Hello. My name is Patricia and I’m the mother of a 9-year-old reluctant reader.
I have to say…I don’t have the most happy-motherly thoughts about having a son who doesn’t enjoy reading the way I did when I was younger. In fact, last week I had received a note from my oldest son’s teacher about how far behind he is on his Accelerated Reader testing for the quarter. He got the most logical, rational, inspirational pep talk I could muster last night.
It isn’t that my son isn’t able to read. He reads really well and is very good at the comprehension assessments when he applies himself. He just doesn’t enjoy it as much as doing math and science work. And when you layer on the pressures of having to read a prescribed amount every nine weeks, it’s become a delicate balance for me: inspiring your son to WANT to read vs. forcing him read to fulfill school requirements.
In late August the GeekMoms received an invitation to receive a complimentary signed copy of Tommy Greenwald’s book Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading for review, targeting 9-to-12-year-old reluctant readers. I raised my hand emphatically (okay, so it was an online “virtual” raising of my hand) and proclaimed that I have the perfect candidate! My 9-year-old.
I’m pleased to report that my son really enjoyed Charlie Joe Jackson and this book’s Accelerated Reader quiz took him to his reading goal for the quarter!
Tommy Greenwald is a self-proclaimed “geeky dad“. He told us so himself this week on Twitter! As the father of three sons — named Charlie, Joe, and Jack — he wanted to inspire his boys to be more interested in reading. So he wrote a story about a reluctant reader who comes around, just for his sons. I was really touched by such parental dedication. I was reminded of the Dad who made a blue canary nightlight for his daughter.
Charlie Joe Jackson is young man who is defending his lifelong disdain for reading. He comes up with several schemes to get others to read his books for him, and those plans all seem to backfire. Over the course of the story he’s weaving lie after lie to get through his reading requirements, and when the principal finally finds out about the numerous schemes he’d concocted, he is told to write a 150 page book as punishment.
So this is what the book is, actually: the product of Charlie Joe’s punishment. He writes an account of the events that led up to his writing the book, and intertwined through the book were assorted lists of ways to get out of reading, and hints at how to find reading without even reading books (such as reading ticket stubs, opening/closing movie credits, and texts to/from friends).
My oldest son really enjoyed the book. It’s the least-illustrated chapter book I think he’s read to date (he’s been reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants and Big Nate books this past year), and liked the lists of reading tips throughout. When I had asked what the book was about, he told me it was a book full of tips on how to get out of having to read. That seemed to be what he remembered the most.
I was suspicious of that account so this week I read the book myself. Yes, there are TWENTY-FIVE lists of “not reading” tips, but the story is much more. It was a great account of “real life” for a pre-teen (tween?) young man in middle school. Among the main story about trying not to do his reading assignments, you learn about Charlie Joe’s circle of friends, his interests, his family (who he loves and respects, which was a great trait to give a tween-novel hero), and his two dogs Moose and Coco.
I got a little skittish about Charlie Joe texting friends, having a Facebook account and playing Call of Duty on the XBox at his age. I’m sure lots of middle school boys are doing exactly that, but I simply don’t want to think about my 9-year-old wanting to do any of that in 3-4 years. Charlie Joe is also a fan of The Simpsons, which not all parents would appreciate. My oldest son loves The Simpsons, but we watch it as a family with a lot of caution (most of the time, my husband and I watch the episode first).
Since I don’t have middle school kids of my own, I wasn’t sure what to make of middle school-aged characters in the book being Beatles fans and comparing the casts of the 1975 vs. 1996 Broadway productions of Chicago. I’m convinced that Mr. Greenwald is tapping into his own sons’ geeky interests to come up with some of the conversations. I’d be tickled pink if my sons took an interest in Broadway history by the time they’re in middle school! Charlie Joe owns a rare Beatles Yesterday and Today “Butcher Cover” from 1966, which he trades to a girl so she would date his geeky friend. I couldn’t believe that one! If I was Charlie Joe’s mother, I’d have that cover in a SAFE DEPOSIT BOX!
(Wait a second — I was a Beatles fan when I was 12 years old! Okay, I shouldn’t be so surprised….)
Having married a Long Islander, it was cute to see situational references to New York and New England: the boys played lacrosse together and there was even a reference to a Carvel Fudgie the Whale ice cream cake!
In summary, this is a great book for a 9-to-12 year old who is having trouble getting inspired to read. I felt that Charlie Joe Jackson could be my oldest son in 3 to 4 years, judging from his love of baseball, video games and geeky interests. Charlie Joe’s teachers knew he had the potential to be great, and worked together to challenge him by having him write a 150-page book.
Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading is now available through Amazon and Indie Bound. Tommy Greenwald recently announced the upcoming publication of the follow up, Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit, on his blog at tommygreenwald.com.
A complimentary copy of the book was provided for review purposes.