I continue to come across articles across the blog-o-sphere offering opinions and conjecture about what children are reading, what would be best for them and of course what kind of drivel seems to be en vogue for the most recent generation of youngins.
For me, I don’t necessarily care what kids are reading so much that too often the saying is “as long as they’re reading” is being used by way of justifying whatever it is all the kids are devouring far into the night. It seems like a cop out, like a way of lowering standards and, honestly, I’m sick of that nonsense. To be authoritative over what children read needs to be balanced, but some supervision and balance needs to be achieved here. It isn’t so much that they’re reading something fun and pleasurable that bothers me, but the lack of push to read something that truly takes effort, knowing the rewards that are available from having done so and understanding what they were looking at along the way. Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying kids shouldn’t read Judy Blume, Meyer or Rowling I just think these should not be the only things they’re reading.
I don’t know the perfect mix to even suggest, but it seems to me kids know how to read the words on the page but are potentially lacking in understanding the more complex uses of language as a result of this “at least they’re reading” mentality. In school children have to learn mathematics and science as well as reading – why should the rigors of literature be any less an intellectual stretch than the others? Learning should never be about punishment and that’s not what I’m advocating. What I am advocating is discipline and perhaps parents and teachers working harder to expose kids to different pieces of literature. A “try this” or “let’s read this together” or “ask me questions and I’ll help” approach would encourage interpersonal communication as well as persevering through a difficult volume. This isn’t punishment, it’s learning and that is what seems to be sorely missing here.
Perhaps I’m going too far out on a limb today. I am not a public school teacher, only ever taught piano lessons, and so do not claim any place of authority in the matter excepting what I hear and see. Kids don’t seem to be encouraged to question or excel anymore and instead are dominated by the idea of doing things the easiest possible way to insure the work (learning) is done all the quicker. Pleasure and id satisfaction seem to be the paradigm along with rote memorization and application of said factoids – not critical thought or analysis. A friend of mine who is a professor of English, speaks to me of all the difficulties in working within a system that seems to be passing kids along without them learning much of anything. She, however, teaches and pushes them,finding many are bright and very willing to learn – they just never had to before. It speaks to a very great ill in our education system when a professor is left talking about how her students don’t know who our enemies were in WWII, or when a high school teacher says he is relegated to being a glorified babysitter (different friend – recent complaint). Would pushing kids to read things they don’t like simply cause rancor for the written word? For learning? I don’t think so. Not so long as the things they would seek out on their own in any field are not verboten. What happened to encouragement to love learning? Reading even more complex texts than Harry Potter or Twilight?
What say you, dear readers? Am I totally off in Never-Never Land? Should we be content in what ever kids choose to read/learn, so long as they’re doing it?