The first time I learned I was going to be a mom, I knew my boy would be a voracious reader. I vowed to make him a book addict, in case, he inherited my husband’s genes who was awfully allergic to literature. Some people were appalled at my idea of forcing my interest on my children, readers among them. But I had a beautiful bookcase in our home office; its shelves laden with all my favourite authors from Tolstoy, Fitzgerald, Wilkie Collins, Steinbeck, Jane Austin, Alexandre Dumas, Gabriel García Márquez, Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, P. D. James, L. M. Montgomery, Sue Miller, Rowling (as Galbraith), John Irving, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Daphne du Maurier, Markus Zusak, Bernhard Schlink to countless others, all collected with passion and waiting for my boy (and his little sister) to grow up and read those one by one.
When he started kindergarten, I began my efforts of turning him into a reader. It wasn’t a problem. He loved books. He loved dinosaurs and woolly mammals. He loved books about bugs and spiders and lizards and snakes. He loved learning about wolves and sharks and extinct species. He loved books about cars and trucks and how the machines worked. He loved everything non-living and living (which has no feelings). He was hungry for knowledge. I was proud of his tastes, but at the same time, I knew he had to love fiction as well if he wanted to fall in love with reading on the whole. He was a practical, down-to-earth little boy, so unlike me—his mom: a sentimental daydreamer, and he had no love for anything fictional. Our library visits comprised bag full of tree house DVD’s and a solitary story book (that I never get a chance to read to him anyway) with ten books about wild life. I started with every available classic story for boys, tried storybooks with animal characters (considering he loved wild life), and shifted to comics like marvel, then in desperation tried almost every manga, superhero sequels and everything and anything I thought he would find interesting. Nothing worked. And then at the beginning of grade two he started reading fluently, got a fantasy book as home reading from school one day and fell in love with the book, the series, and the reading. It was so easy. I thought I had tried everything. Obviously, I had missed fantasy. By the end of grade two, he had read over two hundred books, mostly full series. Grade three introduced him to Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and many others. He is a hard-core reader now; the kind who never leaves home without a book. He takes book to family get-togethers, doctor’s office, grocery shopping (seriously!), long travelling, playdates with cousins (yes!) and anywhere else he knows he has to sit doing nothing over two minutes. He is equally passionate about fiction as well as non-fiction.
By the time his little sister started school, I was ready for her. I had experience. I started with my boy’s favourites. She hated everything her brother loved. Once again, I was left clueless. It took me all of her kindergarten, grade one to third term of grade two and countless books to learn that she loves manga (the mysteries). I started that way too; never could get enough comics. I know there are people who would roll their eyes at comics, manga. As a voracious reader, I know you got to read everything from bad to good. I don’t believe a book can be bad; it’s the writing that is good or bad. Every book teaches you a thing or two about life. Now I don’t care about the shelves full of my favourite books anymore. My kids might read those; it wouldn’t matter if they don’t want to. There are millions of books to read; thousands of awesome books to fall in love with. They will have their own favourite authors, their own favourite genre. I’m happy knowing they love reading. All of you who love books as much as I do will understand my bliss as a mom of hard-core readers.