Monday, May 20, 2013

  Tolkien, J.R.R. Lord of the Rings Part I. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954. Print.

About the Ring and Other Matters Related to YA Reading…

If you have never read or heard of the story about a hobbit and a ring, you probably have been living under a rock, or more likely, you are a rock.  If you have not actually read the volumes of The Lord of the Rings, and have only seen the movies -- you are missing out, as well, but I’ll give you leave on being a rock…for now.  Nevertheless, if you so choose to let movies be your guide to learning and stories, than perhaps this is not the place for you!

As I begin to write more regularly here, I am interested in knowing how parents are getting their tweens and teens to read.  (FYI - Did you know that J.R.R. Tolkien first used the term “tweens” to describe young hobbits?)  Yes, some of our own young “hobbits” love to read and continue to read voraciously, but more often than not, we see an abhorrence for reading enter the picture in about middle school.  The rolling of the eyes and huffing and complaining about Language Arts and reads like Of Mice and Men and Lord of the Flies begin, and to what I might add, are really not very boring…but something happens, and we cannot deny it…study after study says it is happening and the young reader is turning into an LP of whining utterances related to reading.  Remember though, young people are actually “reading” a lot…social media, web, cellphones…you know it…they really can read, can’t they? 
Do you remember sitting in a rocking chair, watching little hands grasp the picture book page and turn it – hungering for what lies beyond?  Drool and chocolate pudding finger stains left their mark on well-worn and well-read books your little ones could not put down…but all of a sudden…poof!  It’s gone like dieting at an Old Country Buffet.  I cannot say I can help you, but I think it is important to turn kids on to stories in books first, rather than turning them on to movies about books.  Young people nowadays are attuned to easy and immediate satisfaction.  So, lingering on books seems a little…well, boring.  We can throw our hands up in the air and give in, saying kids are kids and they don’t have the capacity to learn how to read or enjoy reading, but that’s not true....picture this...mother prying cellphone from hands of 14-year-old who says "they will die" if they can't have their phone back...well, because they ARE reading is striking the balance that is difficult!

There are options to use for reading that can spark the interest and help young people become better readers…and it can be developed if your child is not or has not been a great reader.  Reading sparks the imagination, and we know that society as a whole functions on creativity and imagination.  Without it, life would be a turntable of endless blah…we need to develop the imagination in our young people today and reading “stories” can help.  

Now…back to the story of a hobbit and a ring.  This is a classic story of a battle between good and evil, but is mostly a story of self-sacrifice and perseverance…something we all can learn from.  If you don’t have much back story on The Lord of the Rings, I’ll keep it simple, but will say that after enormous edits and versions and what not, J.R.R. Tolkien’s book is available today in many forms…e-book and hardcover galore. At the ripe ole age of 13, I devoured these volumes one right after another, and recently, I picked up the work again, but I noticed a unique experience.  The story is tedious initially…now, to most writers nowadays, it is a colossal failure that a key or inciting incident does not start off the book with a bang…but here’s the deal – the story is worth it and though it may take a while before Frodo actually begins his journey to Mordor, your young reader will begin to understand that more often than not, good things take time and like good food, it is better when done slowly and savored.  

We cannot possibly believe that tweens and teens are not capable of harnessing their need for immediate gratification and cannot read a book.  Teens are capable of more than we give them credit for…pick up this story and if they have seen the movie, have them take mental notes of the differences and how Tolkien wrote it, and how Jackson interpreted it.  Like anything, teens need responsibility and things to do…so give them something to do and then reward them for completing it, in some way.  It helps. 

In closing, stories are not meant to be similar to a drive through window where instant satisfaction is achieved by tossing hurried morsels made by who-knows-what and handled by who-knows-whom…don’t give up on your teen when it comes to out for your young one quality stories that have been handled with care and written from the heart…and like The Lord of the Rings, took many years in the making. -- J.M.Mills