A boy's high-volume energy Books: Ten-year-old Matt Carman, who spends much of his time caring for his pets, doesn't read sitting still.

Young Readers

August 16, 1998|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

For Matt Carman, being able to read means never complaining that there's nothing to do.

Matt, who recently turned 10, is in perpetual motion, spending a good portion of his time caring for his pets. He is the proud owner of five horses, five goats, two dogs, three house cats (and barn cats too numerous to count), 30 chickens, 30 guinea pigs, a handful of hissing cockroaches and one lizard.

His father, Dr. Donald Carman, runs a veterinary practice in Carroll County. His mother, Debbie, is a homemaker who manages the family's small farm -- with Matt's help.

Even when the Taneytown youngster is participating in a quiet activity -- such as reading a book -- he's still moving. He gestures excitedly as he explains the good part of a story. At a scary part, his face reflects fear.

If he's showing someone a field guide about, say, insects, the budding entomologist clamors to point out the bugs he has found -- and those he would like to see.

"I've always read to Matthew. It was the only thing that would sedate him," joked his mother as she accompanied Matt to the Taneytown branch of Carroll County public library.

Once a regular at library story sessions, on this day Matt has taken his goats to the library as live reinforcement for toddlers after the morning's story time -- part of a summer series on farm animals and farm living.

Active in three 4-H clubs, Matt often reads books about caring for and exhibiting his pets. As long as his parents can remember, Matt has been interested in factual material. "Anything he asked questions about, we read to him," Debbie Carman says.

After years of being read to, Matt was eager to read to himself. Learning didn't go as smoothly as he and his parents hoped, however. "I didn't have an easy time learning to read," Matt confided, "but once I learned, I got good at it."

Rather than be discouraged by failed attempts to sound out words correctly, Matt said he felt challenged to master the skill.

He's a big fan of books on audiotape, borrowing them from the library and using them to pass the time during car rides or other chores.

Most evenings, though, the avid reader can be found reading in bed promising -- at least a few times -- to put the book away "right after this chapter," his mother said.

If he's caught reading when he's supposed to be sleeping, more often than not, Matt's deeply engrossed in one of his Animorphs books. The science fiction series by K. A. Applegate is about alien and human superheroes who change into various animals at will to take on alien species trying to inhabit the Earth and handle problems of a human nature -- such as exploding nuclear warheads.

Matt, who is entering fifth grade at Taneytown Elementary School, says his current favorite in the series is "In the Time of the Dinosaurs," a 229-page-turner that takes readers back to the fearsome days when dinosaurs walked the Earth.

"I would like to be able to do that," Matt said with a big grin as he explained the "morphing" concept.

Matt said he uses his Animorphs books to try selling his friends on the pleasures of reading. He said he can't imagine how someone could think reading was not one of the most fun things to do.

In the past school year, a classmate stood up at the end of a project and said he didn't enjoy the activity because of all the reading involved. Matt is still incredulous as he retells the story a few months later.

"I would never say that. I get in trouble because I read too much," the earnest elementary schooler said with a laugh.

Pub Date: 8/16/98

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