Readers' choice

I just read this very interesting article in the NY Times called The Future of Reading
A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like

I am a traditionalist: kids must be exposed to classic literature in school, otherwise they will never read it. Also classic literature exposes students to good grammar. They certainly don't hear it from the people around them, and what they read and write in social networking and texting is directly harmful to their language arts skills. I've even heard teachers mixing up grammar on a regular basis... I try very hard but know I'm not perfect either.

Kids need to read Romeo and Juliet, Animal Farm, To Kill a Mockingbird, Huck Finn, etc. etc. etc. The schools have to assign it. Are kids going to read it at the beach during the summer? Hardly!

On the other hand, I get their main point. C reads for pleasure for herself. We are certainly lucky. She reads and reads and reads. Its a mixture of trash and good literature. But I know the struggles most people face. N reads Calvin and Hobbes for pleasure but little of substance without being prodded. We bought him a ton of C&H. The purpose: to fuel his enjoyment in reading. It's isn't my first choice, but it does expose him to a lot of 4-syllable words he otherwise wouldn't read and he enjoys reading it!

When C started in school I was concerned about the crappy grammar and direct stupidity of the protagonist in Junie B Jones books. The ETS assured me that any reading is good reading. I went through the same anxiety when N discovered Captain Underpants. I still wish they preferred something more traditional, but like their obsession with the Telly Tubbies, both Junie B and Captain U have grown out of fashion.

Why can't there be a balance: kids get to read Captain Underpants or Twilight at home on their own time, but still get the core of our literary tradition at school. Or mix it - maybe one marking period they read substance, and then, as a prize, they can read what they want. Can't we make it hip enough - give them some choice, but limit it to great books? I want my kids to continue reading. But I want them prepared for college without asking "who's Sylvia Plath?" (as I did when I went off to college).

What do you think?


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