The Reluctant Reader

Barbara Vey -- December 1st, 2010

When I was at the Romance Writers of America conference this year, I got to meet Meg Cabot.  I’ve long been a fan of her work, loved the Princess movies and always get a great laugh from her home made You Tube videos.

So I  asked her to sign a book for my niece, who just turned 17.  Being the aunt, I wanted something with little to no sex (she is related and I have her parents to contend with).  Meg suggested The Boy Next Door.  She said it’s an adult book, but no sex.  Now, I’d already read the book a few years ago and enjoyed it.  I remembered that the whole thing was done with e-mails.  I took it home and re-read it before I gave it away.  It was as good as I remembered.

I took it over to my niece’s house and asked my sister to give it to her.  Our conversation:

Me: Please give this book to your daughter.  I had it signed by the author, Meg Cabot, who did The Princess Diaries.

Sister: She won’t read it.

Me: It’s an adult book done in emails, I think she’ll enjoy it.

Sister: She doesn’t like to read.

Me: I think if she tries it, she might be surprised.  I’ve already read it twice.

Sister: But you like to read.  I don’t want you to be disappointed when she doesn’t read it.

Me: Just give it to her and maybe she’ll try it.

Sister: She won’t read it.

At this point, I just left the book and hoped for the best.  My sister obviously knows her daughter better than I do.  Yes, I was disappointed and it really does hurt me somewhere deep inside whenever I hear the words, “I don’t like to read.”  It’s just an alien concept for me and I just can’t wrap my head around it.  But I move on hoping to find the next convert to feed whatever it is inside me that feels the need to put a book in everyone’s hand.

Yesterday my niece sent me a message on Facebook (I know, phone calls, visits and letters are becoming obsolete).  But here’s what she had to say, “…and i loved that book you got for me. i finished it in about 4 days. i read it twice already :) Yes, music to my ears.

We all wonder what our purpose in life is and I think I found mine.  Weird as it may sound, I get a natural high from sharing my love of reading with others.  I’ll never give up.  Maybe it’s just a matter of finding the right book for the right person or of actually getting someone to open the book and actually read the first few pages to get them hooked.

Do you find enjoyment in getting others to read?  Does hearing that a book you gave brought happiness to someone?  Any special books that brought unsuspected surprises?


Bottom Line: I’m off to the bank with a box of books for the tellers.  They love them.

39 thoughts on “The Reluctant Reader

  1. Edie Ramer

    I loved The Boy Next Door! I actually thought of it this week. I have a monster cold, which reminded me of a series of emails from the book.

    I gave my brother a Dick Francis book, and I know he’ll love it, if only he reads it.

  2. AmyB

    Funny video…I’ll have to check out her others! BTW…I couldn’t get my husband to read for years & years. About 6 months after our divorce, he informed me he has been reading a lot. Guess it was just me! Just another added benefit of the divorce. LOL!

  3. Eilis Flynn

    My husband has a cousin who FOR YEARS wouldn’t read his holiday newsletter, all of a page, because she said that “it was too long.” ONE PAGE? Then one day, she was bedridden during pregnancy, and was forced to crack open a book, a romance, when the TV was on the fritz. Miracle of miracles, SHE LIKED IT! Now, I make a point of sending a box of books for Christmas to keep her and the rest of the family reading!

  4. Kelsey Browning

    Hi, Barbara -

    Wonderful story about your niece. I would be interested to find out if this opens her up to other books and authors.

    My sister has always been a magazine reader, but books? No way. Last year, my mom was in the hospital and my sister (who is a mother of two, works full time and is in grad school) was driving back and forth to visit every ten days or so. To say my sister’s life was stressful was an understatement. Each day, the hospital volunteers put a cart of books in the hallway near the ICU, and I happened to see one of Janet Evanovich’s shorter Stephanie Plum books on it. I snagged it and gave to my sister, promising her she wouldn’t regret reading it.

    Well, she read it and we spent several long walks talking about Stephanie, Ranger and Morelli like they were people we knew personally. In the end, my sister bought several more of the Plum series books. She doesn’t have much time for fun reading right now, but I’m pleased to know she might come back to it one day.

    Happy Wednesday!
    Kelsey

  5. Kym Lucas

    Yes! Yes! Yes! It’s one of the best things about being a librarian! And, I’m so glad you were able to find a book your niece enjoyed!

  6. Jaymie

    I LOVE talking with other people – especially kids – about books! I recently coordinated the Scholastic Book Fair at my son’s school and my favorite part was talking with parents and students at Family Night about the books available and what book students might enjoy. I really felt like I was “in my element.”

  7. lo

    You know, Barbara — I think we do our kids the biggest disservice EVER by assuming that they don’t want to read. The fact is — they DO want to read. They just haven’t met the book of their dreams yet.

    I think it’s a noble mission to find those tomes that will really appeal to young readers in particular. This isn’t about making them read what WE want them to read. It’s about letting them fall in love on their own with a skill that will serve them for a lifetime…

  8. Alyssa

    If I am buying for kids, I will nearly always buy them a book (or a gift card to a bookstore). I try to pick something I think might interest them, and I hope that they might read. Even better if it is an author that already has several books published. :)

  9. Jade Lee

    Last year, my kids harassed me at Christmas for giving books. I give other things too, but most people get a book too. I told her, yeah, that’s me and that’s the hazard of gift giving. Sometimes people like what they get, sometimes they don’t. Too bad. I give books! And MOST of my relatives appreciate it!

  10. Meg

    Until a couple of years ago, I couldn’t convince anyone in my family to start reading. The only readers in our family were my mother and me.

    But then I got a job working in a bookstore. First I got my sister to start reading the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, and now she’s reading Twilight! Then my older brother started reading Harry Potter, and now he’s read Eragon and is working on the Lord of the Rings. And his girlfriend read the book by Hugh Laurie after I recommended it to her!

    It’s amazing how once they crack the book open, everything can change!

  11. Christine

    Never let any parent tell you that their kid won’t read. Unless they’re functionally illiterate if you can match up the right book/interest with the right kid, they’ll read (even if they’re embarassed about it). Too bad most e-readers are still so expensive although so many phones these days can download reading content as well. I think with all the elctronics kids are used to that e-devices may be the way to persuade them that online reading can be cool–if you can pry them away from the games and the texting. Of course the same thing can work with adult non-readers as well!

  12. Andy

    Being a person who doesn’t like to read, I can say with all honesty, that I’ve loved every book that I’ve read. Every one! (it’s more than one) I just wish that I could read books faster, like my Mom. If I could read a book in the time it takes me to watch an episode of Raising Hope, I would totally read more. All I’m saying is that, just because someone doesn’t read, doesn’t mean they don’t like books.

  13. Dianna Love

    You are THE ambassador for READING. We need a title for you because you are so passionate about books that it’s contagious – thank goodness. What a great story about your niece. She will remember the day reading became a major part of her world and how your thinking of her opened a door to so much more in her world. Huge kudos for being a book warrior.

  14. LaShaunda

    I know my calling is to introduce others to books. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. I say there is a book for everyone, you just have to find it. I love introducing books to those who say they don’t read and they call me up looking for more. All you have to do is plant the seed, the one good book. They say kids don’t read, but I don’t believe it. Find what they like and I’m sure there is a book on it. Glad your neice liked the book. I have to pick it up, sounds interesting.

  15. Rafaella

    I know exactly what you’re talking about! I’m always trying to make my friends read since everybody in my family does. And I don’t know if it’s my persuasion or if they would just find their way to books sometime but now most of them borow my books all the time and read everything I give to them. It is exactly as you said: “Maybe it’s just a matter of finding the right book for the right person or of actually getting someone to open the book and actually read the first few pages to get them hooked.” I feel so good when I can make a person like reading. I feel like that’s kind of my mission too.

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  17. Kathy Crouch

    Wonderful post Barbara. I enjoyed this story about your niece so much! I remember when I fell in love with reading. My mother took me to the library, when I was around 10 or so and said to me “Pick any book you like and we’ll take it home with us.” I stared at her and then all around at the numerous shelves loaded with books in awe. I think I picked about 4 books on horses and 1 by Harper Lee. I breezed through the horse books absorbing the knowledge like a sponge and would recite exactly how to tell a thoroughbred from a quarter horse to anyone who would listen. The last book was To Kill a Mockingbird. It took me longer to read, but that was only because I struggled to digest and understand the strong themes the story possessed. It challenged me and I sought to gain a better perspective of the world around me. It was then I realized how important reading could be. I’m also one of those pushy women trying to convert people to reading. Reading has been such a solace for me. I just want everyone to experience the magic with me.

  18. Debbie Kaufman

    Reading was my life from a very young age. I’d hide under the covers with my light and a book of favorite fairy tales long after bedtime had come and gone.

    When I taught school, one of my biggest joys was creating a classroom library. My ADD 7th grade boys could rarely use the school’s library, as they always had fines or a book missing since time began. But, even better was being able to help the kids who were reading below a 4th grade level and long since discouraged. Finding them books of interest that they could read and seeing it come to life for them, well, I still smile thinking about it.

    I’m glad we have you as (quoting Dianna) The Ambassador of Reading. Romance authors are especially lucky to have you in our corner!

  19. Sara Megibow

    Well done you!

    I have this strong belief that if our kids’ curriculum included relavant, recent, engaging books, we’d be creating more people who liked to read. I know, I know, I know – they are “the classics”, but if someone doesn’t finish BLEAK HOUSE, then how much have they learned from it anyway!

    Instead of reading 1984 for example, try GIRL PARTS by John M Cusick. Or, read them both in one semester and imagine the discussion we’d be having!

    I agree – sharing books is such a heart warming experience – I love finding others who share my passion.
    Thanks for the post!

  20. Sara Reyes

    I always gave books as presents and still do. Sometimes it’s a ‘gatekeeper’ that does the “xx doesn’t read” and they are totally wrong. If you find the right book and I so believe for EVERYONE there is the book that is perfect for them — you can hook them into reading. I’ve seen it over and over and over.

    And getting a book signed for a special person usually works too *grin*

  21. Maria McKenzie

    I think you have to determine what someone really likes before choosing a book for them. It’s especially hard to get young boys to read. My 11 year old HATES to read, but he loves Jeff Kinney’s The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Wish I could come up with an idea like that. Seems like all boys (those who love to read, as well as thoes who don’t) love those books!

  22. Catherine Mann

    Barbara, what a great blog! Loved the story about your niece. There are so many things competing for teens’ attention these days, it seems all tougher to get them to slow down and read a book. Purchasing an ereader has helped renew my teenage daughter’s interest in reading…. I think it’s the immediacy factor. The second she says she might be interested in a particular book, I’m already logging on to order it for her! (Strike while the iron’s hot, so to speak. :)

    Thank you again for all you do to bring new readers to the fold!

  23. Mary Buckham

    Barbara – talk about another amazing story! You made me laugh, cry and high five all in five minutes – thank you! What a way to change a person’s life forever – you get gold stars for being who you are – amazing!

  24. Caridad Pineiro

    My daughter was not a big reader, but then Avon came out with those historial romances for teens. She and her friends starting sharing them and soon she was reading regularly. That really made me happy because like you, a love of reading was something I wanted to share with her and with others. Thank you, Barbara for being such a wonderful ambassador.

  25. CarolOates

    I just found your blog because someone tweeted about the stopped series blog. It’s something I worry about as a writer.
    Anyway, as for trying to get people to read. I consume books, always have, while my brothers aren’t great readers. Two read for study and that’s about it. I’ve even taken to reading one brother’s research books just so I can talk to him about reading.
    I gave my neice bucket loads of books only to find out she had given them away. Having said that, the girl she gave them to since has contacted me and asked me to send her any books I don’t want anymore. Back to my neice, the only way I can get her to pay attention to a book is to actually read to her. She’s 15! I do it with the hopes one day she will find a series she really wants to know the ending to and will pick up reading herself where I leave off reading to her.
    Reading really is a gift for life, it’s a window into so many other worlds and adventures. I hate to think of people that aew missing out on it.

  26. Heather Bennett

    Barbara, LOVE the post.

    As a publisher, it is with a great deal of lip-biting that I admit to have a 7yr old and a 9yr old who aren’t particularly invested in the practice of reading. But most days we do follow homework protocol and read together for 20-30mins. The kids force me to put down my laptop in favor of my e-reader, we snuggle on the couch and read as a family. Sometimes they take turns reading to each other, sometimes it’s a blessed half hour of quiet while each is entrenched in another world.

    Last night I heard the magic words from my daughter. We’d gone over our 30min. time requirement and I’d purposely allowed them extra time to read before attending to nightly bedtime routines. My daughter said,”Just let me finish this page”, then turned with a smile when she was done and said,”I like this book.”

    It was an old Goosebumps I’d purchased on a whim for the kids’ bookshelf. I do believe I will be getting may more. :-)

    Heather
    @Decadent Publishing

  27. Barbara Vey Post author

    Thanks to all for your great stories of reading successes. They give me “Goosebumps.” :) I look forward to hearing more and I’ll be really pushing books this holiday season…it is the season for giving after all.

  28. Holly Bowne

    I’m going to have to check out that book, The Boy Next Door, for my daughter (who incidentally loves to read and has actually given ME some Meg Cabot books to read! Ha, ha!). And yes, I get a lot of joy out of referring a book to somebody and learning later how much they liked it. :o )

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