Where Words Jump Off The Page
Friday, June 16, 2006
Chris Bartholomew has a cool job. He's the host of Chillin' With Chris, a monthly book discussion group at Chantilly Regional Library.
With the school year almost over, parents can promote summer reading with programs like Bartholomew's at their local libraries and bookstores. Most groups are for boys and girls, though a few are single sex or invite parents to participate.
Chillin' With Chris targets boys ages 9 to 12, whom Barthlomew, a full-time library aide, encourages to read by selecting books he knows they'll like.
For last month's meeting, the group read "A Horse and His Boy," the third book in the "Chronicles of Narnia" series by C.S. Lewis.
"Adventure books are always big," Bartholomew says. "Boys also enjoy science fiction titles, books that continue in a series or those with television or movie tie-ins."
My son Alex's reading preferences mirror exactly what Bartholomew describes. I was interested in watching boys discuss a book in detail, so Alex, 9, and I attended the May meeting. Parents or adult companions are invited.
Bartholomew began by mentioning the recent movie "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." All five boys had seen it. So had Bartholomew, who was naturally conversant in many aspects of the film, as well as with "Star Wars" and other cultural touchstones that engaged the boys.
Andrew Fernandez, a fifth-grader from Chantilly, said he thinks a book is always better than its movie adaptation because "you get to read people's thoughts."
Bartholomew nodded his head thoughtfully. "It took me a lot longer to realize that," he said.
I watched as Bartholomew listened intently to each boy. He was energetic and enthusiastic as he talked, capturing the boys' imaginations with questions and descriptions, and drawing out critiques beyond the monosyllabic and the standard "pretty good."
Soon I was listening as Alex explained his frustration with Lewis's use of "coincidence" as a literary trick to move the plot forward. Sure, I have had many conversations with my son, but I can't recall one about tricky narrative devices.
Then a vigorous discussion of villains ensued. The consensus was that the bad guys in the book weren't as villainous as those in other Narnia tales. Bartholomew led the boys through more intricate questions, and they willingly followed.