My 10-year-old was doing his homework last night when he asked casually: “Mummy, can we read The Illiad?”
I choked on my ice cream. “The…Illiad? Er, why do you want to read that?”
“Oh, it was on Phineas and Ferb.”
It turned out that his favourite TV cartoon did a re-enactment of the Greek poem by Homer – not Simpson – which got him interested in the Trojan War.
I’ve never read the Illiad (say EE-lee-ad), but I’m so happy that he suggested it. You see, my son is one of those kids you’d call a reluctant reader.
I’ve read to him from birth, but even in Primary 1 and 2, he preferred to be read to, rather than read on his own. He also prefers non-fiction to fiction (you should see his collection of dinosaur books).
I didn’t mind that until I realized that not reading stories affected his composition grades.
I’ve offered all kinds of story books. He found classics by Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton boring, so we went through the super popular bit cheesy Geronimo Stilton series, and Wimpy Kid in lower primary.
In Primary 3, he was hooked on the Beast Quest series, which a teacher chastised him for reading because it was about monsters killing monsters.
Last year was all about The Hunger Games – his sister introduced us to the gripping dystopian teen series and he actually read all three books. We continued to read at night, but he also brought the books to school and I was heartened to find that he read quite a few pages every day.
This year, he’s in Primary 5 and likes the gory, but hilarious Horrible Histories series. He’s now reading, of all things, Nick Vujicic’s Life Without Limits (his choice, again, out of the blue).
I think it’s helped his self-esteem to know that if Nick – who was born without limbs – can overcome life’s setbacks, so can he. At least, he’s stopped complaining how unfair it is that he has to study for a whole week for his ting xie (Chinese spelling), while other classmates can memorize the words overnight.
He may not understand all the nuances or the vocabulary, he may skip whole paragraphs because they’re boring, but what’s important to me is that he’s forming his own opinions and reading because he wants to.
So what if he’s still barely scraping by in English compo? He’s becoming a reader.
Thank you, Stephanie Yeo
Editor, Young Parents