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1000th Post: Some Further Discussions on Raising Readers

I think it's appropriate that my one thousandth post should be about discussions related to raising readers. As regular readers know, a few days ago I published an article (with much input from the Kidlitosphere), inspired by my stint as guest blogger at PBS Parents: Expert Q&A about Helping Kids Learn to Enjoy Reading. This article has received such a positive response that I even created a PDF version, so that parents and teachers could print it out more easily. Many thanks to everyone who commented, or read, or linked to my article. I really appreciate your support, and your interest in raising readers.

Clearly, inspiring young readers is a topic near and dear to the hearts of many members of the Kidlitosphere, because the discussion that led to my article has continued and proliferated. Here are some related posts that are worth checking out:

  • Over at The Well-Read Child, Jill T. recaps an article from the UK's Daily Telegraph which "reminds us that parents aren't the only ones who can make an impact." Jill summarizes the article's suggestions for parents, authors, schools, and government for increasing both literacy rates and joy in reading. In the comments of that post, Jill and I are discussing the need for a national public information campaign on the importance of raising kids who enjoy reading. The appointment of our new National Ambassador for Children's Literature is a great first step, of course, but there's a lot more that could be done.
  • At Lessons from the Tortoise, Libby has two related posts. The first is about reading levels: Too Young? Too Old? Just Right? In response to suggestions that it's a bad thing to push kids to read above the level that they're ready for, Libby suggests that "reading above one's level is actually a fine thing--if one is the kind of kid who stretches rather than shrinks when confronted with new things." She's not arguing for kids to be pushed to do this, but she does argue for the rights of kids who like the challenge of a big thick book, even one that they're not quite ready for, to try it out. This, of course, begs the question of where to draw the line. But I do take her point. I took pleasure in knowing, as a seventh grader, that I was reading Dickens. Did I enjoy it, precisely? I couldn't say. Would I have gotten more out of David Copperfield as an older reader? Sure. But I'm still glad that no one tried to stop me.
  • In her second post, Libby asks Is all reading good? Specifically, she takes exception to the phrase (used in my article and other discussions) "let them read what they like." This post is basically a mini research treatise, complete with several footnotes, and ranging from Playboy to misogyny to censorship to whether or not we think that ideas have power. This academic approach is not surprising, since Libby teaches classes like Introduction to Children's Literature at the University of Richmond, but it does make for interesting reading. The issue of "stereotypical ideas about women, men, the disabled, the poor, etc., etc." in children's literature is one for which I don't have a good answer. And there are surely books that I wouldn't go out of my way to buy for my nieces. But there are other books that have admittedly dated ideas about gender and race roles, but which I, like Libby, would rather read and discuss than miss out on. 
  • On a lighter note, Susan T. at Chicken Spaghetti writes about the importance of matching book with reader, giving as an example her son's fondness for Calvin and Hobbes, and graphic novels like the Babymouse books.
  • There have also been some comments in response to the "helping kids learn to enjoy reading" post over at PBS, including a detailed comment by Sallie Wolf about the importance of reading aloud, and making reading fun. And there are some great comments on the article here, too.

That's all that I can recall now, out of the blizzard of posts and comments and emails from the past few days. But if you're taken on this topic at your blog, and I somehow missed it, please let me know. Thanks!

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.