Recently I encountered a phenomenon all too familiar from my decades of experience in education. One of my undergraduate students approached me for advice concerning her younger sister whom she described as a “poor” and “unmotivated reader.”
As it happened, the 9-year-old herself came to my class the following week and I talked to her. During our conversation she also described herself as “a poor reader,” saying she sometimes gets so bored while reading that she falls asleep. But when I asked if she fell asleep reading the Goosebumps books (which she’d mentioned as favorites), she said, “Oh no! Because it’s exciting, and exciting things happen, and you don’t know what’s going to happen, but then it’s fun when you figure things out!”
As the conversation continued, it came out that she’s in her school choir, prefers jazz to classical music, loves to write (especially when she can choose her own topic) and wants to be—I'm not kidding—a gynecologist.
Clearly, this is not “a poor reader.” The problem is not in her; it’s in what she’s reading.
This example, it seems to me, reveals something of profound importance about children and reading. For if children are often mislabeled, or mislabel themselves, as “poor readers,” we have to ask ourselves if adults are underestimating young people’s reading abilities. And this will affect not only the books we offer to young readers but also the books we read to them.
My rule of thumb: If you think the book will interest her--have at it!
What books do your children love to read? Tell us about them in the comments below.
Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like--Jay Williams and Mercer Mayer
King Bidgood's in the Bathtub--Don and Audrey Wood
Owl Moon--Jane Yolen
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick--Chris VanAllsburg
The Shark God--Rafe Martin and David Shannon
And of course,
Where the Wild Things Are--Maurice Sendak