Few things warm a parent’s heart more (especially a parent who is an educator) than seeing one’s 10 year old child voraciously devour two relatively long books in a single week. :-) As I have detailed previously (see “The power of reading” and “Gifts from Christopher Paolini”) access to diverse, interesting texts, time to read, and support in reading have been the keys to my son joining “the literacy club” the past two years. Most recently (this past week and weekend) he’s devoured Rick Riordan’s “The Sea of Monsters” and “The Titan’s Curse.” These are respectively books 2 and 3 in the series, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” which begins with “The Lightning Thief.” I was informed tonight that we’ll need to make a trip to Barnes and Noble tomorrow to purchase book 4, “The Battle of the Labyrinth.” It takes exactly 1 nanosecond to analyze this situation and determine whether or not family funds should be expended to support this addiction. Of course we will buy book 4! We could check it out from the library, but given the enthusiasm with which Alexander has embraced this series I’m sure both my wife and I will want to read these books too, and eventually perhaps Alexander’s younger sisters as well. Good literature is often even more pleasurable when it can be subsequently experienced via group conversations with family and friends. I look forward to not only reading and enjoying these books on the recommendation of my son, but also engaging him in conversations about the themes, characters, and ideas raised in these books which are surely thought-provoking given his high levels of motivation in reading them!

This latest family literacy success story came about because of the influence of one relative (who happens to be an excellent librarian) and one of Alexander’s fourth grade peers. This was the timeline:

  1. Alexander’s Aunt gave him “The Lightning Thief” for Christmas this past year.
  2. About a week ago, one of Alexander’s friends (who is an avid reader and Alexander highly respects) told him that he LOVED that series by Rick Riordan.
  3. Being finished with other books he’s been reading, Alexander started to read “The Lightning Thief” and became immediately hooked!

Although Alexander is still keeping up his villages in Travian, playing the occasional game on our Wii and tending to other responsibilities at home, for the past week he has been riveted to the pages of these books at almost every opportunity- whether we are at home or driving somewhere in the car. Stephen Krashen articulates well the conclusions we can draw from years of educational research about reading and literacy, but I have the privilege as a parent of seeing the validity of those conclusions dramatized right before my very eyes as I type these words. Certainly it is true people learn to read in different ways, and no “one size fits all” when it comes to reading INSTRUCTION. That said, however, the recipe of providing learners with ready access to diverse texts in which they have a strong interest is FANTASTIC for helping cultivate the skills of reading, writing, and literate communication.

Thank you Rick Riordan! You are my new hero! :-)

If you’re wondering whether or not this book series is for you or for another reader you know, consider the following plot summary from the author’s website:

What if the gods of Olympus were alive in the 21st Century? What if they still fell in love with mortals and had children who might become great heroes — like Theseus, Jason and Hercules? What if you were one of those children? Such is the discovery that launches twelve-year-old Percy Jackson on the most dangerous quest of his life. With the help of a satyr and a daughter of Athena, Percy must journey across the United States to catch a thief who has stolen the original weapon of mass destruction – Zeus’ master bolt. Along the way, he must face a host of mythological enemies determined to stop him. Most of all, he must come to terms with a father he has never known, and an Oracle that has warned him of betrayal by a friend.

A heroic quest? Satyrs, weapons, and interactions with the gods? A prophesy? Sounds like a winning combination! My review will likely follow later this summer! :-)

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  • http://m3teacher.blogspot.com efreeman

    Just read your post. I have been reading ‘The Lightning Thief’ every year for the past 3-4 years to my classes (aged 9-11). I have yet to meet a child that does not enjoy this amazing series. It has inspired lots of fantastic learning and got reluctant readers reading.
    I have kids come back year after year wanting to borrow the next book!
    I have just started reading it to this year’s class and they are all mesmerised too.
    An extra bonus is that Rick Riordan was/is a teacher and has developed an excellent Teacher’s companion jam-packed with activities :)

  • http://kcaise.wordpress.com Kim Caise

    Wes, thank you for sharing this story. It really touched me and I was thrilled to hear a youngster devouring books! I don’t need to tell you about the great things that you can do to follow up with the books read but the opportunities for bonding over literature is plentiful. Experiences like this are what keep me in education and make it all worth while. Thank you for lifting me up with your story.

  • http://booksandboys.blogspot.com Max Elliot Anderson

    Hi,

    I grew up as a reluctant reader. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for boys 8 and up, that kids hate to put down. My web site is at http://www.maxbooks.9k.com and my Books for Boys blog is at http://booksandboys.blogspot.com
    Ranked by Accelerated Reader

    Max Elliot Anderson

  • http://onourmindsatscholastic.blogspot.com Jen Boggs

    I work at Scholastic, and we call it “motivation” and “high-interest material,” but adults like reading the things they’re interested in too! When I was working on the launch of book seven of Harry Potter last summer, I heard kids– and teenagers– tell me over and over again that they never liked to read before Harry. It just takes that one book to unlock that love. Lately, I’ve been reading Walter Dean Myers (Fallen Angels, Sunrise Over Fallujah) to see why a lot of boys like those books. Quite the opposite of Rick Riordan’s stuff, but just as compelling.

  • http://onourmindsatscholastic.blogspot.com Jen Boggs

    I just read my post– I mean “Fallen Angels,” not “Falen angles.” Can you make the correction? Thanks!

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Jen: Thanks for your comment– I edited it and fixed the typo. :-)

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