When you were a kid, did you ever read a book that changed your life? Well, don’t tell your kids if you want it to have the same effect on them. “Remember how a parental recommendation was the kiss of death when you were a kid?” asks legendary children’s author Judy Blume. “That hasn’t changed — no matter how well-deserved the kudos are.”
Blume made the comment at the recent LA Times Festival of Books. I’m mightily inclined to agree. One of my teaching pet peeves has always been the tendency to wax rhapsodic over books and make our kids feel that they are somehow missing out–if not outright defective–if they aren’t as enraptured by a well-loved book as we are. In a world in which kids can immerse themselves in “Call of Duty” and “Halo,” telling them “reading is magical” like telling them they should love spinach. Don’t tell them. Show them. Class readalouds of a compelling book have probably done more to spread the notion that reading is enjoyable than any earnest talk about the power of books to take us on journeys in our minds.
Other bits of advice on engaging readers from Blume, per the Huffington Post.
“As great as you think those nostalgic old book covers are, get your kids the new editions. The covers will draw them in. They want the new stuff.”
“Before you give your child the beloved book, leave it lying around the house, preferably on your nightstand. Then, when your daughter asks about the book, tell her that you picked it up for her, but now you’re not sure she’s old enough for it.”
“Try not to be judgmental of what your child is reading and don’t censor their book selection.”
Blume “hates it when books list what age reader the book is for.” She remembers pulling an illustrated copy of Lysistrata off the shelves when she was about 12, notes HuffPo. “She was very curious about the adult world and books gave her a look into that world.”
In an unrelated post, Dan Willingham notes that teachers are avid readers who “love books not only for the purpose of reading them, but as physical objects.” He links to a section of Reddit called BookPorn. Amazing pictures. Enjoy. But don’t tell the kids.