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Raising a lifelong reader

  I write a book column for Duplin Times in Kenansville, N.C. called the Book Nerd. This is my September column, which is about encouraging my son to be a reader!

“The whole world opened to me when I learned to read.”
— Mary McLeod Bethune

For me, my love of reading is like breathing. I can’t imagine not be able to do it.
It is something I have worked hard to instill in my son.
I read to him while I was pregnant. When he was an infant, I would read to him in funny voices or sing off-key. Anything to make it fun and have him learn.
I am proud to say that he loves to read.
A few weeks, Duplin Times Sports Editor Michael Jaenicke sent me a link to a story in the News and Observer about 50 books for children to read by age of 12.  I scanned the list and knew right away that my son had read most of them. Especially the “The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians” by Rick Riordan. My son loves anything written by Rick Riordan.
Riordan is best known for writing the “Percy Jackson” series, which is about a 12-year-old who discovers he is the son of Poseidon.
For his birthday last year, I got him the complete “Kane Chronicles” by Riordan. I know what it is like to want to read everything by a favorite author. In all, he has read about 16 of the 50 books in the series, which is amazing for a 10-year-old who is very random in his reading habits.
I mean one day, he is reading the “Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and he’s reading an Iron Man comic book.
I remember having words with his first grade teacher about the fact that he was reading comic books. She felt like it was junk for his mind. I disagreed with her.
Do you know how hard it is get a boy to read a book?
According to the 2010 Kid and Family Reading Report, only 39 percent of boys rated reading outside of class as important while 62 percent of girls said it was extremely or very important.
Boys have to be encouraged to read.
How have I encouraged him? By setting an example of being a reader. My son knows that I love to read. I don’t hide it. At home, there are books everywhere. I mean, he has helped me unpack books for my future library.
And most importantly, I don’t reject what he is reading. I mean not everybody’s going to “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a kid. But reading a magazine, comic book or the newspaper is still reading. If he wants to enjoy comic books, then do it. Reading is reading.
Humor is important to boys. He loves the “Captain Underpants” and the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books. They are not my cup of tea but I’m not a 10-year-old.
James Edward has always loved to acquire facts. For awhile, he loved reading the Guinness Book of World Records because he wanted to break a record.
If I find an article about a comic book or his favorite TV show, I give it to him.
We have always enjoyed visiting the library together. I let him decide what books he wants to read. Sometimes we go to find a comfy spot to read and chill. I remember when he was into dinosaurs, before he could read, and I would read to him about various creatures. I have his toy dinosaur collection on one of my book shelves to remind me of those fun times.
Another form of encouragement is to buy him books. Growing up, my family didn’t have much money, so books were a luxury. So I keep an eye out at book sales, yard sales and Barnes and Noble for titles that will interest him.
Last year for Christmas, I spent $25 on an Avengers “Civil War” comic for him, which was seven-issues in one. This is a lot of money for a kid who at times can’t remember to do his chores. But I knew he wanted to read it before the movie came out. It was a good investment that he treasures.
Maybe I’m biased here but I believe James Edward is an inquisitive and interesting child because of my encouragement of reading.
As he gets older, he may scale back on reading as other things compete for his interest. But the foundation is made.
Here are 50 books to read by age 12, with the ones my son has read in bold.
• “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,” by Mo Willems;
• “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site,” by Sherri Duskey Rinker;
• “Goodnight Moon,” by Margaret Wise Brown;
• “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” by Eric Carle;
• “Where the Wild Things Are,” by Maurice Sendak;

• “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” by Crockett Johnson
• “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” by Beatrix Potter;
• “The Cat in the Hat,” by Dr. Seuss;

• “Frog and Toad Are Friends,” by Arnold Lobel;
• “Madeline,” by Ludwig Bemelmans;
• “The Complete Tales & Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh,” by A. A. Milne;
• “Mercy Watson to the Rescue,” by Kate DiCamillo;
• “Ramona the Pest,” by Beverly Cleary;
• “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” by Roald Dahl;
• “Ivy + Bean: Book 1,” by Annie Barrows;
• “Stuart Little,” by E.B. White;
• “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” by Shel Silverstein;
• “Charlotte’s Web,” by E.B. White;
• “Coraline,” by Neil Gaiman;

• “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling;
• “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 1,” by C.S. Lewis;
• “The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread,” by Kate DiCamillo;
• “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll;
• “Anne of Green Gables,” by L.M. Montgomery;
• “The Bad Beginning: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1” by Lemony Snicket;

• “Big Nate: In a Class by Himself: Big Nate, Book 1,” by Lincoln Peirce;
• “Bridge to Terabithia,” by Katherine Paterson;
• “Bud, Not Buddy” by Christopher Paul Curtis;
• “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” by Jeff Kinney;
• “The Hobbit,” by J.R.R. Tolkien;
• “The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1,” by Rick Riordan;
• “Little House in the Big Woods,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder;
• “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” by Judy Blume;
• “A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle;
• “Esperanza Rising,” by Pam Munoz Ryan;
• “Hold Fast,” by Blue Balliett;
• “I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World,” by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick;
• “Inside Out and Back Again,” by Thanhha Lai;
• “My Side of the Mountain,” by Jean Craighead George;
• “Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party,” by Ying Chang Compestine;
• “Walk Two Moons,” by Sharon Creech;
• “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl,” by Anne Frank;
• “Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio;
• “Ender’s Game,” by Orson Scott Card;
• “The Fellowship of the Ring,” by J.R.R. Tolkien;
• “The Hunger Games, Book 1,” by Suzanne Collins;
• “Legend, Book 1,” by Marie Lu;
• “March: Book One,” by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin;
• “The Outsiders,” by S.E. Hinton;
• “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee.

1. Coffee is so amazing!
2. It's the first day of Fall!
3. Tonight is the season premiere of Grey's Anatomy!


  1. Hi Jacqueline
    It's been so long since I've been blogging a lot, so I'm sorry for not commenting on your blog. I seemed to have an aversion to the internet for a while just facebooking now and then and usually photos of my cat or other strange things. I love that your son (who is no longer so little) wow, I remember that birthday card I made him aeons ago. It feels like yesterday doesn't it? So anyway, just wanted to say I'm sorry for being so lax in everything. It seems like things are going well for you and for that I'm really happy :)

  2. Sounds like you got him hooked! And it's probably in his DNA as well thanks to his mom.


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