When my children were younger, they didn’t have a lot in common except their distaste of reading. Whereas, I spent my entire childhood getting lost in books and even became a literacy teacher because I loved reading so much. You can imagine my disappointment when they weren’t experiencing the delight of rich words and living vicariously through texts. Through my graduate studies, I knew that reading aloud to children is "the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading." So, even into elementary school, I continued to read to them every night. I was teaching middle school literacy at the time and found some of my students devouring a particular book, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, every minute of their spare time. I found the title intriguing and I decided to give it a try for my daughter’s read aloud.
Rick Riordan literally changed our lives. His ingenious opening lines hooks you instantly- “Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood. If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life.” Riordan’s clever use of humor, sarcasm, and Greek mythology set in modern times is irresistible for many children (and even adults). My little seven-year- old scientist, who spent most of her time digging up the natural world, became an avid reader in a matter of a few days. We were a few chapters in when something came up and I couldn’t read to her one night. She couldn’t wait to find out what was happening and picked it up on her own. Not only did she relish all sixteen of his books in various series, but she became intrigued by Greek mythology and earned a gold medal for a national Greek mythology exam.
When my son was ready to hear the tales of Percy Jackson in The Lightning Thief, the exact same scenario happened. I was tied up one night and he took the book for a spin on his own. He now had something he was dying to talk to his sister about. A true friendship between my children was born thanks to one amazing book. Not only did they have many discussions about their favorite parts of the series, but they would spend hours on car trips making up hilarious haikus like one of Riordan’s characters. Instead of devouring facts about mythology like my daughter, my son is a visual learner and enjoyed creating comics depicting his heroes. These self-directed extensions made my teacher’s heart happy and forged the bridge of friendship for them to connect on other topics of interest. I personally became such a fan of Rick Riordan, that going on a road trip with my kids to hear him speak has been my favorite adventure with them to date.
It was hard for them to find books that rivalled their devotion to Rick Riordan, but watching the Harry Potter movies with the neighbors kindled their interest in branching out. Some reading enthusiasts feel books should always be read before watching movies and that graphic novels are inferior to the originals. But does it matter? A simple research fact is that the more students read, the better readers they become. If your child isn’t a passionate reader yet, keep looking for his/her Percy Jackson. Trust me, it can all change overnight.