Today, while I work on getting The Brotherhood formatted and loaded for print, I have a special guest. Chris Messer (elementary school teacher, husband, father, and long-time family friend) who is a very thoughtful scribe and should really consider writing his own novel (hint, hint), has graciously agreed to be my guest blogger. Thanks, Chris! Enjoy!
In today’s gratify-me-now culture, reading books seems a bitof an unconventional way to pass the time, especially if you are a kid. I mean there’re video games a-calling, movies-a-wooing, and TV to troll through. As ateacher of Sixth graders, often times in the weekly reading log I see books beingtraded faster than tweets and texts among the preteens. A new day, a new book. Where’s the consistency, the follow through,the commitment to a story? It takes aspecial story to captivate today’s fast-paced society.
For me,that introduction came in the Eighth Grade. As a child, I wasn’t that interested in reading. I enjoyed books based on astronomy, thepictures of distant planets and suns, comets streaking across the page as theyblazed across our skies, and far and foreign satellites orbiting endlessly. I read the captions, I readparts of the page, but that’s about as far as it went. For the most part, I was swept away on thewaves of imagination by the pictures. Oh,I read the obligatory books for class. You remember them, right? Theassigned reading books of the classics that the teacher doled out for our betterment? I never read them for the joy of reading them, merely to earn the grade and complete the assignment. And then there were the endless anthologies: a week a story and nevermore than three chapters in an actual novel.
Eighth Grade English changed all that when they forced us away from the anthologies and demanded that we write abook report for an actual novel. I remember having no idea what to read or where to start, so I approached my teacher, Ms. Lovelady, and she suggested that I read The Hobbit, byJ.R.R. Tolkien. Having no other recourse or resource, I went to the local book store (remember when they used to be in every mall?) and bought a copy of the 50 Anniversary of TheHobbit. The cover showed a portly little curly haired person, sword drawn, looking back over his green cape intoa green cave where a horrid creature with a bare chest and pale eyes bared his teeth behind a hooked nose. And just what has that person got his hand in his pocket for? The edition was authorized, the description said enchanting, and I read those first famous words, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” Needless to say, I was not only enchanted by the hobbit and the wizard, as well as their friends, I was enthralled. For the book report, I made a book, and for the first time, I really enjoyed reading. I approached Ms. Lovelady after presenting the report and asked if there were any other stories I could read that were ofthe same vein. She told me that the story continued in Lord of the Rings and that I might enjoy Ender’s Game or the writings of David Eddings. Armed with an appetite for fantasy, I joined the Sci-Fi Book Club,ravenous to read more.
That was the start of a large collection of books, many late nights reading past midnight under the covers, and battling on the ramparts against trolls, dragons, and all sorts of other shadowy evils. Fantasy epics still draw kids in today, beckoning them to pick up a book and extend their imagination inthe realms unseen. Boys and girls alike have heroes and heroines to look up to. Suzanne Collins has made crack into words with her latest work, TheHunger Games Trilogy. The addicting novels are hard to put down once picked up, and their subject matter is edgy, yet relatable. Kids can see into Katniss’ thoughts and feelings. She seems to spring to life right off the page as she struggles to survive. We, like the audience watching on their screens, desire to see what happens next and who will succumb to the games. The boys prefer to turn to Percy Jackson, the reimagining and remolding of the Greek myths for modern day. Percy battles the old favorites while teaching students Greek mythology. Want an Egyptian flair instead? No problem. Try Riordan’s Kane Chronicles. The way Riordan blends comedy, adventure, and mythology into modern day has kids that hate reading picking up a book and devouring the pages, much like what The Hobbit did for me.
Great fantasy epics are available digitally, as well as in book form, calling us like a siren away from our visually stimulating world into the world of our imagination. So, for those that struggle with reading,whether you are already a fan, or new to the genre, I urge them to explore the realms of fantasy and science fiction and escape into a book today. - Chris Messer