Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Bounty of Books

I'm back from Biloxi so it's time to get cracking and post some more stories. This story was another collaboration with the same person as the last story. It was written in February of 2000. The theme that week as 'abundance'. I think the main inspirations for this story were my total love of books and my son's dislike of reading. It still doesn't seem quite fair that I'd have a son who disliked reading as much as he does even though he does read quite well. The public schools did that much right anyway.

"But Dad, I don't wanna read.  I don't like it," my son Bradley whined at my suggestion in response to his complaining about being bored.

How could I teach him to *enjoy* reading... to appreciate books the way I did?  And most of all, how could I convince him to value having the *time* to read, which would only too soon be gone as he ascended into adulthood.  But I was determined to try something.

I sat down in what I've come to think of as my reading chair, although it seems I use it all too little lately for that purpose, and said, "Brad, come here and sit on my lap.  Let's talk."

It was obvious he considered my words less an invitation and more of an unwelcome directive, as he approached me with his face contorted and his body twisted, in dramatic agony.  As he squirmed onto my legs, he only murmured, "Don't you think I'm a bit  old to sit on your lap, Dad?" which we both knew was a rhetorical question.

I started slow and simple with my favorite form of making a point--- analogies.  "You like watching movies, right?" I asked him.

"Sure I do!" he replied with an excited smile, probably wondering if perhaps this discussion might be going in a direction to his liking after all.

"And TV shows?" I inquired.  "Like the Hardy Boys?  And those Disney shows on Sunday night?"  He nodded eagerly in response.  "Well," I continued, "those movies and shows all started out as books!  Except the people in those book-stories were even more like 'real' people, and their adventures and were even more colorful and exciting than in the movie-stories!  Can you guess why?"

Looking disappointed, Brad shrugged and fell back against my arm, "I dunno.  How can they be more exciting if they're only plain old words?"

"It's because they let you use your imagination!  When you watch a story on TV or in a movie, you only get to see what the person behind the camera thinks everything looks like---the kids, and the monsters and the bad guys; stuff like that.  But when you read a book, you get to pick how all that looks!  It's like making your own movie right in your head as you're reading.  And what's really neat is that our imaginations don't have any limits like a camera does.  Everyone who reads a book gets to picture the story in their own way, and nobody's right or wrong!"

He still looked a bit skeptical, but I had his attention.  "Remember how much you liked the movie 'Swiss Family Robinson'"? I asked him.

"Yeah, that was cool!"

"Well," I continued, "How about if we read that book together?  We'll take turns reading out loud and being the listener.  And afterwards, you can tell me if you thought the book was even better than the movie."

"Well okay... I guess," he said, less enthusiastically than I'd hoped; but I was willing to settle for anything.

We got off to a good start that evening, and after several days of reading steadily, we made it about halfway through.  He seemed to really be getting into it, and I was really enjoying the time with him.  Then about a week after we started, he said he needed to talk to me when I got home from work.

"I have a problem, Dad.  You're gonna be mad at me," he said, staring at his feet.

"Well, just tell me and we'll deal with it," I replied.  "Trouble in school? You didn't get in a fight did you?"

"No... it's that book that we're reading."

"What's wrong?" I asked, fearing that he wanted to quit reading it.

"No, I really like it.  But, um..."  He hesitated for a few seconds, and then blurted out the rest in one long breath.  "It was all rainy this afternoon and Tim is on restriction anyway and can't play and I thought I'd read it a little by myself when I got home from school and... well... I sorta finished it without you, Dad.  I didn't mean to, honest!  But I just kept going, and before I knew it, I'd read it all."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing!  And while I gathered my thoughts, he added, "I figured you'd be really disappointed that you didn't get to hear the end."

I could not help but laugh in relief.  "Brad, I'm not the slightest bit upset.  I can read the end myself, and you and I can read other books if you want!"  It was funny how relieved he looked!  "Hey, I think it's great that you liked it that much to want to read ahead on your own!  Do you see what I meant about how books can be even more exciting than TV or movies?" I asked him.

"Yeah, I do!  And when I was looking at the books you have in your office, too, I saw some other stuff I've seen on TV, like Tom Sawyer and Peter Pan." He had obviously found the group of books that I'd kept from my childhood.  "You have so many, Dad!" he added excitedly.  "Are they all good?"

"Well, I think they are, Brad.  But you know what?  The best thing is, there's pretty much an endless supply of books in the world.  So if you do come across one that you don't like so much, there will always be another one waiting for you."

I put my arm around him and headed toward my office.  "C'mon, I want to show you some special ones that I read when I was just about your age.  I bet you'll like them, too!"

As we walked, my heart just leapt with joy, knowing right then that I'd hooked him!  It was one of those incredible moments that you never forget as a parent... when you realize you actually can make a lasting, positive impression on your kid!

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