“You know… I don’t actually like reading…”
Kwasi told me… and upon seeing my eyes widen and eyebrows touch my hairline (probably), he was quick to expand the statement “unless it the books you give me.”
So we started to talk.
Why doesn’t Kwasi like to read books?
They don’t get him excited, he’s not interested, most of the reading he does, is reading for schoolwork. He’d rather sit down with his brother and play on the xbox or laptop. The usual things you’d expect to hear from a teenage boy who is justifying why he doesn’t make the time to read for pleasure.
The biggest reason though, Kwasi can’t find a book that he feels is for him.
He hadn’t had that book yet.
The book that made him excited to read.
I remember back in the early 2000s when my brother borrowed that very first copy of Darren Shan’s Cirque du Freak from the school library. Omari wasn’t a reader like I was, so it was really weird for our parents to see the boy who’d rather be biking on the street or watching Dragon Ball Z curled up with a book in his hand all of the sudden.
It set off a chain reaction in him.
He didn’t want to borrow from the school anymore, he wanted a copy that was his alone (seriously, he would not share, when I wanted to read them, I had to buy my own copies when I wanted to read it). And then, every time he saw a new addition had been released, he’d head down to the local WH Smith with mum and a tenner to get his fix.
After encountering this book, my brother actively started looking for books to read, first, books by Darren Shan, after all, he devoured the Saga of Darren Shan, why wouldn’t he also enjoy the Demonata series or The Thin Executioner? After literally exhausting his complete Darren Shan collection, my brother went on to Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider, and Justin Somper’s Vampirates (absolute banger of a book series tbh).
(To tell you how much my brother and I appreciate Darren Shan’s horror writing; there is a small bookshelf in our upstairs hallway stocked with a near complete list of Darren Shan’s bibliography… and we both got hyped at our big university ages when we found out that Darren Shan had been releasing instalments of Zom-B.)
Omari had found his book.
It’s harder when the book recipient has particular tastes. Kwasi’s not big into magic, so fantasy is out of the question (which as a devotee to SFF, dissertation on High Fantasy writer, broke my heart). A lot of the books I read at Kwasi’s age had female protagonists, great for me, but I he’d wasn’t interested in Georgia Nicholson’s confessional diary and similar titles. It takes time, patience and experimentation to help a kid find that book.
But I found that book.
Malorie Blackman’s Boys Don’t Cry.
I actually got a text from Kwasi thanking me for finding that book for him, and if I could get him some more Malorie Blackman books. Since then I have been, mostly books that I’ve read and loved myself. I know his mum takes him and his siblings to the library as often as she can, and I give him names of books I remember reading, or authors I think he’d enjoy. For his fourteenth birthday, he got an entire book series (Gone by Michael Grant) and he’s currently working his way through those.
Seeing him carry around a copy of these books with the cracked spine and doggy eared pages doesn’t inspire anger in me it might some other book lovers- after all, the books are his now, I should just be glad he’s finally found joy in reading.