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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Love 'em or hate 'em, some books are here to stay

September 10, 2010

A recent article in the New York Times magazine was sent to me by my fellow blogger, Joanne Meier.

The title grabbed me immediately "Children's Books You (Might) Hate." Aren't there books we've come across that we just love to hate? I have a few.… well, maybe more than a few.

One thing that I've learned about loving or loathing books is that when I reexamine them again with other readers, particularly children, I often rethink my take. I've grown to appreciate some books, come to adore others, and had to let some of my favorites die a natural death.

The best books for children are the ones that are enjoyed by adults, too. But adults often over-think; over-analyze books for children forgetting that even the youngest should be able to enjoy experiencing a book.

Think about it. How would an adult respond if told to read only books that teach a specific lesson (whose lesson?), or that have a particular moral (by what standard?); books that are considered "good" for them.

Want to turn a reader off? Give them no choice and a steady diet of only "good stuff."

I'm reminded of a piece written by British author Peter Dickinson in which he contends that "children ought to be allowed to read a certain amount of rubbish. Sometimes quite a high proportion of their reading matter can healthfully consist of things that no sane adult would actually encourage them to read."

Will one book — even if read over and over again — forever ruin a child or his/her parents (as someone suggests in the New York Times piece)? I think not. Even when a child demands a book to be read multiple times.

After having read an illustrated version of the Grimm folktale about aging, outcast animals ("The Bremen Town Musicians") about a million times to my son when he was a toddler, he holds no ill-will toward older animals (or people). He can still laugh; however, when he thinks about the robbers' misunderstanding of the rooster's crow (guilty, they hear "Put the crooks in jail!").

Love them or hate them, some books are here to stay.


I agree. I believe adults should try to give children books that advance their learning ability and children are interested in. It's one of the reasons I adore Dr. Seuss books. In some way I also think as long as we get them to read good or bad books, it's a start to building the level of reading!

In order to evoke a child's love for reading and learning, they must have access to high-interest texts. Captain Underpants, for example, is not a book that I would always allow students to use during independent reading time because it doesn't give them the opportunity to practice reading strategies. (Except to infer the misspellings of multiple words...) But if they hate reading but love the Captain, more power to them!!!

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"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald