Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Feed 'em, love 'em and leave 'em alone."

So said Dr. Spock, and though he was addressing child-rearing in general, the point applies to the niche of raising readers. I picked up the ARC of A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature, by Horn Book Magazine editors Roger Sutton and Martha Parravano, at BEA, and noticed this theme throughout. Telling kids what they should read and when they should read it is a great way for adults to help kids hate reading. Though it wouldn't be fair for a Horn Book Guide reviewer's blog to review this book, I think it's safe to give that point a "hear, hear!" Even if an adult's recommendation would be perfect for the young reader in question, turning that recommendation into a demand won't do anyone any favors. Suggestions can be great when they're posed as just suggestions, but there's something special about a book the reader finds and chooses for him- or herself.

I might even take it one step further and suggest that kids, like adults, can really benefit from reading books their peers aren't reading. Don't get me wrong; everyone should also have the chance to be part of a community of readers, as it were. But just as the experience of selecting one's own books is special, it's special to feel like you're the only one who's read them, the only one who knows what's in them. It's wonderful to feel that a character you've chosen to read about has chosen you as his or her only best friend.

What do you think?


  1. I appreciate that logic. My parents were mystified that one summer I was reading Baby Sitter Club books (wasn't I too old, too smart) and then the next Fall reading A Time to Kill (was I okay? That book's not really for 12-year-olds...)

    Then again, such logic gives precocious children the chance to snot back to their reading teacher that because this panel of experts says to allow choosing their own materials and read differently means they don't have to pay attention to the class discussion of Hatchet. And if you start condoning personal-selection-based literacy study, the children will never be prepared for high school/college lit classes. Unless, of course, someone devises a curriculum to support individual-based reading.

  2. Read until you find something you love. Then read some more.

  3. Nicole, agreed!

    Britt, definitely. There's a lot of value in shared reading, which may have to be another post; in my ideal reading world, everyone has both. After that Hatchet lesson, I hope kids get to pick their own material for DEAR time (or, as my third grade teacher called it, USSR - Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading).

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