Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Read Into It-- Guest Proser Post -- Deborah Moore

 I would love to say that I knew Dr. Seuss’s birthday was on Monday because that’s the sort of knowledge writers are born with. It would even be nice if I said that I looked it up on my own, preferably while I was in the middle of writing a particularly brilliant section of my novel. That I paused while writing and thought, when were my favorite authors born? Quick, to the Google search! 

The truth is that I found a paper scrunched up at the bottom of my fifth grade daughter, River’s backpack. It talked about the activities that the school was going to do to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday.

The purpose of the holiday is to get children excited about reading. At least I assume that is the point.
It’s hard to tell when my daughter’s school celebrates it with crazy hair day. I’m not sure how that ties into the Suessical world. It gave us all a chance to use our hair chalk. Obviously I couldn’t let River be only one to have crazy hair. My five year old, Nelina and I wanted in on the fun. So I guess I shouldn’t complain.         
Me, not crazy hair per say,
 but with a green shirt on which is timely.

Crazy hair aside, it got me thinking about reluctant readers. As a writer it’s imperative to me to learn that one cardinal rule. Make your writing interesting. The worst thing for a writer is to lose the readers interest. That and possibly being struck by lightning because that has got to mess with a writers mojo.

I have been thinking about how important it is to hold someone’s attention in a story. It got me thinking of an experience that I had a few months ago.
 My friend Rachel*  and I were at the library several months ago with our younger daughters. While our five year olds wandered the isles we picked out books for them to read. I filled up my library bag with enough picture books to do permanent damage to my spine. It’s roughly the same amount that I always begrudgingly return to the library, telling myself that I will check out less books next time. Somehow it weights more on the way back.

I also grabbed a few paperback novels for my daughter River. I stuffed several of them into the already bursting bag. Aware of how awkward this looked I explained that I always grabbed a few books for River because I never knew which ones she would like.

“I never know which one will be a dud,” I said.

“I know right?” Rachel said and then sighed, “I don’t know what to get. Eric* hates to read. I’ve tried picking out things he is interested in, but nothing works.”

Whenever I hear about a kid who refuses to read it’s like they said their child hates ice cream. There’s a part of my brain that has a hard time computing this fact. If I go a day without reading a novel I feel out of synch.

It’s not something that should surprise me though since River used to hate reading. Well I thought she hated it. Mostly she just didn’t like reading out loud to me. Once we crossed that hurtle and allowed her to read to our dog, who is much less “momish” than me, it seemed to help.

She still didn’t have much joy in reading until we stumbled across a little book called “Zita the Space Girl.” For those of you who don’t know, it is a graphic novel about an intrepid young girl who gets sucked into another world and has to save her best friend and the world.

The pictures are amazing and tell at least a third of the story on their own. We read that book together and she didn’t even mind reading some of it out loud to me. Possibly because it was more about reading dialogue and sound effects.
I became enamored in the graphic novel genre too. However, there was that little part of me that worried. It was the “momish” part that was concerned that she might forgo other novels in favor of graphic novels. After all they are easier to read and understand what is going on.
It turns out I had worried for no reason. The opposite was true. As she read more graphic novels she also started cruising through other books as well. In fact she can now read and comprehend novels at a dizzying speed. Her teachers told us that she is reading on a ninth grade level. This, from the girl who used to treat reading time as something akin to torture.


 With this previous knowledge in my mind, I decided to offer the path that had worked for me. After all, it couldn’t hurt right?

“Have you tried graphic novels?” I asked with the enthusiasm most people reserve for pep rallies.

Nelina dressed as Zita the Space Girl
“No,” Rachel said. Later I found out that she didn’t know what those were. Still she was willing to listen to me as I brought her over to the magical** section of the library where they keep graphic novels for children.
I pulled out Zita the Space Girl because I loved it so much. Then I also grabbed a few other ones which River had enjoyed.  These included Knights of the Lunch Table, Mal and Chad and Amulet. All of them were full of strong male and female characters and had lots of action and adventure.

I briefly explained that they had helped my daughter discover the joy of reading. Rachel thanked me. Then we found our children and checked out our books. I had no clue if Eric would like the books or not, but it felt good to offer advice.
  That evening I received a text from Rachel.

 “Thanks for the recommendation. Eric loves the books. He finished all of them tonight and chose to read the graphic novels instead of watching tv,” the text read.
   I was thrilled beyond words. The excitement filled me to almost bursting. It wasn’t because I had recommended them. Well, it was a little because I had recommended them. After all as a stay at home mom I don’t get a lot of compliments or feedback to know I’m doing well.

 That was a fleeting feeling though. The true joy was that I had helped this child see how cool reading could be. It was like I had taken a piece of myself and shared it with Eric. Even though he probably didn’t know that I recommended the books.

  Do you have a favorite Graphic Novel? If not, don’t worry. I’ll wait. I would love to hear your book recommendations.

*Names have been changed to protect the awesome.

**Yes every section of the library is magical, but some areas are just more magical-er      


  1. I will have to remember Zita for when my daughter's old enough. Thanks!

  2. Indeed - I bet my nieces and nephews would love that series. Thanks so much for the recommendation!

  3. Thank you so much Sabrina. It was an honor to post and I look forward to reading about more of your own adventures in writing and reading. Adam, I hope that you're able to introduce the series to your daughter. It is an empowering read.


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