Elle Cosimano

Tale of a Reluctant Reader

My 8 year old son was a reluctant reader. A VERY reluctant reader. But he also has some VERY unique challenges.

My son has Tourette Syndrome, which causes his body to experience frequent motor and verbal tics. He is unable to control or stop the blinking, facial grimaces, eye rolling, loud and persistent sniffing, shoulder shrugs, leg squats, hand motions, toe curls, and abdominal crunches. Nor is he able to silence the constant repetitive counting and intrusive thoughts inside his head.

Given all that, could you really blame him for not wanting to sit still over even the best of books?

I was beginning to wonder if he would ever enjoy reading. If he would ever curl up in a sunny window with a favorite book and escape for hours into his imagination, as I often do. Or if he would always dread it as though it were some torturous punishment he was forced to endure. The very thought of all he’d be missing broke my heart.

One day, on a whim, I picked up the first three books of The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. The chapters were short, the print was large, and the subjects were fascinating and diverse. The covers promised intriguing tales of mummies, dinosaurs, and knights. Magic and mystery all woven into simple stories with likable heroes. He read the first one — reluctant and slow — and actually came back for more… on his own!

Eureka! I’d found books he liked enough, even for all his discomfort, to READ!

As luck would have it, he’d just been assigned his very first book report. He chose to do his report about The Knight At Dawn (Book 2 of the Magic Tree House series). My mother spent hours laboring over his book report with him. We made him color-coded flashcards, and colorful props, and listened while he practiced in front of our family. Speaking in front of a group (as you can imagine) is no small challenge, but he was proud of his book report and tackled the presentation with a knight’s poise and a hero’s courage.

Bag and Props

And he still wanted to READ!

I decided to strike while the iron was hot. I googled the author, the series, and even fanned them on Facebook. We found the tour dates for The Magic Tree House Passport to Adventure. It was coming soon to our state! So I did what any overzealous Type A mother would do… I scheduled a field trip.

It was a long journey to the big city where Jack and Annie, the main characters in the series, were scheduled to appear. In preparation, we downloaded four of the Audiobooks so we could listen together in the car. And we drove two hours to Fairfax, VA, to meet Jack and Annie in person!

Jack and Annie

Connor and his Book

The actors performed a few musical numbers for the kids, and talked with them about the joys and benefits of reading. The children were told they could all take a Secret Oath, committing to do three simple things in order to become Reading Ambassadors:

  1. Read 5 books in the next 30 days
  2. Carry their reading passports with them and record the books they’ve read
  3. And help someone else learn to read

 

Great lessons, even for adults. What I heard was:

  1. Set a goal for yourself
  2. Measure and keep track of your progress toward that goal
  3. And help others along the way

 

Suddenly, reading was full of texture and color and sound and movement. It was meaningful! There were real faces he could associate with the story, and they were standing close enough to touch him!

At the event, I purchased my son the newest release in the series, a beautiful hardback book with a colorful jacket. The actors signed his book, presented him his passport, and allowed us to photograph him with them. He was so thrilled (and not just because he thought Annie was beautiful or because he thought Jack was actually Daniel Radcliffe!)

Signing

My son has since informed me that he plans to read the entire series… all 45+ books… himself. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

He loves to READ!

There is hope for even the most reluctant reader. And I am eternally thankful to the children’s authors whose creativity makes reading an enchanting experience for my kids. Extra special thanks to Mary Pope Osborne, Jack and Annie, and the bookstores who support events like the Passport Adventure! You truly put the magic in the Tree House stories!

Apr

06, 2011 |

Filed in:

Book Recommendations,Elle's Life

One Response to “Tale of a Reluctant Reader”

  1. Kelly Barwick says:

    I love this! What a fabulous new world for your son to explore!

    BTW, did you see that Mary Pope Osbourne will be at the SCBWI LA Conference? 🙂

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