Jul 11, 2012

A Writer's Other Job

As a writer, we hang out with lots of writers.  While writers like to write, there is also another common love that groups us together, that of being readers.  We hear all the time that good writers are good readers.  We jump around blogs, celebrating the new books that are coming out, talking about what we just read, staying up late because we just had to finish the book. 

But I think we have another job as well.  We have the job of helping people be readers. 

Think about it.  Reading in the nation has dropped and if people don't read, why are they going to care that we write?  Sure, it sometimes ends up with funny things like the examples in this article, except that after the laughter has died down, it's really not that funny.

I have three kids.  My daughters are pretty avid readers at their levels, one more than the other (enough that we have discussions about which Egyptian god would make shopping easier (Thanks Rick Riordan)), but my son and husband are a bit more reluctant.  Or they have been.

It's funny that the child of an English teacher would have a hard time reading, but let me share a bit of a trend I have seen, especially with boy readers.  If boys like fantasy stories, they seem to read quite a bit.  There is a great selection of middle grade and young adult books to help them stay interested.  Just walk through a library and look at the covers - dragons everywhere!

But the other kind of boy reader seems to be increasingly prevalent - the one who doesn't want fantasy.  We have had some success with Super Fudge type books, Holes went over pretty well, but when it comes right down to it, there aren't tons of boy middle grade non-fantasy books out there.  These readers tend to drift to the non-fiction (enter titles that involve most disgusting).  If you have a reader like this, let me share a huge discovery that has changed our lives here - find the book AND the audiobook to let Junior try at the same time.  Many of these kids don't have the understanding of how words sound to enjoy the book. 

Hubby has been a reluctant reader our whole marriage - people were trying to push fiction on him.  He just doesn't want to read fiction.  So?  Working together, we have found two books he has enjoyed reading in the last two months.  While many of us are fiction writers, we have to remember these aren't the only books out there.

But even beyond the reluctant reader, we know writers have a great natural desire to pay it forward.  We read lots and even if it is just in the genre we are writing, I don't think it would be ridiculous when, in a library or a book store, if we see someone looking at a book, start a conversation with that person (Oh, I loved that book or This one is really good too if you liked that). 

I know some of us tend to be shy or introverted, but think of the bigger picture. Get beyond book sales and money and think, really think for a moment, about a world without books.  Don't you think it's worth the few minutes of discomfort to know that there is a chance someone may find a book they enjoy. 

Have you helped someone find a book before?  Did you experience a time when either you or a loved one didn't think reading was for them?  Any other suggestions about how to get people excited about reading again?


J. A. Bennett said...

A world without books is a world where no new ideas are spread and life is based firmly in reality. I would hate that world. My husband is a non-fiction reader as well. I've tried to buy him books, but he turns up his nose at most fiction. But if I get him something political he'll dive right in. I think you're right, it is our responsibility to share the love of reading with others. great post!

Cassie Mae said...

I'm going down to B&N and scare people into reading. It'll totally work! I'll make such a scene everyone will want to buy the book I'm shouting about, lol.

Really though, I do like to talk to people in the sections of the book store. You'd be amazed at how many people will openly talk about which books they loved and go on and on about them. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

We have bought many books for my husband but he still is a reluctant reader.
He does enjoy daily newspapers. My goal is to have him reading them on the computer by next year at this time.
Three of my four children love to read, one is getting closer. It really needs to be parents who turn kids onto reading. They can't expect the schools to do that.

Miranda Hardy said...

I face the same problem with my son. He tends to be more interested in Japanese type comic books. I'm trying to help him find other interesting books that he'd like. It was so much easier with my daughter. She's now venturing in other genres which I'm pleased with.

Leigh Covington said...

My husband is a hard one to make read. He is very particular and not quite open in his taste in books. We still try to find new options for him. Usually he moans about having to read when he could be watching tv, but once in awhile we strike gold with a great book he can enjoy.

Don't even get me started on the importance of kids reading. I could go on forever!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've heard there weren't a lot of books for boys other than fantasy. (Good thing I was one of those who gravitated to the genre.) I guess it's a matter of finding what genre they do like. Glad you got your husband to read.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I only read occasionally but when I do I know I have the sort of books I like. I buy off of Amazon so when I feel like a read I know there are a few to choose from.


Maria said...

We are a family of four, my husband is a very reluctant reader, doesn't even read a paper, and a computer is alien to him. he has a manual job, and works outdoors a lot of the time.

My son was introduced to books from a very young age, as I was a Rep for Usborne Children's books, so it was a given any children would have picture books from the beginning. However, he never really enjoyed much beyond infant classes. Now a man, he does not read. I find it quite sad.

My daughter, treated no different, devoured everything put before her, and is a ferocious reader to this day.

I have tried with my husband, but the furthest we got was he flicked through a motorbike magazine once back in the 90's, so I'm open to suggestion...

Andrew Leon said...

I think the key to getting anyone to read is to keep making them do it until they find something they like or begin to enjoy it.
Yes, I said "making." I started out by making all of my kids read. They didn't get a choice. It's difficult at first, but, at some point, they all hit that "spot" where they couldn't put a book down and started picking it up on their own. Once they found that spot, they started picking out books they wanted to read.
Surprisingly, my daughter was the most work with reading.

I think we too often, these days, just give boys a pass on reading. We don't expect it of them anymore, so they don't do it. Just like we used to not expect it of girls, so they didn't do it.

Erin Shakespear said...

Great post, Tasha. I totally identify with the husband not being a big reader, which is a bit sad for me after seeing my parents trade books all my life.

So, I've read to him. :) On long car rides he loved listening to those books by Richard Peck, A Long Way From Chicago and...the other one (can't remember it right now). We've listened to audio books. He laughed just as much at Whales on Stilts as the kids did. And a couple years ago I stumbled across a book he loved and actually read himself. Supersonic Saints which is full of inspirational stories from pilots. Each chapter is one complete story so, he could sit down and read the whole thing on a Sunday evening.

So, while he's not the crazy reader I am. He doesn't lock himself in the bathroom with his book. But that's okay. We can't all be obsessive bookies, I guess. :)

Emily R. King said...

This is why I was so ticked off that I couldn't lend the e-books I purchased. Passing books onto people I know don't read often is part of the fun of reading. Quite often while I'm reading a book I'll think, "so-and-so would love this!" I want to encourage other people to read, and because I'm tapped into the publishing world, I have access to books they've never heard of, and won't unless I introduce them.

Sophia Chang said...

I love this I love this so much! Something I hadn't thought of before but I know that one day if someone says they learned to like reading because of anything I wrote that would be the highest order compliment!

elizabeth seckman said...

Everyone in my house is a reader. All but son #2. He loathes reading to the point if he has to read a book for school he will beg me to read it out loud (he'll be a junior!). He's also the child who has had the most stitches.

Nicole said...

I love this post! It's such a joy to point people to books that you know they'll love, or to see someone get really sucked into a story for the first time. Go reading! ;)