An Unexpected Journey: Reading The Hobbit

the-hobbit-first-edition-dust-jacket-book-coverLast night, H and I began reading The Hobbit together. I am so grateful to have a young sci-fi fantasy sidekick: a fellow lover of dragons and magic and wizards and faerie. It is exciting to me that we share this love; there are so many of his interests that I support, but don’t really get… but this – with this I am completely there!

We are on the same page… so to speak.

This connection is the focus of a fair bit of our common ground, along with skulking in thrift stores. Craig is also a sci-fi fan, like H and I, as he loves Star Trek, and Star Wars, and Mission to Mars, but his tastes generally do not extend to fantasy sci-fi.

This is my domain.

I am authentically at home there with H, and we are nurtured by our time spent enjoying movies like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Princess Bride, Stardust, and programs like the series Merlin.

This is a place where I have found that I can fit in, be myself, and share a loved interest with my child. This is our place… our forged space… and it is beloved by us both.

the hobbit - 1977We have seen the The Hobbit (Jackson’s Version) on film 4 times… and LOTR, well… too many times to count. We have also watched the 1977 version, which H liked… but me… well… ya… not so much. H is looking for a copy of this on video…

The Hobbit is a part of his Grade 9 curriculum (which he begins in the fall) – so we are getting a bit of a head start – and I am eager for the opportunity to share my love of this story in written form. 

So last night – at the end of the last day of school for me, I thought about the summer months, and how quickly they always seem to speed past. I thought, “Ooooh… let’s have An Unexpected Party.”

I have been quietly hoping this book would extend its magic to H – and hook him and open worlds to him as a lover of reading… as he already loves the movie…

I had fingers and furry little toes crossed!

H’s love of the movie and his understanding of the story provide an important scaffolding for him, which supports him in understanding the context and framework of the tale and has him eager to find out more.

Allowing a student to see the big picture and the scope of the tale through viewing a movie  or hearing a story multiple times is frequently a useful support. I have occasionally heard someone, perhaps even a fellow educator, suggest that we cannot read this book or that book in such and such a grade… because it has to be saved for a particular year in the future. To that, and I quote H here, I boldly say, ‘Bollocks!’

The only thing possibly lost would be the opportunity for prediction of the unknown.

But there are far more complex and dynamic thinking opportunities that are gained.

As we began to read – H took some time to settle to the task.

He is what is very commonly referred to as a reluctant reader. The thing is though – his reading skills have improved markedly over the past year – but, though I have NEVER reinforced or stated this, he still seems stuck in some old paradigm that he is a struggling reader. I am convinced that his assessment of his skills is no longer accurate, but I think his sense of his ability hasn’t caught up with the new reality.

This kid LOVES story. He loves a good tale – and I really think that if he is supported in the right way  – he can be shown the magical worlds and adventures that lie waiting for him between the covers of so many wonderful books. I have a hunch that these are now accessible to him – but he does not yet fully understand the beauty and wonder of new worlds contained on the pages, or his ability to access and be swept away by these.

So I am supporting him – I am reading most of it aloud… to begin. I am resisting my teachery urge to gently push and nudge, and will instead focus on connecting in the moment, and enjoying a shared love. I need to create opportunity as an invitation… rather than an expectation.  And I plan to tease out his confidence and spin in opportunity for him to see himself as a reader.

H does now see himself as an avid reader of graphic novels (both paper and electronic)… which is fabulous. He recently spent an entire iTunes card in one day, purchasing graphic novels. This was unexpected, as one of these cards has usually lasted him a couple of months. Seriously though – he was buying reading material!! Yay!!

And then, I almost fell over a couple of weeks back when H invited me to hear him read a story before bed. Feigning a casual, cool and calm response, I dove at the opportunity, and was once again reminded of the value of strength-based planning and the difference format makes in terms of accessibility, as H read me his latest graphic novel, another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tale, on his iPad.

And now, I think he is ready for the next step.

So last night, I let him set the pace. It was hard for him to settle, and I suspect there is some anxiety about the length of this tale and the lack of pictures. This lack of visual support is deliberate on my part; The Hobbit is available in graphic novel format… but I want to capture this kid with something new. So we will read aloud together, each with our own book… and to begin, yesI will do much of the reading.

Before we could get started – H wanted to make a video, which I encouraged. He used his iPad and introduced himself as H. Baggins and told how he was going to read The Hobbit. He shared his excitement over the map of Middle Earth, and then he read the first part of the chapter on film. This is useful, because we plan to present his novel study in a multi-media format using power-point. We can easily embed his videos into that.

Then he had to run off for a moment to get his wee Sting letter opener… which he decided was a necessary item to have close by when reading. Can’t argue with that really…

Then he needed a drink…

Then it was important to film his Gollum impression… (which – by the way – is rather impressive)

Then he darted off to get a ring…

Screen shot 2013-06-29 at 12.56.53 PMThen we had a discussion about possibly buying a Ring of Power replica on e-bay to celebrate when we have finished the book. I agreed readily… in fact I think we should both get one!

Negotiations (and other stuff) completed… we finally settled down to the book.

Now here is another little lesson for me to remember… letting H do all of this allowed him to move forward – and build and express his excitement. It was his buy-in, and this is something I sense that I have sometimes rushed along, rather than honouring H’s pace and his need to build his nest of readiness. He gathers his knowledge and his concrete items to create platform of familiarity and knowledge – from which to take the next leap… to something more… something new!

I read and H tracked along with his copy of the book. Every once in a while I stopped and he took up the reading. He commented… “Oh – that wasn’t in the movie…” and this or that was different, and rushed ahead and quoted the dialogue or lines that he knew from memory because of the film.

We discussed Tolkien a little – and he was amazed that this man had invented this story: “Really, Mom?? He just made up The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings from his mind and his imagination??? Wow! He created whole worlds!”

I could feel his excitement growing…

We discussed why there is more in the book than in the film, and that as a director, Peter Jackson could not possibly fit every detail and dialogue that is in the book into the movies.

I could see him calculating and cataloguing and collecting new and lovely previously unknown details…

And his excitement grew…

Then H asked, “Will Thorin die in this story, Mom?”

“We’ll have to see… but the beauty is that you don’t have to wait for Jackson to make the next two movies – we have the whole story right here!”

And his excitement grew…

And as we read on together, H suddenly proclaimed with wonder and excitement:

“Stop Mom! I have to tell you something. I can see this! I can see it all! Books take you somewhere where television and movies do not! I can see the gathering – I can see it all. Books are Magic!!!!” ~ H


Screen shot 2013-06-29 at 9.24.06 AM

“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”  ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Related Post: We’re Making Hobbit Cloaks – Oh Ya!!


30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.

© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2013)

About Leah Kelley, Ed.D.

Leah Kelley, M.Ed, Ed.D., Writer, Consultant, Activist, Speaker, and Educator, working with Teacher Candidates at UBC. Authors blog: 30 Days of Autism. Projects support social understanding, Neurodiversity paradigm, Disability Justice, and connecting Disability Studies in Education(DSE)to Educational Practice. Twitter: @leah_kelley Facebook: 30 Days of Autism: Leah Kelley
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12 Responses to An Unexpected Journey: Reading The Hobbit

  1. Oh I love the final quote from your son. Absolutely precious 🙂 I admit I am not usually a sci-fi fan but I do love love love The Princess Bride, Chronicles of Narnia and lots of fantasy stories – it’s so awesome that you two have a special connection and common ground. 🙂


  2. Lisa says:

    Love, love, love, love, love, love! My grown up autistic husband is going to DragonCon with our kids this fall…as Gandolph the White. He already has the beard and wig, but the white staff he ordered is spectacular!


  3. coyotetooth says:

    Read that book 29 times during the winter of ’71 partly because it was the only book I owned. And living in a remote area of Canada, there were few books get. Love it.Still my go to movie choice is LTR.


  4. qoheleth1958 says:

    Wonderful! And yes, “Bollocks!”, absolutely. I wonder what they would say to my reading my mother’s James Hadley Chase novels at five-and-a-half years old? (Once I got reading, nothing in print was safe.) And I’m going to make my wife (who is in the education and literacy development arena) read this post too!


  5. Tolkien got me through some of the roughest years of my life as an undiagnosed Aspergian child. Very soon, I am going to begin reading these books to my younger brother. Thank you for such a wonderful post!


  6. Pingback: We’re Making Hobbit Cloaks – Oh Ya!! | Thirty Days of Autism

  7. Alana says:

    Books books books books books


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