Education of a young reader

"The Bookworm," by Fiona Marchbank
My niece is a reader. Her mother had to tell her, repeatedly, for years, to stop reading and go to sleep. She'd read until 11:00 at night, which is big deal when you're younger than ten. I couldn't help but be proud of her though. She's carrying on the grand family tradition of reading until the wee hours, then being grouchy all morning. Lately, I've been emailing my niece as she tries to stave off mortal boredom until school starts again. Mostly, she's been reading. But I've found while talking to her this way that talking about books is an acquired skill.

Not only does my niece read so quickly that she doesn't remember a lot of what she just read, she has a hard time telling me about what she likes and doesn't like in books. I can't remember not being able to talk about books, but I'm sure I must have learned at some point. English classes helped. They gave me a vocabulary to talk about different kinds of characters. They taught me how to recognize genres. Reading a lot helped, too. By reading widely, I could discover what gets my little reader heart a-thumping.

This difficulty of hers got me thinking about the social side of reading. The act itself is solitary, but readers love talking to other readers. Hell, I'll talk about books to anyone as long as they show a speck of interest until their eyes glaze over or the post-its run out from writing down titles and authors. Readers are always in search of the next great read. Not only that, but readers--those who really, deeply love books--believe in the importance of story and reading. It's vital to learn how to talk about books to share that joy.

I'm going to help my niece learn to talk about books, even if I develop terminal frustration. Or my niece tells me to shut up. Whichever.

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