Last week I was honored to be invited to speak at the the Kids' Book Club, held weekly at the Flying Dragon bookstore. It meets in a magical space in the basement of the adorable shop, a place certain to charm even the most reluctant reader into becoming a bookworm. Especially since cookies are served, and everyone knows bookworms loooove cookies (this one sure does!)
We chatted, and got to know each other. I then read some of my favorite poems, including Smelly Smelly Cinderelly (you'll find it in Mother Goose Unplucked) and my #1 reliable crowd-pleaser, The Ode to Underwear. ("Let's hear it for our underwear, our fun to wear best underwear, it keeps us warm and dry down there....") We also discussed magic tricks, enjoyed a challenge or two from the The Quiz Book for Boys, and experimented with turning ourselves into Human Pretzels.
It was great fun to hang out with kids who wanted to talk about books and ideas, rebels defying the consensus out there that "kids today don't read." B.S., I say. In my experience, the truth is that kids love to read as much as I do. So how did they get this non-reader rep?
My round-up of possibilities:
> Many adults actually don't like to read, and they project their own feelings onto the kids. Saddest of all is when the adults in question are literacy teachers, some of whom only view reading as a tool for future employment and not as a source of personal pleasure. Yes, there are some out there like this.
> Kids don't like to read books that are "good for them" or jammed down their throats. Make reading a homework assignment and you've guaranteed to have turned off half the class or more. Having to write a detailed book report on Louis Sacher's fabulous Holes was probably the single largest factor in making my younger son loathe the book. It broke my heart.
> Kids need time to find books that appeal to them. Leave them in a library or kids bookstore for half an hour or more, and I bet you each and every one of them will discover something that appeals to them (just keep em off the computers....). But if you give in to whining after the first 2 minutes, well yeah, they won't find anything and they'll never learn that reading can be a source of discovery and adventure. Then, if you whisk them away to soccer practice and Kumon, well, you'll be sending the message that books are not really a legitimate way to spend time, that "achievement" matters more...
Cultivating a love of reading needs more than just access to books - it needs access to time, and an attitude from mentors that not all time need be filled with accomplishment or goal-directed activity.
> Kids read in different ways from adults and from each other. Some are turned off by books that seem too "hard", but others will find them a challenge to beat, or won't care if it's too wordy if they are keen on the subject. Kids will read if they are given the chance to explore at their own level, above it or below, and not just in carefully regimented levelled texts.
> For many kids, reading is a communal activity. That's why book clubs for kids are such a great idea. I think every bookstore should sponsor em.
It's a little skewed, that's for sure.
I'm the one that can't help noticing that the Emperor's New Clothes are a little skimpy, and that sometimes what the "experts" have to say is just nonsensical.
I'll be posting all kinds of strange facts, twisted observations and pithy commentary from the land of the perverse, aka Children's Publishing. Stop in now and then for a gab and a cup of java, ok?
And please check my website at http://www.helainebecker.com for info about individual book titles, school and public presentations, and other book-related biz.