Motivating Young Readers

i-funny-james-pattersonOften librarians hear parent express that their child does not like to read. A great series that will appeals to most middle school-aged readers is I Funny, a series about life as a middle schooler, written by James Patterson.

James Patterson is a well-known writer of adult fiction; however, some are not aware that he also writes juvenile literature–very funny juvenile literature. During an interview Patterson stated that he began writing children’s books, because his son was never interested in reading.  He, therefore, wrote books that his son would, in fact, be motivated to read.

I Funny is the first book in the series.  The main character, Jamie Grimm, like all of us, has had challenges throughout his young life. He moved to a suburb of New York City with his uncle and his family, whom he feels does not understand him or his humor.  He does not allow that to stop him, because Jamie finds that humor is the best way of overcoming adversity.  Jamie is an ordinary kid who happens to use a wheelchair. After hearing about The World’s Funniest Kid Comic Contest from his uncle, Jamie enters the contest with aspirations of being the world’s first “sit-down” comic.

Although Jamie doesn’t feel completely at home in his new town, he loves his school where he finds people who treats him like any other kid.  He advises that friends are the family you get to choose.  This book is chock full of funny observations and one-liners that will literally have any reader, both children and adults, laughing out loud.  There are a large amount of illustrations that reveal even more about the mind of Jamie while handling situations that we have all been in, but the conversations that he has in his mind are hilarious.

While the book is refreshingly funny, Patterson uses a kid with a disability as the protagonist that has a deeper underlying message of perseverance, which is not written in a way to elicit sympathy but admiration for his tenacity and character.  You will cheer for Jamie even more as you learn why Jamie is living with his relatives and his past that he left behind.

Although this is one book in a series that any child would love and be motivated to read, an important factor to motivate children to read is knowing the child and their interests.  Even more importantly, we all must remember that a child’s first teachers are the parents.  Even before they learn to speak or reader, they learn from watching and mimicking the behavior of those closest to them. Children model adults’ behavior; therefore, the single most effective way to motivate young readers is by actively engaging in literacy activities and reading.  By fostering a love of reading early in life, children will become excellent readers and lifelong learners.

Antuan Hawkins is a Children’s Services Manager with the Alamance County Public Library.  Contact him at ahawkins@alamancelibraries.org or (336) 229-3588.