I was excited when Cal started making the move from reading-as-deciphering to reading-for-comprehension because finally, finally, we could do nerd stuff together. As a child endowed with neither facility at sports nor a particularly gregarious nature, I read a lot of books as a child, many of which I remember vividly to this day. Not that they were all quality books by any means--I do think I read both "Sweet Valley High" and "The Babysitters Club" series in their entirety well beyond the age when I should have known better--but I read a lot of other books too. And I read constantly. I read at dinner, with the book in my lap under the table. I read in the shower (note: not advisible). I read on the subway on the way to school, and I read when I was outdoors, ostensibly getting some fresh air and exercise. I read a lot. So when Cal started to get to the age where he could actually start read on his own, for fun, I was super-excited, both for him, and for me to finally have an excuse to re-read the full Beverly Cleary opus.
And I have to admit, it was a bit of an uphill climb at first. Cal liked being read to (I think I'd mentioned the "Illustrated Classics" series here already, and he particularly enjoyed the science-fiction-adventure story picks of that lot--your War of the Worlds, your 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, what have you) but I still think he viewed reading for himself as a bit of a slog. I got him some easier chapter books (in particular he had mentioned reading some of the "Cam Jansen" books at school--basically your standard kid mystery series, Case of the Missing Dinosaur Bones, that kind of thing--and while it didn't seem like great storytelling I did particularly like that the protagonist was a girl and her best friend was a boy who was always babysitting his baby brother) and Cal worked his way through a dozen of those, mostly when I asked him to. But it still kind of felt like that to him: work. He'd read two or three chapters after school, mostly on assignment, and then, duty dispensed, he'd go and do something he really wanted to do, like write the definitive illustrated reference guide to prehistoric reptiles or some such thing.
I figured I wouldn't push it. I figured he wasn't ready. I figured (and this I kept to myself, but with growing dismay) that not every kid loves to read, and just because Cal didn't want to read in the bathtub didn't mean that he wouldn't have a rich intellectual life. (This was a recurring theme--many of my paperbacks from childhood and adolescence were more than a little warped from water exposure.)
I got the Harry Potter series for Cal...kind of...but also just because I thought they were books that were worth owning, period. I expected Cal would like to read them eventually, of course, but I didn't really think he'd be quite ready for them yet--some of the writing and plot are a little dense at points, and the dialogue and vernacular is a touch continental (stuff like Ron exclaiming "bloody hell!" all the time, people referring to large groups of students as "you lot"--which I guess is the British version of all y'all) but, you know, I figure we'd have them lying around for later, and maybe Cal would pick them up and leaf through them if and when he wanted to.
A couple of months ago, we started reading "The Sorcerer's Stone" to Cal at bedtime. We watched the movie. Cal started getting interested, pointing out that while he liked the movie because it "showed what things look like," he liked the book better because it had details and some side plots that necessarily got dropped from the film version. (I'd argue, actually, that they weren't judicious enough in their editorial process for that first film--have you tried to re-watch that thing? God, it's like Exposition City, and it just goes on forever.) We got through "The Chamber of Secrets," Joe and I reading most of it aloud, Cal reading some of it himself. First he read it aloud to us. Then I started noticing him silently reading it alone, while I was cooking dinner, or taking care of Mack. We finished the second book and instantly he picked up "The Prisoner of Azkaban." He started reading in the car. I took him to Target the other day (to buy underwear for Mack, remember), and he was reading as we made our way down the aisles. These past few weeks, we've been seeing more of this:
He has one of the lanterns from our camping trip in the bottom bunk of his bed, and he says up late, reading Harry Potter. He begs us to let him read for ten more minutes, to let him finish the chapter, he'll go to sleep right after, but it's the part with Quidditch, mom, just let me finish the part with the Quidditch. Right under our noses, he's made the jump from reading for comprehension to reading for enjoyment.
I guess the real conclusion from all this is something that no one needed me to point out, which is that J.K. Rowling is a very good writer. That, and maybe we need to get a better reading light for Cal's room.