that we had the book. "We do," said son #1. "That's cool" Now I need to find it and place it in a strategic spot, where someone might pick it up and get hooked.
Monday, 4 a.m.
Son #1 has to read a book for his African American lit class- something about the conspiracy to destroy black boys. He leaves it on the dining room table on Sunday night, so this morning, I pick it up and start to read. Some of the ideas are interesting to me as an educator, but the writing is not that great, and the fifteen-year-old book seems a little dated. Even so, I see the potential for interesting conversations. I make a few mental notes and wonder how/when I might talk with my son about some of the ideas in the book.
Tuesday night, 8 p.m.
I run to the bookstore to pick up the newest Gerald and Piggy book. While I am there, I make a quick stop in the sports section to see if there are any new football books. Tony Dungy? Got both of those. Retired Bronco Karl Mecklenberg's book about scholar athletes? Already read it. Jeffrey Marx's book about the long snapper? I read that one too. I am fairly sure that I have enough sports books that I could stock this section of the bookstore.
Thursday 5 a.m.
Come across a link about teens and social media on Twitter. I read the article, then jump on Facebook to send it to the boys.
While I am on Twitter, I do a search for Paul Hankins' and Donalyn Miller's tweets. Paul and Donalyn always have the greatest book recommendations for middle and high school kids. I try to get one or two of these a month from the library, and leave them on the coffee table, where someone, in a moment of inactivity or boredom, might pick them up or become hooked.
A super hectic, hard week and I would love to flop down on the couch and just veg in front of the television. My family room, however, is filled with teenagers, so I pick up my newest toy, a Kindle that I got for Valentine's Day. I am messing around with the highlighting feature when Son #2 comes upstairs to get something from his room. He stops for a minute to look over my shoulder before heading back down to his friends. I wonder about the possibility of buying e-readers for the boys. Would those be more appealing than the books I love?
Saturday morning, 7 a.m.
I read the paper with my English muffin, then hunt through the pile to find the sports section. I open it open it to an article about the CU Buffs' first football practice and carefully place it on top of the stack. I am hoping that maybe, just maybe, one of my boys will find the photograph interesting enough to read the article, and maybe even another article or two.
As a lifelong reader, I know that print has the power to entertain, to inform, and to expand the world. My boys aren't readers right now. But I will keep trying…