I’m often asked for reading suggestions as an English teacher, especially for the tweener age group. It’s a good question to ask at that age, given that’s typically when the seed of one’s reading appetite tends to take root. It seems to me like the simple suggestion itself holds power.
When I was 12, one teacher recommended that I read The Iliad. I promptly picked up a copy and began to read it with excitement. By about page three I was filled with boredom and apathy and I’m not sure I picked up another book for at least another couple of weeks. The things that find themselves in front of your eyes seem to matter.
Yet how they get there can be a bit complex. If I recommend a book to my 8 year-old daughter, it immediately becomes terrible to her, she won’t even consider it. However, she’ll root through my collection when I’m not looking and pull out something like The Grapes of Wrath, or Pudd’nhead Wilson. When she asks me to borrow them (if she asks…) I ask her if they actually look interesting to her, which she insists they do. She doesn’t get far: what on earth can an 8 year-old do to identify with the complex issues facing a migrant worker in the great depression or the racial underpinnings of the pre-civil war Mississippi river?
A more removed approach is needed, but perhaps if I leave enough Incredible Journeys and Diary of Anne Franks lying around, she might be tempted. Ahh, the delicate lines that parents walk! Happy reading, everybody.
Here’s some other pointers on getting your kids hooked:
Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. In addition to our traditional advice, every Thursday we feature an assortment of teachers from across the country answering your education questions. Have a question for our teachers? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or post it in the Dear Searching for Meaningful, Slate Parenting Facebook group .