Friday, September 28, 2007

Dyan Sheldon/ Let them read Captain Underpants!!!

Last night I read Dyan Sheldon's I Conquer Britain. It is a companion piece to Sophie Pitt-Turnbull Discovers America, and it made me waaaay happier than it should have. Lots of descriptions of London sites and life, although I must mention that I only had two cups of tea when I went to London-- people don't go around offering stangers cups, but Cherokee Salamaca was staying with Sophie's family.

Is it great literature? No. Oh, there is subplot or two, some character development, and it's well-written, but it's just fun.

So, here's a slap, which I actually delivered to one of my SUPER parent volunteers who was in yesterday and shelved tons of books (thankyouthankyouthankyou!). This parent said that she wanted to make sure her child was challenged.

This always raises my hackles, and I gave her my spiel on how students who read well don't really need to be challenged as much as they need to keep reading. She took it, I hope, in the spirit in which is was intended.

Why does this always anger me? I thought this one through. The major reason is that we lose kids as readers in middle school. We make it not fun to read. This is why my youngest has decided that she hates books. I brought home a book on cheerleading which I thought she would enjoy, and she couldn't read it because the Accelerated Reader level was too low. Her teacher is very reasonable, but I will still have to have a talk with him. We need to make sure that middle school students are having fun when they read, or they will stop. Really.

The second reason is that even though I was a good reader in middle school, I wasn't reading War and Peace. I was reading Ellen Conford and Paula Danziger and having fun. Do I read challenging things? Occasionally. I'm capable of it. But what I like best is something fun. The average adult reads, what, 5 books a year. I read hundreds because I am having fun. Which is better? Reading 5 books that are okay, or reading a whole big bunch that make me smile?

Also, my own kids are fairly freaky bright. My 6th grade son (Code name: Norbert) loves Star Wars books and Bruce Coville as a steady diet. Yet, on his own initiative, he read all of the Lord of the Rings and is starting on The Silmarillion. My 8th grader (Hortense), who can still be found rereading Animorphs, sucked down Wicked in a few days and has also read some whopping big fantasy books her friends have recommended.

So, parents out there, take a deep breath. Let them read Captain Underpants. They are challenged enough at school. Let them enjoy their reading!

P.S. Yes, there are a few children who need to be challenged. One student this year has turned down all my best reluctant reader titles because, and I quote, "they just aren't nonstop freaky violent stuff". Hmmm. I will have an ongoing conversation with this child. I do have the suspicion, however, that perhaps this boy's parents are not overly concerned about what he's reading. There was some mention of a lot of tv and horror movies.

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