Monday, November 23, 2015

Places for Books

I recently read an article which complained that award-winning children's books are not being read. I didn't find that surprising since I have taken many groups of children to the library. From what I've seen, the award-winners are read, but not as much as the popular series such as Harry Potter, Unfortunate Events, and Captain Underpants.

Children and adults generally enjoy reading popular literature more than classics, and since children are just beginning to read there is a need to make reading enjoyable with popular material. While some children like to have these books read to them, most kids manage to plow through them on their own. Because these popular series  encourage the young reader to read more, they should be applauded. "Yes, but," we say, "we want to expose children to good literature." Well, for the younger child good literature probably needs to be read to them. That is a role for a parent or grandparent.  Reading the classics to children improves their vocabulary, their general knowledge, and their ability to understand good writing. Many stories in classics do move slower than those in popular literature, but having quiet time with an adult is worth the time spent. This is not to say that a child might not want to read The Secret Garden or Charlotte's Web on their own, but many do better if introduced to this type of reading by a parent. 

What about school? Should teachers be exposing students to classic literature?  Yes, they should, but teachers also have children read another type of book. I call these "chapter books filled with teachable moments".  One example is By the Great Horn Spoon!  My students enjoyed the book and I loved to teach it. Why? Because it gave children a chance to learn geography, history, and literary techniques. The book was about a little boy headed to find his fortune in California during the gold rush of 1849.  He lived in Boston and took a ship (as a stowaway with his butler) to the gold fields. What made reading in class different?  As each chapter was read, maps were pulled down, the Internet was searched for information about clipper ships, Patagonia was researched, and metaphors (which were abundant in this book) were explained.  Although it would be a great book for a child to read on her own, or for a parent to read to a child, we all know there would be no maps or metaphors referred to while the book was being read in that setting.

So perhaps we need to think of the multitude of settings in which children should be exposed to books. There are books to be owned: the cherished favorites.  Books to be borrowed and read, which is why we have libraries. Books for parents to read to their children. Books librarians read to small groups of children, (often these are the award winning books) - and books read at school. The book types may overlap, but the different settings all serve a function: helping children realize the joy of the written language, acquire the knowledge that can be gained, enjoy the delight of good art, and explore the world; its past and present and maybe even its future.

No comments:

Post a Comment