Post by Jenny
In the week since the NCW Conference, I’ve been mulling over a conversation I had with presenter and local author Justin Matott. As we both have two sons, his older than mine, we discussed boys and books—what boys like to read, what boys don’t like to read, what to do about reluctant readers, and the pleasure parents feel when our kids have their reading-breakthrough moment. Justin mentioned that young readers often have a “gateway book”—the book that gets them hooked on reading.
I’m so grateful that both my tween-age sons like to read. My older boy took to reading like a fish to water, so perhaps his gateway book was one of the well-loved picture books we read together over and over. But at the end of second grade, he discovered the Hardy Boys Mysteries. That’s right—the original series with the blue covers, penned by a team of writers known as Franklin W. Dixon. I don’t know why my son was so taken by the somewhat dated adventures of the teenage sleuths (I remember him asking me “what’s a jalopy?”), but he read them, one after another, all summer long.
But my younger boy would tell me that reading was “boring.” This is a child who was born with a spring inside him, who is happier on a trampoline than almost anywhere else on earth. Compared to that, reading was too passive. As he got older, he gravitated toward non-fiction books about animals, about space, about rocks and minerals, books filled with facts and photographs. He learned a lot—and so did I—but I still wondered when and if he would catch his brother’s chapter book fever. He loved it when I read the Harry Potter series to him, but he didn’t want to tackle it on his own. I’d get suggestions from other moms, bring home options from the library, but no chapter books really hooked him—until last year, when, at his brother’s urging, he began reading the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan. (I’m so glad that agent Joe Monti recommended this series to me at last year’s NCW conference.)
Like so many of you, I have always loved to read. As a girl, I read fairy tales, Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allen Poe, Judy Blume. Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy was an early favorite, as was Wilson Rawls’s heartbreaking Where the Red Fern Grows. But I suspect that, as is the case with many women my age, my gateway book was Little House on the Prairie.
Do you remember your gateway book? How about your son’s or daughter’s?