#886: Being underestimated

About half a year ago,the Boy wanted me to start borrowing Goosebumps books at the library for him. As a parent, of course, I’d seen the Goosebumps series a long time ago. However, as the parent of a girl, I never saw the point in acquiring any of those books as she was more interested in, well, girl-themed series that included Junie B. Jones, Ramona and Beezus, Nancy Drew, Ali Finkel’s Rules for Girls, and currently, The Babysitters Club. It wasn’t just the Girl who wasn’t into Goosebumps; the gore- and horror-themed titles just never appealed to me. But of course, to a boy . . .

I initially hesitated about borrowing these books because as I kept telling the Boy, “They’re too complicated for you. They might be scary. Chapter books are too long for you at this age, and you’ll get tired of them. If we take them out from the library, it’ll take so long for us to read through them together, and three weeks won’t be enough. I’ll have to do all the reading for you since you won’t be able to read most of it yourself . . .” The excuses rolled off my tongue quickly as he countered each one with “No. No. No. No. No!” In the end, I relented to buying a couple of books for him, thanks to Value Village. At 99 cents per book (buy four, get one free), I figured we could start out with one or two, and not have library due dates hanging over our head. If he really couldn’t handle them for any of the reasons that I had mentioned, we would consider it not too much of a loss.

After perusing the three dozen or so titles that were available, he picked his first Goosebump title, Why I’m Afraid of Bees. A wise choice: not too scary-sounding for a first Goosebump, I thought. Deal. We started reading it that night as our bedtime story.

In the beginning, it was I (or sometimes the Girl) who was doing all the reading. A few days later, I’d encourage the Boy to pay attention and fill in the blanks if I stopped on a word (an easy word at the five-year-old level, of course). A few days later, I’d ask him to read one paragraph per chapter. And then one day just before Christmas, he grabbed the book from me and said, “I’ll read tonight.” And he really did. He got through about two pages on his own, before declaring that he was tired, and that I should finish the chapter. But this was not before he would turn to me from time to time and ask proudly, with a wide grin on his face, “Did you know that I could read the word ‘dangerous’? Did you know that I knew the word ‘threatening’ Or ‘menacingly’?”

No, I had not known. Because he had started reading a little later than his sister, and always grumbled about it, I guess I had judged him less capable or less willing. I really had underestimated my little reader. This past week, he brought along another Goosebumps in the car. By the time we had come home from swimming class, he had finished off two whole chapters by himself.

He proved me wrong, thanks to Goosebumps, and I’ve never been happier to be wrong.

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Note: Today, January 27, was Family Literacy Day in Canada. We had forgotten about it, but apparently, there are plenty of activities on this day every year, to encourage sharing literacy with the whole family on this day and throughout the year. We’ll try to do something more next year, besides just going to the library for books. For more info, see ABC Life Literacy Canada.

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