by Rebecca J. Carlson
My son's third-grade reading teacher called to tell me he's dropping behind. He can't keep up with the other readers in his group, and he may need to be put back a level. This surprised me. I have a family of voracious readers. I'd say over half of our dinner table conversations are about books.
But as I thought about it, I realized I don't see my third-grader reading much.
Time to convert him to the family pastime. I went to the shelf and pulled down some chapter books that his older brothers had loved--The Time Warp Trio, Marvin Redpost. I spotted A Cricket in Times Square and added it to the pile. And then I stopped a moment to think about what I had loved as a third-grader.
I remember finding it on the shelf at the school library, an enticingly illustrated spine with a smoking volcano and some paths trailing around mountainsides that rose from a deep forest. I had pulled the book down, opened it up, got sucked in and never came back.
So I grabbed our paperback copy and took it along to my son's room, even though I doubted he would want to read it. The reading level would be too high for a boy who may need to drop down to an easier reading group. I gave him the stack of books, starting with The Hobbit, telling him, "This book is the best."
Thirty minutes later I came back. What book did he have? The Hobbit. "I like this one the most," he told me. Smiling, I kissed him goodnight and turned out the light.
When I went to get him up this morning, I found him already sitting on the couch in the family room, reading The Hobbit!
This is another reason why I do what I do. Why I work and wish and hope and fight. Because some child, some reluctant boy reader, some day, may get up at five in the morning to read the next chapter of one of my books.
Thank you, Grandpa Tolkien!