You probably know someone like Ethan, the main character of my latest book for the Stuff Happens series. He’s a bookworm, reading anything and everything under the library roof. And under the bookshop too, if you give him the chance.
Ethan was inspired by myself (of course haha), when I was a kid. I used to borrow 2 books every day at lunchtime and sometimes after school too. I wanted to win the best borrower award. The winner got a bookshop voucher. But I didn’t need awards or prizes, I just loved reading. But how did I catch the reading bug? Well, it wasn’t a bug that got me. It was a massive dinosaur.
I loved dinosaurs and I read every book that had a dinosaur on the cover. I moved onto novels that had dinosaurs in them. Then I went through a class clown phase, where I gobbled up joke and riddles books. I jumped from series to series; Tin Tin, Asterix, Choose your own adventures, Goosebumps and so on. I discovered authors like Roald Dahl, Morris Gleitzman and Paul Jennings, and read all of their back catalogue. It sounds like my reading diet had variety, but teachers and my parents didn’t think so. ‘All you read is Goosebumps, can’t you read something else?’ ‘How about you try this author, instead of another Jennings book?’ They were trying to push something onto me, something that I didn’t want to read…not yet anyway.
Now I’m not saying that you don’t try to recommend other books to kids who seem to be stuck in one series or theme. I see libraries and bookshops that have displays that say stuff like ‘If you love Potter, you’d love…’ and that’s cool. My librarian suggested plenty of books that I did eventually read. But I chose to read them, in my own time. I will walk up to those book displays and pick up a book. I will check out book review sites and blogs, and see what my peers are reading. But it’ll be my choice to do so.
Think about how you discovered your favourite author or series. I bet it wasn’t shoved in your face. Choice is such a powerful thing for kids. Nothing reeks of desperation and lameness when someone tries to push a book onto a kid. It can turn kids off reading, and it’s hard as it is to get them to read for enjoyment. Nobody would ever think to force a game onto a kid, so why books? Yes, they might be reading it because the movie’s out, or all their friends are. But it’s still their choice to give in to it.
So if a kid is re-reading Potter for the millionth time, let them. Don’t be worried about their Minecraft phase, or Alice-Miranda, Lego, even dinosaurs. They will move onto something else. Just give it time. Let them wander around the library and bookshop, and who knows, they may choose something different. And if they do, just smile on the inside and pat them on the back for their excellent choice.