Posted by: Burlington Public Library (WA) | July 27, 2010

Warming the cockles of my heart

I met a young man in the library last night.  Let’s call him Miguel.  He came up to the Information Desk with a shy smile, and asked if we might have any books about soccer.  “Books about how to play soccer, or stories with soccer in them?”  I asked.  “Stories,” he said.  “I need to practice my reading.”

Boy comes to library to practice his reading.  In the summertime.  Words to engage this reader’s heart.  I smiled beautifically.  “What grade at you going into, Miguel?”  I asked as I looked through the library catalogue.  “Seventh,” he said, “but I don’t read good.  My teacher says I read like third grade.”

I found him a few chapter books and had him read a paragraph.  “How many words are hard for you in that paragraph?”    “Three or four,” he said, slowly sounding them out.  “That’s just right,” I told him, “hard enough to make you learn new words.”   He grinned again and thanked me, looking at the boy playing soccer on the cover.

“Shall we get you a couple of books that will be easy for you, too?” I asked, thinking that maybe some confidence-building would also be useful, even if the content was a little babyish for him.  Miguel thought that was a great idea, so we found a couple more and he checked them out.

A couple of things struck me about  Miguel.  First, he might be a total mischief-maker elsewhere, but he has a grin that will get him far in this life.  Second, he has a presence unusual for his age;  if he was a bit shy, he didn’t appear to be ashamed of his current proficiency, or hesitant to ask for help. 

A lot has been written in the last years about helping boys become readers.  If you’re interested, one place to look is   The popular blog “The Huffington Post” just this week had a post entitled Can fart jokes get boys reading? 

I guess meeting Miguel made me aware that for every motivated, vibrant brown-eyed cutie asking for help finding soccer books, there must be many others who need encouragement and coaxing and sustained attention to get a sense of the magic of books.  Maybe it takes a village to help a boy learn to read.  That’s a village I’d like to live in.
—– Mary Beth


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