So, I have holiday cards to write, photos to download, books to cull (perhaps a house to clean, nah) and I skipped my Shut Up and Write meeting this a.m. because my dog had, well, Baboon Booty (red, swollen, THOROUGHLY unattractive) so I took him to the vet instead.
Who knew that I'd be so inspired (infuriated) by that visit that I'd find the energy, time, motivation to write a blog post before doing anything else? The vet, as always, was delightful. I love the office, love the people, great medical care.
BUT, when I talk to people with children, I often write a Book Rx for them (I even have a pad of prescription pages, really). I was writing down some titles for the vet's kids when I asked a bit more about their reading habits. Her son loves graphic novels, but he's not really allowed to use those for 'real' reading. That is per his parents AND his teacher! He does 20 minutes of real reading for homework, THEN he's allowed 30 minutes of graphic novel/comic book reading in order to earn iPad time. Sigh, isn't reading its own reward? Couldn't iPad/screen time be earned by doing chores instead (otherwise, this sends the message that reading IS the chore).
I used the argument that I always use, "We don't do that to adults. We don't tell them they're not reading across a broad enough range or that what they've chosen isn't challenging enough. AND, BTW, graphic novel, comic books, etc. ARE reading. " Sigh. My belief is as long as they're reading for pleasure, they'll read the books they HAVE to read later and they'll get through them and might even enjoy them.
She said that they would let him read what he wanted for 30 minutes, but if he wanted to earn more iPad time, that 60 minutes of graphic novel reading was not allowed. I said, "As long as he's enjoying the reading, that's your biggest hurdle. Why not let him choose his fun reading? Tell him that's up to him."
The answer, are you ready for this? "I don't want to give him that much power." Okay, he's 8, don't give him your Visa Card or the keys to the car, but giving your child the POWER to choose what he reads? That is the BEST thing you can do!
And then I thought, "She's not alone" because EVERY teacher, EVERY librarian and EVERY parent who looks at a book that a child has chosen for themselves and shakes her/his head in dismay, disgust (yes, it happens) or general 'judginess' has taken that power from that child.
Think this is too strong or too harsh a judgement? I've been working in bookstores for 7 years now, only in the children's department (because NOBODY wants me to wrap gifts, believe me) and I have seen a child's face go from happy and eager to crushed when they hold up a book they chose and they're told it's 'not suitable'. I STILL point to a friend of my daughter's, now a bright high school senior, who has NEVER fully recovered her full love of reading after her 5th grade teacher told her she was not allowed to read any more Disney Fairy books.
Want to see a child light up? Gain confidence? Find joy? Take them into an (independent) bookstore and say, "You have $25, make your own choices." (yes, libraries are great too). 'Power' is not inherently evil and the power to choose your own books is MAGICAL.