THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE
Once upon there was a little boy. This little boy loved to read. It started when he was a little baby, devouring books. He'd pull boardbook after boardbook from the shelf immediately after his mama arranged them on the bookshelf. Then he'd shove them into his mouth and munch on them. After his snack, he'd carry the drool-ridden books to his mama and papa, look at them with his brown, puppy-dog eyes, begging them to read to him. Book after book.
Then something bad happened. Eight years later the little boy stopped reading books. Instead, he'd reach for his iPod, the WiiU controller, or flip open the laptop and play Poptropica. What happened? Why did he stop reading?
His concerned mom pleaded, "Son, why don't you read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? I just bought it for you. It's on your nightstand."
His response, "Nah. It's boring."
A week later, she tried again. "Son, why don't you read Huckleberry Finn, or Charlotte's Web, or James and the Giant Peach? I hear he had great adventures!"
His response, "No thanks. I tried. They're boring."
* * *
Like many moms, I have a substantial list of goals for my kids. Some are attainable - master basic math facts; throw their stinky socks and dirty undies into the hamper; be kind and loving, honest, hard-working individuals; love learning. Some not so attainable - to turn off the TV and iPod. FOREVER; refrain from fighting with their siblings. FOREVER.
One important goal of mine was to plant the love of reading in my children. We started off on the right foot then we fell off the bandwagon. Panic-stricken, I began buying and borrowing books for him to read, great books recommended from this infamous list. But he wasn't interested. Encyclopedia Brown didn't solve any cases. The Indian in the Cupboard stayed in the cupboard. The Boxcar Children series didn't even see the light of day.
Then my sister told me, "Just let him read what he wants to read."
"But!" I argued with myself. "He's supposed to read great books, classic books, books that challenge him or transform him, books that forces him to think critically. Not whatever book he wants to read!"
That last sentence made me stop dead in my tracks. Wait. If he wants to read it, then he'll read it. It was then I decided to ask him what he liked to read, not what I wanted him to read. Without missing a beat, he replied, "I like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It's so funny!" Aha! A teachable moment for mom.
* * *
We find mom and son at the library, specifically at the reference desk, asking the librarian for book recommendations and for directions to the children's section. With several titles under his belt and pointed in the correct path, the son discovers his pot of gold - a treasure trove of The Diary of the Wimpy Kid series.
He selects one book off the shelf, glances at the cover, flips it over and skims the synopsis, then places it neatly, almost reverently onto the shelf. He continues this routine four more times until a neat pile of books form.
Books tucked carefully in his arms, the boy beelines to an indigo sofa, makes himself comfortable, and flips open The Last Straw.
He doesn't budge until mom (ironically) forces him out of the library. Silently walking to the car, both feel triumphant - mom whispers a prayer of thanks while son cradles his new treasures in his arms.