Reading with Children

I read Principal Joey’s post, Stop trying to make your kids read, a few days ago.

I agree with much of what he says–though I find the statistics he cites on adult readers, and specifically those training to be teachers, to be horrifying–with the exception, perhaps, of making time for reading at school.

I think that reading for pleasure requires both free choice and uninterrupted time, two things that schools are not particularly well-known for providing.

I think that making time for reading at school might be the functional equivalent of reading logs, just shifting monitoring duties from parent to teacher.

I think it is hard to get absorbed into a book if the teacher is going to make you put it down after fifteen or twenty minutes to move onto the next classroom activity.

I think that peers can sometimes be a problem. One thing I love about my Kindle is no longer receiving negative comments about what I’m reading when I take a book to read while I am waiting somewhere–although I miss out on the opportunity for positive comments too, the comments were, in my experience, largely negative ones. (Knitting in public, on the other hand, in my experience, results in uniformly positive comments for whatever that is worth.) Imagine having your reading level/interests on display in front of classmates if your reading level/interests diverge from what the cool/popular kids are reading?

I do think that if schools want to encourage reading for pleasure, they could make time during class for two activities:

  • The teacher reading aloud to the students. I still remember Mrs. W reading aloud from The View From the Cherry Tree. We moved before she got to the end and I spent months waiting to get my hands on copy so I could find out how it ended.
  • Regular visits to a well-stocked school library, staffed by book lovers who are skilled at connecting children to books that may be of interest without being judgmental.

In a related vein, I have found myself spending more time reading fiction of late (while those education books gather dust in the too-be-read pile). Though I read classic and contemporary adult fiction, one of the joys of parenting has been spending more time reading juvenile and young adult fiction too, in parallel reading with my kids, preview reading for them, and reading aloud to them.

There have been some surprises along the way–my children loved Jules Verne (whom I hadn’t read previously, but also enjoyed) but hated Harriet the Spy (a frequently reread favorite of my childhood)–which means I’m generally on the lookout for book recommendations, particularly ones beyond my usual preferences.

Here are a few that have been particularly successful for reading aloud with my kids:

  • Diana Wynne Jones (especially Archer’s Goon, but all have been well-liked)
  • Carl Hiaasen juvenile fiction (Chomp was particularly fun to read aloud)
  • Ursula Vernon’s Danny Dragonbreath series
  • Star Wars, Last of the Jedi series

We are currently reading The Bronze Bow and Gregor the Overlander together, with The Magic Thief books in reserve.

Any recommendations for other books to try–as read alouds or independently? Please share in the comments!



3 thoughts on “Reading with Children

  1. Chris

    We liked the Mysterious Benedict Society. My 11-year-old loved Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. My 13-year-old is a big fan of When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, also The Fault of in Our Stars, by John Green. My 9-year-old is addicted to the book-on-tape versions of The Sisters Grimm, which are a bit dark but the reader on the book-on-tape is very good. (The reader on the Mysterious Benedict Society book on tape is also very good.) The 9- and 11-year-olds are also quickly going through the Percy Jackson series — I don’t know if they’re any good, but the girls are certainly picking up a lot of knowledge of Greek and Roman myths. They also like Andrew Clements books (e.g., Frindl). I can’t vouch for too many of these myself, since most of them are just things they read off on their own, but I did like the Benedict Society book that we listened to on tape. Funny — they totally didn’t click with Harriet the Spy, either.

    1. Karen W Post author

      Ooh. Thanks for the recommendations, Chris!

      I loved When You Reach Me but my kids haven’t picked it up off the shelf yet. We paired independent reading of the Percy Jackson series (by the oldest) with reading D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths together. I’m not at all familiar with R.J. Palacio, John Green, or Andrew Clements–so I’ll have to put those on my mental list for the next library/bookstore visit.

  2. Chris

    I do wonder about the message that gets sent by the schools constantly pushing the kids to read books, read books, read books. Kids can feel when they’re being propagandized. At some level they must be asking themselves: “If reading is so enjoyable, why do the adults think they have to constantly harangue us to do it? And why don’t they do more of it themselves?”

Comments are closed.