It may not be a technique approved by reading and writing experts, but it worked for my husband and his daughter. She was in grade school and struggling over a book, 10 or 15 pages into it, and ready to give up.
It was one of those times when kids start to puddle up and parents start to breathe heavily and you know you’re in for a learning moment. So they sat together on the couch, opened her book and started reading it. Backwards.
Some people would frown and call him a spoiler, but his intent was not to give away the ending. He wanted to show her that the story was indeed going somewhere. They turned to the second to the last chapter in the book, read it and he asked her, “How do you suppose they got to this place?” And then they backed up another chapter and he asked the same. Pretty soon she became interested in trying to figure out the path of the story, from the beginning. She started over and finished the book. And, the best thing, she became a dedicated, passionate, constant inhaler of books and a teacher, now sharing her love of words with second graders.
Another daughter became a lawyer which took her into a different world of reading and writing. Big books, hard words, lots of syllables, long tedious sentences. But in addition to mastering legalese, she can still tell a succinct, funny story. And she’s not shy about sharing her opinions in writing, sending advice to Barack Obama when he was a candidate and turning out newspaper commentary like one defending the president’s nomination of Dawn Johnsen to the office of legal counsel .
She’s also on the library board and this weekend hosts a fund-raiser where book lovers mingle with authors and dine inside the library. (Go to www.scplf.org)
Another daughter has her first book coming out next week, a memoir based on her first year as a stepmother. This one never intended to have children nor planned to be an author, but now there’s her picture on a shiny new Random House paperback. (See www.izzy-rose.com)
But we have books.
I’m bragging about my daughters because I’ve been thinking that parents pass on many things to their children they may not even recognize as valuable at the time. Our children will not inherit grand pianos and silver tea services, and forget those pitiful stocks. The house is no longer worth the money we put into it. But we have books, stacked and stored all over the house, including my husband’s “Life and Times of Wyatt Earp” and my “Golden Book of Fairy Tales” and a tiny Bible that my mother got when she was 11 from her parents.
As books become more endangered, the publishing industry walloped by the economy and competition from the internet, there are still many of us who can’t imagine a bath, a bedtime, a vacation, a stolen hour on the porch without a book. This week a woman stopped me at the gym to rave about the latest Rose Tremain novel. At a play a friend walked up and said “Astrid and Veronika” by Linda Olsson. I responded with, “Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan.
The latest pick by the youngest reader in the family, age three, is “A New Barker in the House.” It’s about a Welsh terrier family with twins that adopts a brother who speaks Spanish. Some people would have you read it over and over.