Warming the cockles of my heart

I met a young man in the library last night.  Let’s call him Miguel.  He came up to the Information Desk with a shy smile, and asked if we might have any books about soccer.  “Books about how to play soccer, or stories with soccer in them?”  I asked.  “Stories,” he said.  “I need to practice my reading.”

Boy comes to library to practice his reading.  In the summertime.  Words to engage this reader’s heart.  I smiled beautifically.  “What grade at you going into, Miguel?”  I asked as I looked through the library catalogue.  “Seventh,” he said, “but I don’t read good.  My teacher says I read like third grade.”

I found him a few chapter books and had him read a paragraph.  “How many words are hard for you in that paragraph?”    “Three or four,” he said, slowly sounding them out.  “That’s just right,” I told him, “hard enough to make you learn new words.”   He grinned again and thanked me, looking at the boy playing soccer on the cover.

“Shall we get you a couple of books that will be easy for you, too?” I asked, thinking that maybe some confidence-building would also be useful, even if the content was a little babyish for him.  Miguel thought that was a great idea, so we found a couple more and he checked them out.

A couple of things struck me about  Miguel.  First, he might be a total mischief-maker elsewhere, but he has a grin that will get him far in this life.  Second, he has a presence unusual for his age;  if he was a bit shy, he didn’t appear to be ashamed of his current proficiency, or hesitant to ask for help. 

A lot has been written in the last years about helping boys become readers.  If you’re interested, one place to look is http://www.guysread.com/about/.   The popular blog “The Huffington Post” just this week had a post entitled Can fart jokes get boys reading? 

I guess meeting Miguel made me aware that for every motivated, vibrant brown-eyed cutie asking for help finding soccer books, there must be many others who need encouragement and coaxing and sustained attention to get a sense of the magic of books.  Maybe it takes a village to help a boy learn to read.  That’s a village I’d like to live in.
—– Mary Beth


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