The older kids get, the bigger their books get. And the bigger their books get, the deeper and wider their content gets. At some point, this wonderful pattern brings children to the possibly surprising conclusion that one cannot read every book cover to cover at one sitting. This natural conclusion, given the laws of time and space, will undoubtedly result in the necessity for something to mark the progress of the last sitting. It also gives rise to the possibility that one puts down a partially read book in one room and then goes into another room, sits down and picks up a different book!
“Who would do such a thing?,” you might ask. Well, me. I am one of those possibly strange adults that is reading as many as a half dozen books concurrently.
Nobody ever taught me to do this, and it certainly isn’t a requirement for everyone, it just happens sometimes. Like right now, I’m in the throes of a long medical recuperation that has me largely homebound and wonderful friends keep bringing me books that I yearn to read, like historical fiction and real adventure into archeology or other exotic sciences, or a good hefty mystery with 400+ pages or so. Yesssss! Sweet!
Today I find myself with a book by my bed, Greeks Bearing Gifts (Philip Kerr), another by my easy chair, Killers of the Flower Moon (David Grann), and a third, The Innocent (David Baldacci), right here next to me in the bar in our kitchen that also serves as my daily workspace.
This all might sound odd, if you are not a biblio-hog like me, but it’s something like watching three football games at once, switching among them to avoid commercials, but still interested in the progress of each game. It is also a bit like time travel, in which many days and many other books may pass between reading episodes in a particular book.
So, what does this have to do with reading instruction or literacy or helping our young ones develop a love of reading? It’s as simple as this. Let’s avoid getting hung up on single-book-completion. Rather, let’s casually introduce the wild idea of reading several books at once or gratefully accept this practice as wonderful if our kids display this odd habit on their own. Doing so might elevate self-determined, free reading in the minds of children to exclude having to finish every book (especially if it doesn’t suit them) and to include feeling invited to start as many books as they like and enjoy each of them…at least until something better to read comes along.