IDEA #61. Read a number of books by the same author. Start with Mary Pope Osborne or J. K. Rowling or Rick Riordan—or Toni Morrison, Avi, Emily Dickinson, Gary Paulsen, Tamora Pierce, or Shakespeare
The youngster may be a reader and already inclined to inhale the entire oeuvres of many authors, mowing down whole library shelves like an avenging angel of literacy. But if the inclination to read is modest, or if the young reader has difficulty finding books of interest, this activity might be one way to discover a passion.
The hard part, of course, is finding an author enough of whose output is appealing enough to make pleasing the prospect of reading even more. It might be that the work of an author enjoyed while much younger—even the illustrated “read-to” books of early childhood—might serve as a starting point; one thinks of Blueberries for Sal, whose author, Robert McCloskey, wrote and illustrated many books, not all of which are as familiar as Sal or Make Way for Ducklings. Many authors of children’s books have also written for older readers, and so the reader who loved A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle might find a foray into her Crosswicks Journal Trilogy of some interest.
Poetry, because the “units of production” are shorter and less intimidating, might also be worth exploring. Some “children’s poets,” like Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, are quite prolific and endlessly entertaining, while older readers may want to take on the likes of Dickinson or Robert Frost or the very accessible Billy Collins, a former U.S. poet laureate.
Series books are another way into this project, and the literary quality of the works does not have to matter. Any number of accomplished intellects have cut their teeth on the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew or the Boxcar Children. We want our children to know that between the covers of books we can find satisfaction and pleasure and examples of people solving problems with optimism and confidence, and series characters do the latter book-in, book-out. Not Shakespeare, perhaps, but entertainment for the mind and medicine for the soul nonetheless.
And here’s the thing: Authors write to be read and enjoyed, and most do not write just so that scholars and schoolchildren can spend endless hours in detailed analysis. The point of this suggestion is not just to develop breadth and skill as a reader but also to sharpen taste—to learn what one likes to read. The focus should be kept on the doing and not on the debriefing.