Friday, August 6, 2010

Reading Buddies

How I wish I’d had How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills when I was teaching reading and writing!

Yes, it’s a book about learning to read, but it’s also a story of bonding over books. Have you ever thought, “Ooo, I like this person!” because you liked the same books, the same characters? Or admired someone with whom you disagreed about a book because he or she was so passionate in defense of that beloved story or poem or biography (or so eloquently against it)? Maybe once or twice they even persuaded you, or at least got you to think about something differently, or to return to a passage and reread it.

At the risk of alienating you, I’ll admit that I am one of the few people in America who does not love Eat, Pray, Love. I acknowledge there are some scenes described by Gilbert that are truly memorable, such as some of the cultural traditions of Bali in the “Love” section. But I found Gilbert’s voice disingenuous. I have, however, had some thought-provoking conversations about this book. One of my favorites was with a friend who, when I told her my reaction to the book said, “Oh, I heard the first section was annoying, so I skipped “Eat” and just read “Pray, Love.”

I have another friend who, at the time when Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities was all the rage, felt bogged down in the middle, so he just skipped to the end. I had always been a traditional “start at the beginning and go straight through” sort of reader, and even though I, too, had felt bogged down in the middle of Vanities, I kept plodding through the pages. But after that conversation, I started abandoning books that didn’t hold my attention. That was a big change for me, and I enjoyed reading more because I only read the books I liked (I stuck with Eat, Pray, Love because it was so important to several people who kept recommending the book until I read it; but that was an exception, not the rule). I share that strategy with young readers because I’d rather see them toss aside one book than to give up on reading for pleasure completely.

I admire the little yellow bird in How Rocket Learned to Read. She knows just which story will pique Rocket’s interest and just when to stop reading to keep him coming back. All of us who love books know that he has a wonder-filled journey ahead of him, especially with his reading buddy at his side.


  1. I have a stack of books next to my bed --because I never know what I will be in the mood for -fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc... sometimes a book doesn't work in the winter --it needed summer sun to get into my brain. Anna Karenina got put back on the shelf several times then one day, I opened it and swallowed it whole.

    I will check this book out for my girls! It sounds great! We have a fun little home school book project with weekly reading challenges, hope you come by, we've been following your RSS feed and think you'd like our website!!

  2. I do like your Web site, especially your entry on ANNA KARENINA and how the book touched the entire family in various ways (including 3-year-old Big Sister who toted it around for months!). My favorite line about AK was the response Hemingway reportedly gave when asked the secret of good writing: "Read ANNA KARENINA. Read ANNA KARENINA.Read ANNA KARENINA."