Sunday, November 10, 2013

Geeks hatch from Bookworms

I have been thinking for quite a while about what is the most important thing to ensure your child is a geek. Crazy coding skills? Knowing all Star Trek characters by heart? Knowing more about spiders than about personal hygiene? No, none of these.

The answer I keep coming back to is reading. Being able to read, but more importantly enjoying to read, and making it a passion.

I keep telling my kids, once you can read, you can be anything. You can learn about and become an expert in anything you want. The mating rituals of hunting spiders, the technical specifications of matter-antimatter reactions, the best technique to make the perfect cookie icing. Because isn't that what true geeks are, innately passionate and knowledgeable about the detailed working of their chosen field? If you want to hatch a geek, you need to start by growing a bookworm. To quote Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors, raising your kids as bookworms "that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them".

By Stewart Butterfield (flickr)

I try to guide, but not to judge the literature they choose, after all they are the ones who need to enjoy it. Evel Knievel is currently inhaling the Captain Underpants series. (Yes, exactly what it sounds like, a super hero in Underpants. You must be 6 to find that funny.) He even forgoes recess for these books, which if you'd know him is usually only caused by severe fever and illness. Well, I read every Discworld book ever published, so who am I to judge.

We encourage reading by having a few fixed time slots a day for reading. Every morning in the car on the way to the daycare, Mr Entropy reads a book aloud to me and his sister. After lunch on weekends, what used to be nap time is now reading time, and the boys curl up in different corners of the living room to read on their own.

Reading corner in our kitchen for a quick read between breakfast and the school bus.

Then before bed we read aloud together, and we imagine worlds together. In a recent speech, Neil Gaiman phrased this much more eloquently that I ever could.

"And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You're being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed."

Reading corner in Evel's bedroom.

You know you are on a good track to raise a geek, when the lady in the library greets your child with "Oh, you again!" :-)

By Craig Conley from Durham, NC, US (Rainbow Bookshelf)

What my children like to read:
- The Magic Treehouse
- A-Z Mysteries and other books by Ron Roy
- Captain Underpants and other books by Dav Pilkin
- The Boxcar Children
- Children's history encyclopedia (not making this up)
- Leveled science and history books at This is a subscription website. You get 20 free downloads per day during a free 7-day trial period. Very targeted to the child's reading level. Younger readers can color in the books after you printed them on paper.

How do you encourage reading in your home? Please share and leave a comment!

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