Sunday, August 17, 2008

Leif Reading on a Boat in Subic Bay, August 1982, age 7

Leif claimed he didn't like to read but that was misleading. Given a choice of things to do with his leisure time, reading would not usually have been high on Leif's list of choices, and yet, if someone managed to get him started reading a good book, comic book or magazine, he couldn't put it down. Like many children, most particularly boys taught by women teachers, he was turned off to reading by being required to read books and material he didn't have any interest in or found boring, in school.

Most of the kinds of books that appeal to girls (and thus to women teachers, who were girls) don't appeal to boys, and in my experience (as a children's librarian), very little effort is made in schools to provide boys with reading material they will find gripping and fun to read. Thus, they get turned off.

Leif certainly experienced this. I remember him hating books he was forced to read, such as the Newbery Award winning "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," a fine book, but not fine for him at that age, in junior high.

However, Leif did find many books he loved, and spent money on books. His favorite series of books was the Ender series by Orson Scott Card. He was introduced to the first book, "Ender's Game," by his older brother, Peter A. Garretson, who had read it in a class on science fiction literature at the Air Force Academy. Leif was in junior high at the time, and he was so engrossed in reading it that when we took a trip to Hawaii he would hardly leave the beach cottage to go to the beach.

The Ender series is a challenging one, dealing with deep philosophical questions, exciting action and superb examination of the qualities of leadership and strategy. Leif found this immensely intriguing. He read all of the books over many years and could talk about them endlessly.

When he was younger, like in this photo, he loved comic books such as the Richie Rich series, and continued to enjoy the more adult comics as a teen and adult, such as the X-Men series.

He had to do book reports for school, like most kids, and he hated that, especially when he had to choose books off a list of books he didn't care for. However, I could usually "trick" him into reading a book I knew he would enjoy if I picked it out and read the first chapter aloud at the dinner table. Since I read to my sons until they were in junior high, and to the family all along, this wasn't anything unusual. Then I would leave the book in the bathroom. Best place to find a "captive audience." He'd pick it up and start reading and then he couldn't quit.

That was one of my specialties as a children's librarian -- finding books to captivate reluctant reader boys.

This photo of Leif was taken on a Navy PT boat in Subic Bay in the Philippines during our ill-fated vacation at Grande Island in August 1982. Leif was 7 years old.

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