Thursday, February 12, 2015

Are Kids' Books Just for Kids?

Silly question, right?

Apparently not.

An elementary school teacher once told me she hadn't read The Hunger Games because it was "a kid's book." This left me a bit stunned, considering that teachers are tasked, in part, to encourage their students to read. How can they do this if they don't read books (especially current books) that are directed at their students?

Reading children's fiction enables you to make recommendations to kids based on more than what you read as a child, or the library catalogue, or monthly book orders. Great books are being written and published all the time. But if you're not reading them, how would you know? Of course, it's impossible to read everything that's geared toward kids, but if you are an educator you have a responsibility to your students to know what you're talking about when it comes to books. The same goes for parents.

That responsibility doesn't end with recommendations. As a teacher or a parent, reading children's fiction helps you engage in conversations with your students and/or offspring about the books they are reading. And that should go beyond what they are reading in school. My kids and I have had many conversations that began with a book we had each read. Those moments are priceless.

Reading children's fiction also helps you remember what it was like to be a child, and connect with younger generations of readers. What are kids learning about or talking about? What kinds of struggles might they have that didn't exist when you were younger? What kinds of experiences, good or bad, never happened to you as a child, or that affected you differently than they might someone else? The point is that reading helps you learn empathy, and that shouldn't stop when you grow up.

All of these things are important. But to me, the best reason to read children's fiction, whether it be for middle grade readers or young adults, is because stories written for younger readers are so pure, not muddied by all the grown-up issues that can clutter adult fiction. They help you to see the world through a child's eyes. That view may seem like it would be too simple to some. But if you really take a look, you will realize how wondrous the world of children's fiction truly is.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and read a children's book today!

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