Thursday, March 26, 2009

Holiday reading... and a breakthrough

During the one-week March holidays, my kids got more reading done than usual. This was a conscious effort on my part because I'd been feeling that my kids don't spend enough time reading. Lesley-Anne because her schedule is always so packed and Andre because he lacks interest.

So during the holidays, I made the kids fit "reading time" into their timetables (I find that with my kids, if I specifically pencil something in instead of vaguely leaving it to "when you're free", it's much more likely to get done.)

Finding books for Andre has always been a perplexing task for me - he just isn't interested in reading. I find that this seriously handicaps him in his use and comprehension of the English language. Then at a recent family gathering, Kenneth's niece said she stumbled upon this series of books that her son loves. Her son is a year younger than Andre and also dislikes reading, so I was instantly all ears. The series is Beast Quest by Adam Blade. It's about a boy who goes on a quest to free the Magical Beasts of Avantia which have been enchanted by the evil wizard Malvel.

So during the holidays, I borrowed one of the books from the library and guess what? I couldn't believe it - Andre was so engrossed he overshot his allotted reading time and finished the book in one sitting. After that, he recounted the story to me very enthusiastically and asked if I could get my hands on the other books in the installment. Wah! Tio beh pio (touch lottery).

The appeal is that it is in the fantasy genre with lots of imaginative monsters and creatures that boys just love, and the writing is simple and easy to understand, unlike most other fantasy books. That night, we went to Borders but they were practically all sold out of Beast Quest, it's that popular. They had only two titles left - I bought one and get this, Andre offered to pay for the other himself out of his savings. Later that week, we bought another two from the Popular Expo sale.

The thing is, I'm reluctant to buy too many of them because it's a very expensive endeavour. There are a total of five Quests in the series with six books in each Quest, so that makes it a total of 30 books (and that's at last count, I believe the author is still churning them out). Plus each story is very short so it's not really value for money. So we've decided to borrow them instead, from Kenneth's niece who has generously agreed to lend whatever her son has.

Lesley-Anne too caught up with her reading during the one-week holidays. She was browsing through my library and caught sight of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I didn't recommend this in the past because I don't think it's that great (even though I went on to collect the whole series just because I'm obsessive that way). To my surprise, she was so absorbed in the series that she devoured all 13 books before the holiday ended. Which is a reminder for me that I should keep an open mind when it comes to my kids' reading.

She's currently very taken with a book that I highly recommend: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It's basically a holocaust story tracing the life of Liesel, an abandoned German girl, but it's told in an extremely imaginative way - from the point of view of Death. The theme that runs across the book is the use of colours as imagery, and the deaths of people are seen by Death as certain colours depending on the sky. Interestingly, Death is not portrayed as sinister but as a perceptive figment going about doing its job. It even comments that it is "haunted by humans". Beautifully written - two thumbs up for this book.

Reading has slowed down again, now that school has resumed but the progress over the holidays has been very encouraging. For Andre especially, it's delightful to see him engrossed in a book other than Tintin. Hope this inspires you to persevere with your reading efforts, mummies!


Lilian said...

You must have enjoyed all the peace and quiet when the Horn was absorbed in his book. You sound so happy, happier than striking 4D!

Brian never wanted to read Lemony Snicket even back in London when many of his classmates were reading the series. The Book Thief is a book many children rate as their favourite.

Will see if I can get hold of the book at the school library. Thanks for the rec.

monlim said...

Yah boy, can't tell you how relieved I am that Andre has finally found something he likes to read!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recs. Will check out these books the next time I go to a bookshop!

I have been wanting to read A Series of Unfortunate Events ever since I watched the movie. But I am obsessive like you are so I worry that if I get one, I'll end up getting all 13 and these books aren't cheap!


monlim said...

Penny: IMO, Unfortunate Events is not worth buying, there are better series out there like Artemis Fowl. Just borrow from the library if you're curious to read a couple of them. But The Book Thief is for keeps!

eunice said...

Thanks for the recommendation for Andre cos I can use it on Sean. Sigh.. he doesn't read as much as I would like and I don't want to force it on him. Will try it out on him.

Alcovelet said...

Congrats, Mon! And yup! You must have enjoyed the sound of ... nothing! Except your own typing on the keyboard, keke!

I'm so glad I'm not the only obsessive one!

Lilian said...

I managed to find a copy of Book Thief from the library, looks brand new. Brian pouted and sulked when I said he had to read it (he now likes to read this light-weight series called Animorphs, must be a boy thing); I said take it as required reading, you can't just read books that you like.

After a few pages, he still had a bad attitude and complained he didn't like it. I said, doesn't matter, just read. You're not to read anything else till you finish reading this. Now he's hooked and is still reading it. He says he likes it, but that the start of the book was confusing.

More recommendations please! And thanks again!

monlim said...

Haha, at that age, they don't like to be told what to read! Lesley-Anne refuses to read books I pick out for her, I have to leave them on the shelf and wait for her to choose them herself. Anyway, glad you persevered and he likes it now!

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