Sunday, November 09, 2008

Question of the week: Whats on your bookshelf?

GRACE: I've just read Elise Broach's MASTERPIECE, and I loved it. I was a huge fan of her SHAKESPEARE'S SECRET and I think this is even better. It is exactly the kind of book I would read over and over again when I was a child...and the kind of book I aspire to write. And fellow RISD alum, Kelly Murphy illustrated it too.

LIBBY: Adam is reading the GERONIMO STILTON series and has lent me WEDDING CRASHER -- " Thea, Trap, and Benjamin thought it sounded fabumouse. They dragged me along to Stingysnouts' crazy castle on Cheap Change Hill. Mouldy mozzarella, what a disaster!" etc. These books are really easy to read  and my guess is that's why Adam reads them: because he CAN - and quickly. Most of the pages are printed like this:

For school, Adam has to read every day and his parents have to sign his reading log...I don't think he'd be reading at all if it weren't for this requirement and, when I read Geronimo Stilton, wonder what the benefit is. The words are clever, sometimes, but the books aren't absorbing in any way: they seem designed for short attention spans and to enable the reader to say, "I'm done!" and enter a chapter in the log as quickly as possible.

No wonder he thinks reading is boring! Wouldn't it be better if in school the teacher read aloud the kind of books kids lose themselves in, read over and over? -Books with characters, stories, settings that engage the emotions, imagination, mind? 

Maybe not.  Adam's mother asked his teacher if other children like reading. The teacher said many of the GIRLS do and reeled off a list of novels that they love; but the boys don't like these books. They prefer non-fiction and won't even join in the reading group discussions of these novels "while the girls are yakkety-yakking." So the teacher is going to start a new non-fiction reading group for the boys in the hopes that they will read and talk more...I will post more about this when I know more about it. 

As for me, I have been rereading old favorites (novels, one a night); I answer with what Adam's reading because I think it's more interesting to you all! 

ANNA: I've been reading THE PENDERWICKS. I never picked it up the series when it came out so I am making up for it now. I'm not sure yet if the content is my cup of tea, but I like the way the author shifts perspective and develops multiple storylines at once.

ELAINE: I'm serving once again as a member of the Cybils poetry-nominating I've been reading some of the nominated children's poetry books, including Naomi Shihab Nye's Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose and Carole Boston Weatherford's Becoming Billie Holiday. I also picked up a copy of Mary Oliver's Thirst recently and have been reading it--a poem or two or three at a time. Grace gave me an ARC of her not-yet-published fantasy novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. I'm hoping to dig into that book soon.


Jean Wogaman said...

MASTERPIECE is at the top of my Amazon wishlist. Grace, I am thrilled to read that you loved it so much. I may end up buying it sooner than I had originally planned. I'm finishing up THE GRAVEYARD BOOK right now, and HUNGER GAMES is waiting on the shelf.

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Anonymous said...

Libby, while I agree that Geronimo Stilton is far from high literature and the storylines lack substance, they are great choices for reluctant reader precisely because they can be read so quickly.

Young readers, especially boys, are often reluctant because of a lack of confidence. Finishing an entire chapter or book can be a major accomplishment and feel wonderful- and can help to dispel the self perception that they are "non readers." Books like Geronimo Stilton and Captain Underpants are like gateway books for many reluctant readers. Today it's Geronimo Stilton, tomorrow it may be Stuart Little or Percy Jackson!

Blue Rose Girls said...

"MAY be Stuart Little" ----but IS it? That's what I wonder about, a lot. There was a really interesting article in the NY TIMES awhile ago about how everyone had predicted that Harry Potter had introduced a generation to reading--but many of the kids never read another book! That's why I wonder if reading better books in school -- not necessarily what you call "high literature," but books some children (and of course they're different for everyone!) read over and over and really get into. I know from watching Adam that he isn't interested at all in G.S. and he doesn't seem to feel proud of reading it, either -- he CAN read it, and it allows him to get his reading done quickly. He has a good mind, but his parents aren't readers, and if he's going to be exposed to good books, it will be in school, not at home. There are probably lots of kids in that situation and that's why I bring up the point.