In the Age of 'Twilight': About kids who read fantasy... and ‘readicide’
Does your child read fantasy books, one after the other, whizzing through series after series to the exclusion of any other genre?
You suggest perhaps trying something different and you are met with stiff resistance
There is nothing better, you are told, than series such as "Game of Thrones,” “The Wheel of Time, “The Bartimaeus Trilogy,” “Harry Potter,” and so many others. And then you start to worry that your child is:
A) living in a fantasy world
b) wasting time on silly themes
c) wasting time reading easy books
These were some of the concerns that expert Lucy Calkins heard from parents at a conference she recently held.
Calkins is a professor of curriculum and teaching at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and the founding director of the college’s reading and writing project. She has taught thousands of teachers the best ways to engage students in reading, and recently, she decided to give parents a chance to bring their questions to her and other experts at a conference in New York.
More than 500 showed up, she said, and she was overwhelmed with the number of parents who said their children were reluctant readers and they were desperate for advice on how to engage them in reading.
She also said she had many parents concerned that their child only reads fantasy for the above reasons.
Here’s what she told them:
Don’t worry about fantasy. In fact, you should be pleased they are reading.
“Parents don’t understand that fantasy is not lightweight,” she said. “They think it is lightweight because of the themes, but that is really wrong. Fantasy involves multiple works and there is often a lot of text complexity.”
What’s more, she said, there are different levels of complexity in the fantasy genre with which kids can engage as they grow and develop reading skills--and the good news is that they do not usually involve the themes of teenage sex and drug use in which other works of adolescent literature often do.
“Realistic fiction quickly gets into content that kids are not emotionally ready to handle or that parents don’t want them to read about,” she said. “Fantasy doesn’t.”
Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight Saga” has become so hugely popular that a number of teachers are using it in the classroom to get kids to read and encourage them to write.
One parent to whom I was talking to about this scoffed, saying that the books may be compelling but are not well written and have no place in a classroom. Again, I asked reading acquisition experts, and they disagreed.
Here’s the response from Richard Allington, professor of education at the University of Tennessee, a former president of the International Reading Association as well as the National Reading Conference, and an award-winning researcher on reading and learning disabilities:
“I do think allowing kids to read ‘Twilight’ in school, or as a component of school, is a good idea even if it isn’t so well written. “One of the characteristics of good adult reader is the ability to tell the difference between so-so and terrific novels. Kids never learn that in school.
“A steady diet of those wonderful books like “Silas Marner” and “Moby Dick,” the two most frequently assigned books in American high schools, produces what [educator and literacy expert] Kelly Gallagher has dubbed Readicide (the development of the attitude that I’ll never read anything again”).
“Look at adult best seller lists. Are there many classically good titles that ever are best sellers? Maybe that is because those same adults read too much “Silas Marner” in high school.”
So relax. Let your kids read what they want. Be glad they are reading.
I’ll take up how you can help reluctant readers to dive into a book soon.
What do you kids like to read when you allow them to choose?
| November 19, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Categories: Reading | Tags: adolescent literature
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