If you’re wondering what happened, let me just say I’ve been waiting, worrying, and wondering just when it would happen. For my daughter I had to wait until the fourth grade when Harry Potter entered her world. Thank you J.K. Rowling! Yesterday, Wonder by R.j. Palacio whispered to my son that reading can be for fun.
A couple of years back after reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, I learned my son was a “dormant” reader. One who reads only what he needs to in order to get by. One who does not read for the sheer joy of reading. It crushed me, just as reading for the designated number of minutes or the exact number of pages ruined reading for my son. He was about to enter middle school and it still hadn’t happened. Reading was a chore, and more often a battle, not something one would do for fun according to my just turned thirteen-year-old son. I’m a collector of books. So is my daughter. My husband is a reader too. How could this not have happened yet? I want a boy who loves to read! One who won’t stop reading because time is up or he reached the correct number of pages. I want him to not be able to put a book down because it’s that good.
Yesterday was that day!
I had just finished parent teacher conferences and had Friday afternoon off. The typical destination for me when the words free and time are in the same sentence is Barnes & Noble. It helped that I was in possession of a couple of gift cards. Why not reward myself for making it through 24 conferences with a book just for fun. No work this weekend. Fun! I wandered into the children’s section and Wonder was there to welcome me, front and center. I had heard about it through a few people I follow on Twitter, so I picked it up. Why not? I thought, maybe this will be the book. It also happened to be the selected title for Fox Cities Reads a community wide collaboration that encourages the people in our communities to read, think, talk, listen, and grow together.
Later that evening my son saw me reading it and casually mentioned the author would be coming to their school next month.
Me: “Want to read it first? I was going to start it, but you can read it first. I have another book I can start.” I had picked up The Book Thief as a back up.
Son: “No. We’re not supposed to read it before.”
Me: “Well, that’s ridiculous! (I may have used a different word actually.) Why would a teacher tell their students NOT to read! I’m sure there are kids that have already read it.”
Son: “Just two.”
Me: “Let’s make that three.”
And then I threw in a little wager. If you can read this book over the weekend, I’ll buy that Kyrie Irving jersey you want.” I had that much confidence in R. j. Palacio from everything I had heard about her book. I can’t believe I did it, nor did my husband who looked at me wide-eyed with a look of are you serious?! I bribed my son to read! What was I thinking?!?! At first, my son declined so I picked it up and started reading. And giggling. And sniffling. And giggling. Not on purpose. That’s what happens when you read this book called Wonder. A while later he picked it up casually just to check it out.
Son: Maybe I will read 25 pages tonight. (grabbing the book on his way to bed) Score one for Mom!
I didn’t make a single comment (score another one for Mom) about reading a specific number of pages. Page numbers and reading minutes drive me crazy! And so do bribes to get kids to read. What was I thinking!?!?
I never understood as a parent, or as an educator, the philosophy of bribing our kids to read just for a free ticket and hot dog to the local baseball game. a free personal pan pizza, or a ticket to Great America. The kids I teach aren’t even tall enough to go on any of the rides! When your own children are ten years apart in age and many inches apart in height, it’s not much of a family day to head to the amusement park trying to keep a five-year-old happy waiting while Dad and big sister go on all the rides. I’m sure I developed my skepticism of the word “free” after going to the circus one year with a free ticket. I walked in with an excited five-year-old and came out after dropping $125 on parking, snacks, souvenirs and two additional adult tickets. But her ticket was free so it’s all good.
Fast forward to Saturday morning. Enter son walking into the family with an open book. Both my husband and I grabbed our phones to document the miracle in our household. Big sister will never believe this.
Son: I read 28 pages last night.
Mom: And….(ignoring the pages thing).
Son: I’m going to try and read to page 100 by tonight.
Mom: (Keep. Your. Mouth. Closed. Don’t. Say. ANYTHING.) What part are you at? I had secretly read to page 100 behind his back so we would be able to focus on the story, not the page numbers.
I left well enough alone and continued about my business. What I saw next was the second miracle of the day. Again my husband and I both grabbed our phones. This is a BIG deal and whether my son is reading to get the jersey, or reading to make his parents happy, or to be one of the three that has already read the book his class is going to read, or that he is simply enjoying the book I don’t know. I don’t care. He’s thirteen and he’s reading.
It’s official! My son is reading for pleasure. On a Saturday!
Son: This book is just so good I can’t put it down.
Thank you R. j. Palacio!
Later that evening I glanced over to the couch and thought, I could get use to this. We talked about each character’s part, how we reacted to the Halloween event and then he said: Want to read it together so we can talk about it? I wondered if this was a ploy to get me to do the reading. So we cuddled up, shared the book between us and each read and turned pages together and talked our way to page 100. Son went off to bed and I kept on reading. It’s just that good.