My book-loving boys, nearly 12 and nearly 7, are predisposed to reject my reading suggestions. If Dad suggests a book, it more often than not triggers a fight-or-flight (that is, argue-or-leave-the-room, or argue-then-leave-the-room) response from my older son, and my younger one has learned to follow suit.
Those boys are sweet, but they sure can be stubborn. However, the latter quality, at least, they get from me, so I’ve never been willing to give up on nudging them toward books I think they might love, and I don’t think I ever will.
Luckily, I’ve come up with an approach to book-suggesting that satisfies all our needs — my need to expose them to books that seem like a great fit, and their need to demonstrate their independence from Dad by rejecting (much of) what I offer.
I keep a list of books — middle-grade and lower-YA novels and nonfiction, mainly — that I think have a decent chance of slipping past their reluctance to read what I provide. (Reviews from the current issue of The Horn Book are my most reliable source.) Then I’ll get a half-dozen or so at a time from the library and announce that we’re having a First-Page Frenzy.
Then, in rapid succession and with both boys in the room (and perhaps with any future time — ever — on the Wii hanging in the balance), I’ll read the first page (or so; I sometimes cheat) of each book aloud.
And that’s it. After that, it’s back to whatever they and I were doing — unless, of course, one or more of those first pages has whetted an appetite for more. My younger son is more likely to zero in on one of my suggested books and request that I read him more right then, which is how we recently got started on Margi Preus’ magnificent Heart of a Samurai.
My older son is more likely to play it cool, to not grab one of those books right away to read on his own. Somehow or other, though, at least one of those First-Page Frenzy books seems to always wind up upstairs on the floor next to his bed.
Try it with Kat Falls’s Dark Life – it may not be EXACTLY the 1st page, but no boy I’ve tried it on has been able to resist Ty’s escape from the sharks that opens that book. I love the arbitrariness of the one-page thing – you could stop midsentence at a suspenseful part, pretending that that’s where the page break falls. I’m not above tricking children.
Oooh, thanks, Paula — I’ve just put that one on hold. And stopping midsentence sounds delightfully manipulative…
This works perfectly with my new idea (that I’ve been working on diligently for the last 45 or so seconds since I read your post and came up with it) of a book solely of first pages of other books I started to write but never finished…
that one will probably sell first :)