If you’ve been reading my blog, you might remember a long time reader, Dee, whose son was (operative word!) a reluctant reader.
She wrote me in 2012:
Over the summer, I’m trying to spark an interest in history and social studies with Dylan. He’s going into fifth and finds the subject so boring. I’ll admit, the way they teach it is not exciting.
This past year, it was American social studies, mainly focused on regions. He came alive when we’d read the snippets of stories, like the one recently about a young girl moving with her family from the city to the prairie. So I was thinking of Willa Cather for that. But it could be about the Gold Rush, about pilgrims, about the Alamo, you name it. Anything history or culture related.
I envision us reading them together and I’ll definitely end up doing a lot of the actual reading.
“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” – Ignacio Estrada
I wrote a post for her on 5th Grade Chapter Books To Make Social Studies Exciting but it didn’t help Dylan much.
image from The Friends of Tower Hamlet Cemetery Park
Over the years, I learned through the comments that she left, that she put Dylan into a summer camp called SOAR, a movement that teaches kids using nature as the classroom. She might have done this as he entered Middle School or perhaps the year after that. It really changed Dylan. This was a great learning environment for him and his self esteem got a boost. But still, he wasn’t reading for pleasure (like my son as well).
This past summer, she read my post on Planning a Family Vacation in Quebec City, Canada and asked me to retrieve their family camera that Dylan accidentally left behind at a restaurant. The restaurant owner was holding it for them; he’d mail it but the Canadian mail service was about to go on strike so it could be some time before it arrived.
My family enjoyed this scavenger hunt and we were going to Frontenac anyway. We got the camera felt like a small miracle and brought it back with us to Boston. As I packed up the box to mail to Dee, there was some room left, so I added a few books for Dylan including a book from Keith Hemstreet and Patti Wheeler’s excellent Travels with Gannon & Wyatt series. I had read a few of the books and loved how it’s a realistic action adventure of two brothers who traverse the world, learning about the environmental impact of man on nature while in the midst of danger and intrigue.
I actually remember which Gannon & Wyatt books I sent, but months later, Dee wrote on a comment that the Gannon & Wyatt book got Dylan reading for pleasure for the first time! She bought him a few more of the books which he read eagerly.
I reached out to author Keith Hemstreet to ask if he would send Dylan a few more books — after all, this is a reading miracle! The act of transforming a reluctant reader into a reader is cause for celebration in my book. I also thought that having Dylan’s favorite author mail him books would seal the deal on reading forever.
Keith wrote back to me:
I was thrilled to receive this email and would be happy to send Dylan a couple additional Travels with Gannon & Wyatt books. In fact, if you have sent him the Great Bear Rainforest and Hawaii, I’ll ship him the remaining four books in the series with a personal note attached. I can probably get them in the mail by the end of the week.
Thank you so much for promoting our series and creating this special connection with one of our readers.
To those of us who struggle to get our kids reading, this is a victory for parental persistence and the power of the right book, at the right time, to the right child to spark that love of reading. That book exists for every child, and it’s a scavenger hunt to make this connection. The lesson, though, is that’s it’s never too late. Thank you again to Keith Hemstreet for making this miracle happen!
p.s. For Gannon and Wyatt fans, here’s some inside information from Keith:
We have plans to publish a minimum of 6 more books in the series — Australia, Cuba, Iceland, American Southwest, China and a TBD location in South America. However, we are taking the next 12-24 months to write these manuscripts and promote the six books we have, so book #7 won’t be available until the end of 2018 or early 2019.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.