Book-Lover vs. the Non-Reading Child
August 27, 2013 | 1:15 pm
By Joanna Cabot
I wrote yesterday about a blog post written by a book lover who lamented her non-reading spouse. Today, a story serendipitously crossed my inbox on a similar topic: a book lover who laments their non-reading child.
Our friends at Book Riot shared the anecdote of attending a book event and meeting a dad who was attending it without his non-reader wife. And he had made peace with that, just as the blogger in yesterday’s story did. But what he still could not get over was the non-reading child who had inherited his mother’s habits.
The article got quite a few comments which affirmed this double standard. A non-reading spouse was fine. Adults are free to make their own decisions on how they spend their leisure time. But a non-reading child is still a bit of a tragedy. Isn’t it?
I have to admit, I am a bit torn on this. On the one hand, as a teacher, I do know first-hand that educational outcomes, in all curriculum areas, are improved when the child is a reader. I also have two lawyer stepbrothers who both at one point confessed that they regret not reading more as kids—there is a lot about vocabulary, spelling, grammar and writing skills that you can obtain via osmosis from reading great books. Their fluency as writers, and their comfort level with writing tasks, would be better if they had this experience bank to draw on.
But I also think that Kellee from the Unleashing Readers blog post I cited yesterday touches upon a key point when she acknowledges that there are worthwhile things to read besides novels.
I have seen my share of boys come into the library at school and take out nonfiction books week after week. I have also seen my share of well-meaning teachers try and steer them into the storybooks again.
But is it such a bad thing for your dinosaur-obsesssed five-year-old to spend his reading time amassing encyclopedic knowledge of all things dinosaur from well-produced, information-laden science books? Is is such a bad thing for them to learn about volcanoes or dolphins or Medieval times or any of the other typically ‘boy’ topics for which our school library has a well-stocked special area?
I do think it is important for kids to be exposed to all writing types, and I do think that a passing familiarity with the major works of the English canon is an important part of a well-rounded education. But beyond that, reading is reading to me. If the kids in my life want to develop their fluency and comprehension skills—which are important things to develop—reading non-fiction, I have no problems with that. I’ll assume that their required readings for school will cover the bare essentials of the canon which they may not choose for fun. And I’ll let them pick their own materials for the rest of it.
I do think children should read something, though. And I do think that, until they are adults who have completed a basic education and gone off into the world to find their own paths, they should be encouraged to make reading—of something—a part of their lives. I would push it with a child in a way that I wouldn’t with a spouse who has done his required learning already and now is on his own. But I don’t think I’d be too picky about the material. Read fiction, read non-fiction, read graphic novels, whatever. Just read something, kids!