I had a surprising conversation with my daughter last night. My nephew just started kindergarten. For his birthday, following a suggestion from his mother, I decided to pick out first or representative books from several series that I thought he might enjoy. Then he could continue on his own with the ones that he likes. Naturally enough, I selected from series that my daughter had liked. Before finalizing my purchase, I ran the list of candidate books by her, to see if I had missed anything.
To my astonishment, she shook her head over my selection of the first books from the Lunch Lady, Babymouse, and Squish series. These are three of her all-time favorite series. She's been reading and re-reading the books for years now. We have given them many times as gifts to people. She adores them. She just about knows the Lunch Lady books by heart. When I asked why she was rejecting them she explained that she didn't think it was a good idea to get her cousin reading graphic novels when he is so young, because they are so good that he would get addicted to them and "not have an open mind to reading other kinds of books."
I didn't even know how to respond. It's true that this happened to my daughter, to some extent. Her immersion in graphic novels has without question delayed her adoption of other types of books, whether these be chapter books or nonfiction or poetry. But my view has been that as long as she enjoys what she's reading, she will keep reading, and will get better at it. I've believed that she'll eventually branch out, if for no other reason than that she's read all of the notebook and graphic novels that she can find. I've been seeing signs lately, especially since she started third grade, that this is happening. In the meantime, I have been thrilled to see her pulling swaths of Dork Diaries, Amulet, and Babymouse books off the library shelves. My goal is for her to love books, and it's graphic and notebook novels that have gotten her there. I will be forever grateful.
I had NO IDEA that she had the self-awareness to realize that she had been ... boxing herself in a bit in terms of her reading choices. Or that she would want something different for her cousin. I don't actually agree with her (though I think Karen Yingling might - see her post from today that touches on this topic). I think that whatever book gets a child "addicted" to reading is a good thing, and that we can worry about expanding the genre range later.
However, I did defer to her judgement. I (with a little sigh) dropped Babymouse and Squish from the birthday gift, keeping only Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett Krosoczka. But then I snuck in the first Princess Pink book, Moldylocks and the Three Beards by Noah Z. Jones. Because whether my daughter remembers this or not, this was the very first graphic novel that held her attention (we read it aloud to her sometime around kindergarten, over and over again). I thought that her cousin might get a kick out of it.
I guess the moral of the story is that kids can surprise you. As for my nephew, I'll be interested to see what kinds of books he ends up enjoying as he gets older.
What do all of you think? Is there a risk of getting kids "addicted" to graphic novels early, and having it be hard for them to branch out later? Or is all reading and good and happy thing?