Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Andrew Smith on Teen Reading

Andrew Smith, author of the new book The Marbury Lens, recently gave a speech and part of it was published last week on Macmillan Children’s Publishing blog.

What he said might sound a little familiar. One key point he made was that it’s okay to let kids choose what they want to read. In fact, he said that if adults let teens make their own choices, then they might read more. Further, if they read more, then we wouldn’t label them non-readers and buy into the myth that they hate to read. Frankly, how many times have you heard a parent or a teacher say about a teen, “Oh, he hates to read.”? Far too many times.

Andrew Smith says that assuming a kid hates to read (because we’ve told him to read a book that’s good for him) is like “assuming a kid hates to eat because he doesn’t like Brussels sprouts.”

My tween daughter is an avid reader. On almost any Saturday, she may begin and end her day reading in bed. However, despite her bookworm status, she has not liked every book she’s read. {Gasp!} In truth, most of the books she has not really liked have been assigned by teachers. That’s okay! That means she’s thinking critically about literature. That’s what we would hope for, right?

My teen daughter, on the other hand, has taken a lot longer to find her inner bookworm. Being a people-pleaser, she has searched diligently for the inherent good in the books she’s been assigned—to no avail. After failed attempts to connect with assigned reading, I think she started to believe she wasn’t a reader, because she didn’t like what she was reading. I'm glad she’s not a quitter. She finally hit her stride just recently—when she found books that she enjoys, books that excite her, books that hold her interest.

Do my daughters read the same books? Nope. My tween likes historical fiction (and broccoli), and my teen likes fantasy (and tomatoes). You know what, though? They are both readers (and veggie eaters)! Can I get a hallelujah?

Now, I’m not going to say that I’m all that because I posted about this topic last month. What I’m trying to say is that maybe, just maybe, there is something to this idea of letting kids choose their own books after all. And maybe, if we stop force-feeding them the stuff that’s good for them at an early age, they will acquire a taste for reading on their own—and eventually enjoy some Brussels sprouts.

If you’d like to read more of Andrew Smith’s eloquent argument, visit the MacKids blog.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm...I tried to comment but it doesn't seem to be here. sorry.

    I agree with Smith's argument. Letting them choose what they read about encourages a love of reading.