In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Emerging Readers

Dear Annie,

I love the idea of trading favorite book recommendations with friends.And Paul Fleischman's lovely apprehensions about a friend's taste ("This actually made them laugh, you think (or cry, keep turning the page, etc.)  Can I still regard this person as a friend?  As human?") was perfect. Thank you so much, Paul, for joining our discussion.

Before leaving Narnia, I'd like to mention a book that sounds great, although I have yet to read it (no time, no time...). 
The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia
by Laura Miller. She's someone who loved the Narnia books as a child, felt betrayed when she understood later that they were full of Christianity, then went back and wrote about them in intelligent adult ways later in life. Full of contradictions, those books.

I thought today that I'd recount a conversation I was in a week ago at cousin Ellen's wedding.  It was with the mother of the delightful Dancing Boy -- an eight- or nine-year old who spent most of the night by himself on the dance floor.  She was lamenting that he seemed not to be interested in reading, and how does one get boys interested in reading these days.  The conversation had two parts.

First, it turned out that he reads, but not the books his parents expected him to.  He likes non-fiction, books that give him information.  And he was reading Asterix and Tintin comic books.  But he wasn't reading novels, including books that we might consider classics.  One of the issues parents get to face as their children grow up is that their taste may differ from the older generation's.  Also, as one is emerging into being an independent reader, novels are harder than a lot of other types of reading.  First and foremost, you have to read the whole thing.  If you read two-thirds of a novel and give up on it, you've failed. But if you read one page of The Guinness Book of World Records, or one story in a comic book, you've gotten something.  Reading a page or two here or there is all good practice, keeping one in shape for whatever one wants to read in the future.

Then your father joined the conversation, bringing your brother up as an example.  Michael is remembered as reading nothing but Archie comic books until the summer before he went to high school.  (True?  Michael - are you reading this?)  At that point he switched over to reading Dostoevsky, and never looked back.  Paul Fleischman's sentence in the last post reminded me of Michael:
The book was on the shelves in my childhood home, but I didn't discover reading for pleasure until high school.
 (Although, of course, one assumes Michael was reading Archie for pleasure.)

I started out thinking I was going to write a post on boys and reading, because I've received a number of questions lately about how-can-I-get-this-boy-to-read.  And what's being written in general these days about boy books and girl books drives me slightly crazy.  And I'm sure I'll come back to this topic lots.  But we all need to remember that children engage in reading in different ways, at different ages.  Feeding individual interests is helpful.  And being a household that loves books, where parents read for pleasure themselves (I know, no time, no time...) -- it all contributes to kids loving books.



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