Beth Bacon is one of the hardest working writers I know. One who is not dismayed if the road to publication takes several circuitous routes. I will confess that when she told me about her books for kids who (think they) don’t like to read, I was, “Oh, that’s. . .interesting.” But Beth’s faith in her idea and gut feeling that she was on to something has certainly paid off. That’s the lesson I’m taking away from Beth’s story: listen to that inner voice no matter what others might say about your idea. And make a note in your calendar for September 29, 2022, which is when Beth will be my Write Space guest. (Don’t worry. I’ll remind you).
Three times a week, I stood at the front desk in the library at Miramar Ranch Elementary, checking out books for the students.
One book per kid per week.
That was the rule.
Before long, I got a feel for the reading habits of each child. Tracey liked Geronimo Stilton. Ash went for Babysitters Club. Chase was working through the Harry Potters.
And then there were the game-and-puzzle kids.
Every week, a small but enthusiastic group headed straight for the corner of the room that held the activity books… the mazes, the joke books, the optical illusions.
There was so much energy and excitement in that corner of the library!
And those books were the most worn, dog-eared, and juice stained.
The game-and-puzzle books had the longest waiting lists.
The game-and-puzzle books were the most renewed.
The game-and-puzzle books prompted trades and deals and, yes, sometimes even fights.
The game-and-puzzle books sure caused a lot of excitement.
But the excitement wasn’t about reading.
These kids loved the game-and-puzzle books because they could obey the letter of the law (leaving the library with a book) while skirting around the intent of the law (actually reading).
Years later, I became an author of books for children. I never forgot Alex, Emma, Sam and Bree… four of the most dedicated game-and-puzzle readers.
I get it.
Kids want to have fun, not do a lot of work during their free reading time. But running your finger through a maze doesn’t exactly improve literacy skills.
All that enthusiasm got me thinking… could I create a game-and-puzzle book that also had literary elements?
What if a game and puzzle book such as a narrative arc and a sympathetic character who grows and changes? It was a challenge for sure, but a super fun challenge.
The result is my new book, The Book No One Wants to Read (Harper Collins).
In this story, the book itself is the narrator—and this book is lonely. So lonely, it makes a deal with the reader: You turn the pages and I’ll make it fun. The book is full of games, puzzles, mazes and mind-benders… all those fun things that reluctant readers love, because they can get through a book without really “reading.”
This story actually has a plot, a sympathetic (if flawed) main character, and a wonderful story arc—so it’s more enriching than a simple puzzle book.
It’s funny and colorful and although it’s as long as a chapter book — about 166 pages. But this book doesn’t have a lot of words on each page. So it’s easy to get through. The story actually acknowledges and honors the experience of kids who are reluctant to read and has a lot of games and puzzles to pass the time (shhh, don’t tell the librarian).
As an author, I want to start a conversation about the fact that learning to read can be hard, and many kids resist it. But reading can also be fun. That’s my author platform: honor the experience of reluctant readers, but do it with books that are funny, and full of games and puzzles. My books prove that even if it’s a struggle, learning to read is definitely worth it.
Kirby, thanks so much for asking me to chat about reading and The Book No One Wants To Read in your wonderful blog.
Those of you who have gotten this far in the article, thanks!
If you’re a teacher, librarian, parent or caregiver who’s got kids who don’t like to read, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Feel free to contact me at https://bethbaconauthor.com/contact/.
Beth Bacon writes books for young readers. One series is dedicated to helping reluctant readers have fun while reading. Another series helps explain Covid to kids. Her book, COVID-19 Helpers earned first prize in the Emory Global Health Institute ebook contest in 2020. Beth earned an MFA in writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She also has a degree in Communication Theory from NYU and a degree in Literature from Harvard University. Contact Beth to set up an author visit at your organization at www.BethBaconAuthor.com.