Author Meg Medina on Raising Readers

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    What do you get when you put two local children’s literature authors in a room? The Girls of Summer reading list. That’s what happened when Meg Medina became friends with Gigi Amateau, a southern-style young adult author. Motivated by their frustration with typical high school summer reading lists, Meg and Gigi wanted to find books to guide their own daughters through the struggles of high school. They wanted to recommend moving books, that celebrate a girl’s connection to the world around her. You can read the pair’s list online at Girls of Summer.

    That’s great news for parents of girls! But with television, video games, Facebook and smart phones, we’ve all had trouble getting our kids to read, especially boys. So we asked Meg, as a writer and mother, is she worried? What did she do to keep her son reading? Here’s what she said:

    “There are a lot of people worried about boys and reading. You know, I think there are a number of excellent male authors writing for the male voice. I think that getting someone to read is a tricky thing. My house is crammed with books; there is not a room in my house that doesn’t have books. So my son, Alex, sees both of his parents reading for pleasure often. He also went through this time of being electronically-oriented and reading only for the sake of school. But I stay after him. I gave him Clay by David Almond and Christopher Paolini’s Aragon when that came out. My kids were really read to as children. They saw a lot of examples of reading and I recommend books all the time to Alex.

    I guess I would say don’t despair. And I would also say, don’t judge. Because, my oldest daughter has developmental disabilities and didn’t read for a long time. When she was 12 she was struggling with simple books. And then, she watched television. All those shows that I don’t love, but then we went to Barnes and Noble and she found the section that has TV turned into books, like almost verbatim. And I thought to myself, Oh bleh! I’m so ashamed! Well guess what? My daughter reads. She knew the characters and could pronounce the words or guess at the words because she had practiced them via TV. And at night Christina’s reading or she has an audio book going.

    So you know, it’s a mysterious thing. But, I guess, for me, it’s what need it fills for the reader. For me and my other daughter Saundra, it fills a need of wondering about the world and people and what moves us. For my son, the need that it fills is for action and adventure, for something to do. And for Christina, I think it’s companionship. So I don’t know what the mystery of reading is, except that I would say to just fill your house with a lot of examples of good books and a variety of things to read.”

    To get kids into reading:

    1. Try male authors for boys. Jon Scieszka and Kwame Alexander are two recommendations.
    2. Offer devices like the Kindle if real books aren’t doing it for kids.
    3. Read aloud to your kids to show them it’s important and to engage them.
    4. Don’t judge your children’s choices. To develop an appreciation of reading, they have to want to read the books.
    5. Attend book talks and reading events, and try to connect your kids with the people writing the books they love. Treat authors like literary rockstars.