Undercover

Reading under the covers I’ve always loved reading to my children.

Snuggling down in a chair with a good picture book, like Where the Wild Things Are, was hands down my favorite part of the day when my children were young.

Disappearing into a big, chewy book is a pleasure, a necessity, and even a transcendent experience.

I wanted that for my children.

Until very recently, it looked like I was going to be disappointed. None of my three children loves to read. Books assigned in school are read reluctantly and quickly forgotten.

Cue the violins.

My eldest, at nearly sixteen, reads well, has excellent comprehension levels and a good vocabulary. It’s not that reading is hard for him; he simply prefers to immerse himself in a video game over a book.

He’s my firstborn, and very like me in many ways.

So of course I accepted this defeat gracefully.

Nope. Not a chance.

I scoured bookstores and questioned librarians on what books or series would appeal to middle grade boys. I gave books for Christmas, birthdays, and in Easter baskets. At night, he and my husband read the Harry Potter series aloud.  It promoted closeness between them, but not a love of reading.

And now he’s in high school.  He has literature classes where he’s assigned the classics.  Nathaniel Hawthorne vs Gears of War?  Even I could hear the death knell.

Something’s happened recently, though.

When he comes home from high school we talk.

About literature.

Oh, sometimes he complains.  About the language, about the sentence structure that is so different from instructions or back story in a video game. But sometimes we talk about ideas, about authorial intent and characters. These discussions are lively and it’s clear my son has thought deeply about what he’s read.

And I’ve come to realize that maybe I’m the one who’s gotten it wrong.

This is his way of experiencing literature.

Not mine.

So maybe he doesn’t devour a stack of books, or read for hours at night under the covers.  But ideas and literature do engage him. And isn’t that the important thing?

We’ve connected over books.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s more than enough.

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