CANDY ALLAN: Kids’ books can kill a love of reading
OK, I know we’re supposed to foster reading by our kids as a way to enrich their lives and improve their ability to learn.
I agree with that. Reading is a good thing … not to mention readers keep me employed. I’m all in favor of reading.
But have you seen some of the kids’ books on the market today? I’m not going to name specific titles, but some of these books are truly awful.
For example, there are books solely about good manners or making good choices or some other life lesson. While teaching through literature isn’t a bad thing, these books fail to make the attempt. They’re just printed lectures with pictures. There is no story, no plot, no attempt at creating characters — just moralizing.
If such are the books kids are given, it’s no wonder they find reading tedious.
On the flip side, there are TONS of good books out there for kids. My children and I tend to disagree sometimes on the quality of reading choices — “Captain Underpants” may be hilarious to them, but it’s a waste of paper to me. Still, I try to let them read books they’re interested in reading.
There’s a catch, though — they have to defend their choices. You want to read the next (unending) “Captain Underpants” or “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” book? Fine. Explain why.
This isn’t to make them meet some kind of criteria to “earn” the right to read those titles — it’s so I know what they like about the books and I can suggest something similar I think has more literary value.
Books about detectives? Ok … wanna try “Sherlock Holmes?” I loved watching my son realize Holmes was written as a cocaine addict — THAT was a good discussion about choices and what makes a story’s hero.
Books about real people? Ok. “Little House” series sound good? My daughter brought me “Little House in the Big Woods” and asked me to explain how Pa made the bullets because she didn’t understand. Field trip to Grandpa’s house to see muzzleloader balls and watch him load and shoot “just like Pa does in the book!”
Don’t sell a kid short — they can surprise you with what they’re willing to stretch to read when they want to. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ll get everything out of a book if it’s just too much of a challenge, but as long as they’re interested in it, is there harm in letting them attempt it?
I’m not talking “Fifty Shades of Grey” — more like “Lord of the Rings.” Or “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
From what I’ve seen, if a kid has to fight too hard to understand, they’ll walk away from a book and find something else. That’s OK when a book is way above their head. Let them try again in a year or two … and they just might fly through it.
The secret is to find actual stories. No kid is going to fight their way through a poorly-disguised etiquette lesson.