Today I gave away a children’s graphic novel called Lions and Tigers and Bears: Betrayal in our local Little Free Library. My son Theo had read it a few months ago, and I’m sure had told me what the story was about but I didn’t manage to file that information in my overloaded mommy-head. So I have little more to say about the book except that he enjoyed it – and also that it was one of the last graphic novels that he read enthusiastically before he began reading chapter books with more words than illustrations in them – a big transition for any child.
In theory Theo is reading is at grade level, but he has shown little enthusiasm for reading. At the start of 4th grade I was worried that he wouldn’t want to read anything at all, but his teacher recommended a couple of graphic novels and he was soon hooked. Although some of his classmates were already devouring Harry Potter (and the later books in the series too!), I was thrilled that he was reading anything. On a couple of occasions I had trouble getting him to put the books down and do homework or eat dinner – a complicated conundrum for a parent who wants their child to love reading.
By the end of 4th grade, he really got into the Spiderwick Chronicles series by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, a book about a boy who reluctantly moves with his mother, brother and sister to his elderly great-aunt’s home and discovers a magical world full of fairies, goblins and other creatures. Over the summer he read the five books in the series and started reading the sequel series Beyond Spiderwick, which he is close to finishing. For the first time ever, I think, he seems just as enthusiastic about the contents of a book he is reading as he has been about video games or movies. He told me last week that he wanted to go on a fairy hunt, so I arranged for us to do so with his cousin Kaia (a Spiderwick fan from a couple of years back) at a local nature reserve. He brought along the Spiderwick Field Guide and various items recommended in the Guide for finding fairies and protecting himself from hobgoblins. He even wore his t-shirt inside out all day as part of the protection against creatures called Stray Sods, who can make you lose your sense of direction in the forest. Both he and Kaia had a lovely time walking through the woods, looking behind rocks and trees for magical creatures and talking avidly about their discoveries.
As I write this, Theo is lying in bed reading the last volume of the Beyond Spiderwick series to himself in bed, rather than have me read Harry Potter with him. I have spent a lot of time over the years worrying about his lack of interest in reading, writing, math and schoolwork in general. But in the last week or two he has been telling me, “Mummy, I can’t wait to finish the book but I don’t want to finish it either” – a sign that he has begun to fall in love with reading. Moments like these tell me that maybe I shouldn’t worry as much, that he is getting there – in his own sweet time.