Write about your experience and enter it in our contest. We will post the winning entry and send the winner a free book.
Submit your entry (between 400 and 700 words) to:. Place “adult writing contest” in the subject line. Include your first name and last initial (full last name is optional) and an email address we can use to notify you if you win. (We do not post or share your email address with anyone.) Winners will have their stories posted and will be awarded a book. We select at least one winner per month.
Check out Laura Langston’s Article “For The Love of Books” for some inspiration!
“My kid doesn’t read,” is a complaint I hear working as a bookseller and also as a published author, from frustrated parents. I can identify with this frustration, as I was also once considered a “reluctant reader.” I usually ask parents one of two things: What topics is your child interested in, and what are you reading right now?
When I was a teenager, I read dozens of comics. I also read every Dungeons and Dragons manual from cover to cover, and often more than once. But because these books were not “the classics,” they were not considered “real reading,” and so I was forced to read books in school such as Tales of Two Cities or – shudder – Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
There’s a funny thing about forcing a teenager to read. Our good intentions tell us that if we do so, he or she will magically come out the other side of the book with a love of reading: richer culturally, and with improved grades, of course. Eventually, reality has to replace good intentions and we have to admit to ourselves that all we’ve done is turn reading into a chore that the teenager will consider best avoided.
I read two of the probably two-dozen books required in high school: Cue for Treason and Lord of the Flies. Every other book I convinced a classmate to summarize for me, and I wrote my essays based on those summaries. From an educational viewpoint, I was not a reader.
Now as an adult, I ask parents if their reluctant reader is interested in comics or magazines. “That isn’t reading,” they’ll often tell me. And when I ask what they’re reading, they will tell me that they just don’t have the time for it anymore. I wonder how we can expect our kids to engage in something that we not only have turned into a chore, but also refuse to do ourselves by example?
At sixteen, I discovered the first novel that I enjoyed so much that I had to read more just like it. The Druid’s Tune by O.R. Melling, now out of print, was that magical novel that turned reading from a chore into an enjoyable pastime. When I moved on to the series The Belgariad by David Eddings, I even took my mother along for the ride. When I finished a book, she picked it up. When she finished, we had something to talk about – to connect with. This was the step that was missing from everyone else who tried to force me to enjoy reading: allowing me to read what interested me, and then taking an interest in it themselves. Eventually, I was willing to try exploring other genres.
I grew up in a household that never discouraged me from reading comics, and my mother saw Dungeons and Dragons as a blessing that kept me from getting into trouble. All of this reading eventually turned me on to novels, and those novels eventually inspired me to write my own. So now when parents tell me that they are discouraged that her teen reads only comics and magazines, I tell her that I was the same way. When she asks when I stopped reading comics and magazines, I tell her that when it happens, I’ll let her know.
Then I thank my mother for giving me the freedom to enjoy reading as a teen – whether or not she considered it actual reading.
“Have I told you the story about Edna Weebe”? I glanced toward the back seat and barely caught two girls rolling their eyes skyward in perfect unison. “Yes mom, you’ve told us the story before.” I pause a bit longer this time and lower my voice. “How about the one where Edna comes face to face with a blood sucking cat?” “Yes Mom.” I pause even longer. A dramatic pause. I sense the girls shifting a bit in their seats. Leaning forward toward me. “Now, I know for sure I have not told you the one about Edna falling in love with her teacher.” “Mom! You’re gross!”
“Okay then, if you have heard every single one of my Edna Weebe stories then it’s perfectly clear to me,” I say in my best British accent, “that I need some new catastrophes; new made-up friends; and new disasters! I need new places for Edna to fall into new yucky messes.” I pause for the last time and announce: “So shall we begin?”
I take a deep breath and state clearly, “Once upon a time there was a little girl called Edna Weebe. Your turn, Paige.” We all wait expectantly for Paige to speak. “And Edna was the shortest girl in her grade five class. Emily you’re next.” Silence. Emily ponders. “In fact, Edna was so short, she had to use an eraser as a desk. Dad your turn.”
The evolving story of Edna Weebe grew in fits and starts as we drove down the seemingly endless highway, with sporadic outbursts of laughing and squealing. “How ridiculous!” “How absurd!” “That would never happen!” And as the three of them yell back and forth I can’t help thinking to myself: I love this game!
In our family, this fun story building game has been one of the most effective ways to get our whole family reading (yes reading!). Although there are so many benefits, we have found that by creating these stories together:
It’s not just a fun game. It helps us all appreciate how much goes into the process of writing a short story, a novel or a movie. But most of all it’s a way that we can share our love of reading together as a family. It lays a foundation for those evenings when we are each reading our favorite book as we sit by the fireplace, having survived the journey home.