Thursday, July 22, 2010

Getting kids hooked

Making reading attractive to all kids, whatever their interests, has always been important to me, and I know I'm far from alone. You like pictures better than words? Here, have a graphic novel. Your favorite characters are the ones you know from TV and movies? Here are some books about them. Potty humor is what gets your attention? That's cool, too. Here's Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger. Maybe if this one hooks you, you'll find yourself pulling more books off the shelf.

This is a basic question, but why? Why is it so important to hook kids, practically even trick them, into reading? Why is reading so great that I want everyone to do it? There are practical reasons, of course; I'm a children's bookseller and a writer, after all. But I wouldn't be in this business if it weren't genuinely important to me to help kids want to read, and I don't think my passion stems entirely from a hope that they'll be able to read textbooks and then road signs (though both are unquestionably important).

I interrogated myself about this. I asked myself what picture is in the back of my mind as the ultimate goal. To my relief, I found that the picture was of a kid having the same kind of reading experience I have with the best of books: that personal experience where it feels like I'm the only one being let into the characters' world.

If it takes a little potty humor to get kids there, then bring on the poopoo jokes.


  1. So what about kids and adults who prefer nonfiction to fiction?

    Also, I think it's great to have the goal of getting kids personally involved in reading. But I've read with kids way below grade level and adults in pre-GED programs and what they really need is to master a skill so they can become more productive and more successful. For people in these demographics, my goal is that reading move beyond being an impossible-seeming chore into something they are able to do well. I think it's absolutely fine if someone does not have an interest in reading for pleasure (there are many reasons why this would be the case even for highly educated people, like learning or vision difficulties, etc.).

  2. Oh, it's awesome when people like nonfiction, especially for all the practical reasons you mention. And I don't mean that everyone has to be a pleasure reader. It's just something I find myself wishing on everyone; it would be lovely if everyone at least got to experience that at some point.