[An interview excerpted from my book, Jump-Starting Boys]
I read some as a boy, mostly the Hardy Boys novels.
But as I got a wee bit older, I wasn’t interested in reading
anymore. I was more into running outside and playing. My
sister embraced reading, but I was more fidgety and restless.
My family didn’t watch much television and my parents
certainly read a lot. There were always books around, and
I remember my dad reading spy novels. But I figured I read
enough at school, which was a challenge for me. I had a
hard time concentrating. I didn’t have a learning disability; I
was just averse to school. I did have one teacher who was
a role model to me. He took me under his wing in grade
four or five and paid me the extra attention I needed. That
probably wouldn’t have worked if he hadn’t been a male.
When I was nine or ten years old, I got interested in
hockey, and my mom and dad bought me books on hockey.
I started reading short stories and rule books and that is
how I got back into reading for a while. But I dropped off
again until I became a Big Brother (mentor) in my thirties.
I’d just gone through a nasty divorce, and after I’d
moved out and started living on my own again, I decided I
had an opportunity to make some changes and give back
to my community. When I met my ‘Little Brother,’ he had
just turned nine. The first time we went for a walk, I asked
him what kind of things he enjoyed. It turned out reading
was one of his interests, and so we talked about reading
as a conversation icebreaker. He talked about the books he
was reading, so I started picking up books and reading as
well. That way I could talk about the books I was reading.
And given that I was going through so much personal
change, I found I needed that chance to get lost in a book.
Meanwhile, I found that being a Big Brother removed all of
the ugliness from my divorce experience.
Sometime not long after I’d become a Big Brother, I
was at my parents’ home, but not downstairs visiting with
them. My younger brother came up, saw me engrossed
in a book, and returned downstairs to tell my parents,
“Something’s wrong with Kieran.”
My mom and dad came upstairs, concerned; they hadn’t seen me engrossed in
books for so long. I was thirty-eight. They didn’t know that
these days, I always have a book with me as I travel for
work. Nowadays I try to encourage reading, including with
my nephew. I see a lot of me in him. I buy him books when
I can, and we have a book exchange program.
If I’d read more during my school days, I’d have applied
myself there better. What I believe is that boys take longer
than girls to read, and you can’t put too much pressure on
them. Get them comfortable and make it fun.
—Kieran, age forty-two