A Determined Dad

Josie Leavitt - January 13, 2012

The customer strode in and asked where Huckleberry Finn was. He was almost chortling as I handed him the book. “This will get them reading.” Curious, I asked what he was talking about. Gleefully, he explained what he was planning.
It turns out he has twin 11-year boys who are too smart for their own good. They were given Kindle Fires for Christmas (it was from the grandparents who live 1,500 miles away, don’t get me started) and they’ve discovered they can fake read. These boys, Dustin and Tom, set up their device with a book and show their Dad what they’re reading. Then their father goes back to what he’s doing and the kids Google the book and look up key plot points to discuss at breakfast.
The Dad had had it. He was determined that all three of them were going read Huck Finn if it kills him. I cannot write what he actually said, except to say he needed to contribute fifty cents to the swear jar. While I loved his enthusiasm for getting his boys to read, I was dubious about his methods. Nothing sucks the joy out of a reading venture than being told, “We’re going to read this and we’re going to like it.” I lobbied that perhaps this venture could start out just as the father wanting to share a book with the boys, not force it. Elizabeth overheard this strategy and came over with a Flying Pig favorite, A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears by Jules Feiffer. He loved the idea of a funny book to start things off. Next we gave him My Side of the Mountain to have as the second book, then come right in with Huck Finn.
The father has vowed to keep us posted about how his reading plan progresses, and when I hear more, I’ll repost. I can’t wait to see how the first week goes.

11 thoughts on “A Determined Dad

  1. Cathy Ogren

    This post made me laugh. Kids! What would we do without them? I liked the way you convinced the father to try another approach to reading. I can’t wait to hear the outcome.

  2. Sandy Brehl

    I LOVE the way you handled this. And I admire the dad paying enough attention to figure out the scheme. I check your posts regularly, and hope there is no way I will miss the updates. Feiffer, George, and Twiain- if that doesn’t turn them into “real” readers, those twins are hopeless!

  3. Sandy Brehl

    LOVE this post. And the way you coached the dad- first by listening, then by advising rather than dictating, much as you coached him to do with the boys. I rarely miss your posts and I’m really anxious to read the follow-up to this one.
    Feiffer, George, and Twain- if that team doesn’t turn the boys into readers, those twins are hopeless!

  4. MHB

    Perhaps if Dad informs the boys that Huck Finn has a long and distinguished history of being “banned” by right-thinking bluenoses – that should prove an incentive to actually read the book.

  5. Kirsten Ringer

    Hoorah!! Thank you so much for guiding Dad, and hence the twins, into what will surely be a lifetime love of reading. Not pedantic or preachy, and exactly what I look for in my booksellers.

  6. Tim tocher

    Incidents like this demonstrate why no electronic device could ever replace a committed independent bookseller.

  7. Lynn Almer

    I too like the way you handled the situation and agree with many of the comments already posted. There is no question that you are in the right business and the right place at the right time. Thank you both for your great work with the reading public. Thank God for you and your bookstore.

  8. Amber

    Hi Josie,
    Aside from the main point of this post, I am puzzled by your comment:
    “They were given Kindle Fires for Christmas (it was from the grandparents who live 1,500 miles away, don’t get me started)”.
    I’m wondering about what it is we’re not supposed to get you started on. Grandparents buying Kindle fires for eleven year olds? Grandparents who live 1,500 miles away? The combination of the distance and sending Kindle Fires? I’m genuinely curious as I can’t place what the purpose of the aside is.

    1. Josie Leavitt

      Normally, upon hearing a customer has gotten a Kindle I would launch into my usual spiel about why Kindles are bad for Indies, but because the long-distance grandparents did it, and the father was in the store buying actual books, I let it go. Sometimes I have to know what battles to fight, and I felt this one would have felt like I was chastising him for something his in-laws did. I just wanted to focus on his book needs.


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