Friday, August 8, 2008

Bad Books Make for Poor Readers

Although I'm usually the one hawking the idea that young boys need to read more, this article in today's WSJ disturbs me. Why? Because I don't think you should sacrifice quality material in order to get boys to read: I don't believe you have to. If the choice is between my 8 year old reading Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger and not reading recreationally at all, I think I'd go for the latter. At least I'd have the chance later on to introduce something good and fun, rather than have my son get addicted to the literary equivalent of daytime television.

Think of it this way: do you remember when you were starting to feed your baby solid food? Everyone warned you: veggies before fruit, right? And maybe you compromised and did the orange veggies before the green ones, but it made sense. You got him to like foods that taste good and that he needed to eat before you gave him the sweet treats. You didn't say - oh, I want my baby to like solid food, so I'm going to start with the yummiest, sweetest foods I can find, just to make sure he likes eating. No, not when you knew he was also going to have to go through life eating broccoli, you didn't.

The same thing should be true with books. It's not just about getting you child to like to read. It's about teaching him to recognize and value well-written, interesting books. That's a much harder job, but it's a more rewarding one in the end.


Anonymous said...

I'm in the other camp: I think if my kids are reading (provided of course it's not porn or profanity), I'm good with it. And I'm an English teacher, so I'm a huge proponent of reading "quality" literature...but if I have a free hour, am I going to read Shakespeare or my People magazine? That doesn't mean I can't read Shakespeare, or analyze the heck out of it, it just means that if I'm going to read for enjoyment, I want something that captures my interest more and is, frankly, more enjoyable.

The more you read, the more proficient you get at it, and at elementary school age, I believe that holds true whether you are reading Harry Potter OR Captain Underpants (my 8 year old's current favorite). He IS going to have to read more "literary" works - he will be assigned that in school. If reading a story with the words fart and booger in it makes him giggle and keeps him engaged, who cares? He's still working on reading comprehension and speed. And the teachers he's had so far agree, as did the teachers at the elementary school I worked at this past spring. I don't think bad books make poor readers...I think not reading at all makes a poor reader.

Tari said...

Wow, thanks for the great comment.

I still have a problem with the potty-humor books more than anything, though. They seem to sweat that stuff from their pores as boys, I hate anything that encourages it.

Although I say that - when my 8 year old was in 1st grade he was assigned Stellaluna to read. The text fit his reading level perfectly, but it was about a baby girl bat, for goodness sake! He flipped completely. If someone would have offered him a Captain Underpants at that point he would have snapped it up!

kevin said...

Hey, Grass Widow. I am the author of "Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger." Why don't you take a moment to actually read an excerpt on the website ( before you trash it? I think you'll find it's a lot more "well-written" than you (understandably) presume. And more decorous -- I can tell you the word "fart" appears nowhere but in the character's name.

Incidentally, for what it's worth, I am also a reading teacher whose school was recognized for consistenly producing some of the highest literacy scores in the province in Ontario (Canada) -- and my students would probably tell you all we ever did was read silly books.

Hope you take a moment to check out the excerpt before you jump to judge.