"Fiction is the purest art. Commercial fiction is the butter, the darkest chocolate, and the finest malt. That's why we are so addicted to it."--Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli
When parents make comments about their children not being a 'strong reader', yet the child chooses to go to a bookstore or library, it makes me wonder about the parents.I was fortunate to be a child of two voracious readers. The both collected books. That treasure trove was kept in the basement of our house. Before I was 12 I had read 'The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich', devoured a graphic book on mummies, fell in love with science fiction and had a college level vocabulary. I couldn't understand why my peers complained about book assignments. When I was older, I came to understand that they simply weren't encouraged to read.
Is the problem what you say or how publicly you say it?It's possible that the parent might have a better grasp of how good a reader her kid is. Her statement might be based on a whole lot more than whether or not her kid finishes books--such as all manner of school testing. She might have a very good reason for wanting to communicate this to the bookstore employee--trying to get the employee to target her recommendations better to her daughter's reading level.I'm the parents of two special needs kids. Both their IQ's are measured in the seventies. However, they don't display the "tells" that makes this obvious to people. Unlike many developmentally disabled kids, my kids have no physical developmental abnormalities, other than being small. They're terrifically well socialized and charming. [They're also, as it happens, really good readers, all things considered.]Sometimes I find myself in the position of needing to explain to people whose job it is to serve my kids' needs just what they can and can't do. Otherwise I get things like the doctor who can't understand why my kids can't answer her questions, and doesn't realize my kids don't know what the heck she means when she says, "Hydration is important." Or the optometrist who's getting annoyed by my daughter's inability to make the "A or B?" comparisons he wants. (Quantifying or making comparisons is their special hell.) I try to be discreet about it, but sometimes I find it necessary to make adults aware of their limitations so that they can be sensitive to them.I would be more than a little annoyed if somebody presumed to be more knowledgeable about my kids' abilities and needs than I on the basis of maybe thirty minutes of interaction at a store.
Wow. My parents let me buy whatever books I wanted. I remember my dad saying, "How can I say I you can't have a book?" once. As far as my own kid, he's only six. He gets to pick out whatever he likes, and then I always grab a few I think he might like. If he doesn't, I don't push it, but I like to give him the chance to try new things. It's not about hounding him to read something "advanced" its about him realizing just how much is out there for him to explore.
The things parents say about their kids, in front of their kids, amaze me. People can be so disrespectful. Great article.
I always bragged about my kids' reading habits. As cash-poor as we were when the kids were growing up, we always had some money for books. Ans now that they have kids (ages 8 - 19), we still give them gift certificates to book stores. Occasionally I find an interesting book and buy it for them. Like Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. The 15-y-o read it in 2 days and can't wait for the movie. The 9-y-o is reading it with his mother. I'm hoping the 8-y-o's father will read it with him.Ironically, the one person who nearly derailed the 9-y-o's momentum in reading was his school librarian, who wanted book reports on every book he borrowed from the library. She was serious. When his mother spoke to his teacher, the teacher told him to totally disregard the librarian and just read.
On the other hand, as a library worker who is often asked by parents for book recommendations for kids, it's important to know what grade level the child reads at. Telling me Johnny is in third grade is useless. When I was in second grade, I devoured my library's entire Nancy Drew selection. By third grade I'd moved on. I always read above grade level, and my recommendations tend to reflect that.Tell me the most recent book Johnny read, indicate subtly if he wants a book or if he's just doing required reading for school, and yes--occasionally I need to know if he struggles with reading.The only way to make reading fun for children is to give them books they will enjoy. If I recommend books that are too difficult for them, I fail them, and the parent who trusted me.
Oy! My daughter started slowly largely because she went into school a year earlier than we expected and she has very bad eyesight (that took some finagling to work out). She was self-conscious after a scarring kindergarten year (with a thoughtless teacher), but made up ground in first grade. By fourth grade, she was voraciously reading manga. By the fifth, she was voraciously reading everything and she still does. I buy her a number of books every year, most everything she asks me for. And, now that she works part time, she augments it with her own money and buys more.My son didn't like to be read to as a small child and isn't particularly interested in reading now, but he certainly won't find me discouraging him in any way.
In my own librarian days, I would ask what books the child had read and enjoyed recently rather than trying to get some abstract judgment about "reading levels."
I don't do that, but I guess I'm humble enough to say I do something probably equally obnoxious. (Stay back, haters!)My kid (8) LOVES non-fiction. We go to the library and he picks out this huge stack of non-fiction books and I let him take as much as he wants but I'm forever dragging him around to the fiction section saying, "But what about THIS. Wouldn't THIS ONE be great too? Just... come on, just ONE fiction book, please???"Fortunately he's like most kids and just ignores his mother. :)
I feel like some are mixing the ability to read with the desire to read. I have a nephew who can read just fine, he plays a lot of video games that have dialog on the screen, but it is next to impossible to get him to sit down and read a book. His brother is the opposite. He reads books all the time but hates games and tv.Both I would classify as 'Strong Readers' but one likes to read and the other doesn't
You know I've been very selective about the books I read since a young age as well. I won't read something that doesn't completely interest me. And if I'm half way through and it's not cutting it I put it down. I'm not going to waste my time when there's better things out there to be read. Does that mean I'm not a strong reader? Nope, not at all. Good for her for being selective. That's just who she is. And Poo on mom for being so thoughtless, hope she wises up.
My incredibly competitive school district doesn't even tell us parents what our kids' reading levels are. I like it that way... although, especially when the kids were young, the librarians in school would limit their reading. Especially my daughter, who was reading Junie B Jones at age 4. She'd come home with picture books with ten words per page. It was frustrating for me, but they adamantly would not let her check out anything but picture books that kindergarten year.As a writer, a reader, a parent, I often tell my friends, fellow parents, to stop limiting what their kids read. Especially if it's a library book. So what? Your kid tries it. If they don't like it, no harm, no foul. If they do and it's a bit above their ability, they'll stretch to meet the story. I watched a friend's daughter do exactly that. But I had to tell the mom (repeatedly) to shut up and let her kid control what she wanted to read -- THAT was harder than getting the kid to read!
@SBJones: I agree, the issue, and probably what the store employee was irked about, is there is a difference between reading level and reading enjoyment. Also, the YA shelf is expanding but still has very little categorization, so you could have a warlocks & witches book filed next to a sarah dessen book about a grieving family. I love that there are bookstores & libraries who will take the time to help families find the right books.
I think kids development in all areas can be sabotaged by insensitive comments said in presence of the child.
I don't take my kids to the bookstore often, unless I find myself with some extra money to spend! "You can pick one book" always becomes "Can't I get two? I can't decide!" and eventually "But I need all three! They're a series!" And suddenly I'm out $50 because I'm a sucker when they're begging for books.But I do take them to the library all the time, and they take out as many books as we are physically able to carry (and I mean that--they broke the handle on my tote bag once!). I will occasionally steer them away from books that I know are too easy, or too scary, but I never tell them a book is too hard. Most of the time, it turns out that I would have been wrong anyway.
I have always enjoyed sharing books with my daughter. From the first time I could read to her (in the womb) to the last time we stood in line at Anime Expo so she could buy some weird Asian Manga (ugh, why do they have to grow up to be just like us) I have always encouraged her reading. When we couldn't afford the bookstore we still went. We would sit in the aisle and fantasize about what we would buy when we got some more money. Then we would go home and create our own adventure. I always keep an open mind and let her choose her reading path without judgement. I have to admit I was a little weirded out when she started reading Ellen Hopkins but she gets more out of those books than any reality TV show could ever give her. To each his own. My first book that I went apeshit about was Stephen King's Dark Half so I can't be too harsh on her book selections.
Janet, thank you for provoking a tremendously interesting discussion on a topic near and dear to my heart. I have been an avid reader my entire life. My 16-month-old son is already showing signs of becoming a reader. He loves to sit and flip through his books by himself or bring us one to read, and he (Mr. Go-go-go!) readily settles for our nightly story time. In the bookstore, he happily peruses books. In one of my favorite recent memory snapshots, he is waiting for the big people to get out of his isle, rocking forward on his toes with his hands crossed behind his back.No matter his reading level in future, I intend to keep library and bookstore outings a positive experience. I appreciate the reminder that sometimes that means keeping my mouth shut.
I don't have kids, but I work with a lot of small children at my library and it drives me INSANE when parents discourage their kids from reading picture books. Yes, the kid is 7 or 8 or 9. Yes, they CAN read higher/harder books. Does it matter?NO. I read 500 picture books a year. You know why? Because picture books are awesome and I love them and reading is still reading.Also? Most early readers? Are DULL. (Elephant and Piggie not counting. Because Mo Willems is a genius.)Just... why on earth would you discourage your child from reading no matter what it is?
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