Friday, September 7, 2012

Shaemus the Competitive Reader

Ah, Shaemus.

Shaemus is six. He's in first grade. Shaemus is exhausting. I mean that in a good way mostly. He's intense. He's always been intense. He was an intense baby. He even nursed intensely—I always felt completely drained afterwards (he he he).

He knows everything that goes in on school, and he's very intense about making sure everything is done just right. He about died last year when I wouldn't put sunscreen on him at eight in the morning for his Field Day celebration at two o'clock. They made such a big deal about putting sunscreen on before you went to school, he thought something really bad would happen to him if you didn't.

I've worried about him as a reader. First of all, his dad doesn't really read. Sam tries to read. He tries very hard. But he didn't read as a child, and there's some wiring in his brain that now tells him, "What, you want to read? Why don't you sleep instead?" So he often gets a few pages into a book and falls asleep, even when he reads during the day, even when he reads to the kids.

I don't worry that Sam's reading habits will affect the girls much. Maybe this is sexist of me, but I do worry they will affect my boys. They need to think reading is cool. Sam didn't growing up. He thought kids who liked to read were weird. He vividly remembers one of his friends liking to read, and he never understood it.

Then he married me. (he he he again)

Shaemus reads all the time, but I'm not always sure why. He picks out books from school to bring home (he has to read two a day), and they are always waaaaaay to easy for him. He thinks this is funny. He laughs at me when I put my hands on my hips and say, "Shaemus Eyre—why on earth did you pick that one?"

But I give him books to take to school to read that are much more challenging, and he loves to come home and report to me exactly how many pages he read of these challenging books.

Everything seems to be a contest with him, or some need to prove something to someone.

I just want him to love reading.

I read a study I'm going to rif about in another post about why children need to read for pleasure. It literally changes the way their brains function (for the better). The study proved that girls read for pleasure six times more than boys do.

In general, boys don't think reading is cool.

(Here's a link to a post Shannon Hale (author of The Goose Girl and Princess Academy) wrote about boy books versus girl books:  )

Shaemus reads right now. He reads all the time. Again, there aren't a lot of other options available to him in our home. But will he read once he leaves? What about when the competitions are over? What about when no one is counting the pages he read that day for some magical prize at the end? And what about when he's tired of fluff, when he's tired of the pretty dumb comics and graphic novels and chapter books? So many of the more meaningful and fulfilling books for children tend to be about girls and for girls.

I'm hunting now. Shaemus is the one I'm on the lookout for the most. I'm looking for books he will love simply because he loves the stories and the characters. I wish he would start up with The Mother Westwind books, but they don't have enough pictures! Pictures are still so important for kids his age, and this is getting more and more true for older kids too.

He's pretty interested in Nate the Great right now. And again, Captain Awesome. 

Here are some others he's enjoying that aren't all slapstick and fart jokes (these are the hard books he takes to school and reports to me on—but he does like them. I think):

The Thimbleberry Stories by Cynthia Rylant
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The Lighthouse Family books by Cynthia Rylant
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Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant (goodness, a lot of Cynthia Rylant)
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Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn
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My Father's Dragon (and sequels by Ruth Gannett)

Catwings by Ursula LeGuin (These are sooo good. Beautiful and sweet and interesting. You must get these from the library. Really, you must own them.)
Catwings (A Catwings Tale)

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