Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tintin and the Reluctant Reader

The following article is written by our regular contributor, Marta Darby, a homeschooling mami of 10 years for our "In Your Words" Literacy Series as we celebrate Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros this month on MommyMaestra.

My son, Jonathan, was a reluctant reader. He had some struggles with spatial relationships when he was very young, and is still very much a kinesthetic learner. We addressed his difficulty with the crossover of brain information by getting a trampoline. (Read about that here.)

He loved being read to, but he didn’t like to pick up books on his own and just read for pleasure. My older son, Adam had had that same problem. I wondered if it was a gender thing? Or maybe it was just my own boys?

When Adam was young, I was introduced to a series of comic-type books by the Belgian author, Hergé. They were written in the 1930’s and the hero was called Tintin, a young Belgian reporter who is aided in his adventures by his faithful dog, Snowy.

I was advised by none other than Jim Trelease, the author of the Read Aloud Handbook, to get some of the Tintin books and put them in a basket in the *ahem* bathroom. Really? That’s the sage reading advice from the reading expert?

This was back in the stone age. Before the internet and cement. When research was actually done in libraries. I decided I had nothing to lose.

So I headed out to the bookstore to special order some Tintin books. Did I mention they were from the 1930’s? I filled a basket full of these and set it in the *ahem* smallest room in the house.

What happened next, was glorious. I would start finding the Tintin books in other places. By Adam’s bed. On the coffee table. Next to the couch. Someone was picking up the books and moving them around the house. Which meant someone was reading them.

Then someone started asking for more. And sharing what he had read. And asking for more. The stories were well-researched, engaging and had a variety of plot lines in various genres. Swashbuckling adventures, science fiction, mysteries, fantasy, political thrillers. The illustrations were clean and easy to follow. Tintin had it all.

Ten years later, when Jonathan was “reluctant” to read, I remembered how The Adventures of Tintin had helped his big brother and again, I brought out the *ahem* bathroom basket and the Tintin books.

And the magic happened again. This time, Jonathan wanted all of us to read them so we could discuss them at the dinner table. That’s when we all started getting attached to Tintin.

Eventually, Jonathan went on to read other, different kinds of literature. He was not as reluctant to pick up other kinds of books and was able to follow other plot lines.

But I still credit Hergé and the Adventures of Tintin for introducing both of my boys to real honest-to-goodness storytelling. And giving them a love and passion for reading and learning.


Marta Darby is an avid blogger, business owner, Cuban cook, graphic designer, scrapbooker, photographer and homemaker. She was born in Havana and left Cuba with her family when she was 5 years old. She likes to tell anecdotes and stories about her family (all 40 of them!), her passions (dulce de leche and red lipstick), and especially being Cuban. She is happily married to her fabulous gringo husband, Eric, and lives with him and their four children in a tiny house with a white picket fence.


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