Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kids and Reading

I have never been the kind of person who believes we should tell kids what to read. In my mind, we should give kids opportunities to read all kinds of books and surround them with many chances to do so: at bedtime or school story time, by taking trips to the library, giving gifts of books on topics that a child is interested in and showing our own interest by having a house filled with books and providing daily examples of us reading. 

Nor have I been the kind of person who thought kids shouldn't read [fill in the blanks here: comic books, scary books, books with fantasy elements etc.]. I think kids should be able to read widely and in any way that suits them.

So you can imagine my distress the other day, when I was in a local bookstore and I saw an adult stop a child from buying a book that she really wanted to read. The adult had decided that the book was too difficult for the girl and made her return it to the shelf. It is true that the girl couldn't fluently read every word on the page (the adult made her read aloud in the store), but the child definitely had the gist of the story and was very keen to tackle it. It was all I could do to stop myself from buying the book for the girl and smuggling it into her backpack. 

I thought to myself that if there is ever a way to discourage a child from reading, this was the way to do it. Not every child reads fluently, not every child picks the most age-appropriate book, but if we want kids to develop a love of reading, we want to encourage them — not set up roadblocks to their enthusiasm and eventual success. 

On that note, a big thank you to my parents who let me read anything and everything, and I did so voraciously, including the volumes of Sigmund Freud when I was still a kid. I don't think I understood anything about the theories or even the language, but I was grateful to be allowed to wander over to the adult section of the library and pick out any book I wished to read. It made me feel like a reader and gave me a sense that the world of knowledge was wide open to me. It was liberating!

Sincere thanks to all those adults out there who are working hard to put great books into the hands of kids, and to help them become avid and enthusiastic readers. It is a most worthy endeavour.

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