Wednesday, September 13, 2006

you HAVE to read these books

Andrea at Atypical Homeschool wants to know what books folks think all kids should read. I could come up with a list that would never stop growing, but I can easily hold back and make it quick and easy. I can think of a concise list can't I?

I feel I should begin by pointing out that I don't believe in this list. I don't believe in subjective restraints on what children should or should not read. I believe firmly in censorship within the family itself based on the content of individual books and the maturity (for lack of a better word) of the child or children. When I think in terms of appropriateness, I consider sexual content, types of violence and adult themes, drug use for example. These are all subjects that children should be taught about with complete honesty, but I want to reserve the right to time those discussions for when they are most appropriate for my children.

As almost the only author I will list by name, I think all kids should read the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. We are of course all aware of his four most popular works, The Hobbit as well as the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. These are perfect books to get lost in, to sink into as too many hours slip past unknown. What I've read of his other work, though not quite as lengthy, is also fun to read. These are the kind of books we read as kids then get excited to read to our own kids. These are the books that we cherish as old friends, books that we read and reread over the years, the books that cause me to lament that I can only read them for the first time once.

Kids should read historically accurate stories, both fiction and nonfiction. These books are fun because they give us a look at a time past. We could all use a little view of ourselves in relation to the never ending rush of time and history. Perhaps Laura Ingalls didn't change the world and doesn't show up in world history books, but she's changed the view of plenty of people over the years with her Little House series of books. Through those books we see how different life was not so long ago. Along with this, kids should read biographies and autobiographies. What better way to explore the lives of people that made history happen, though they little thought it at the time.

Kids should read crap, and I mean that in the best possible way. The Animorphs series of books are not likely to win any Nobel or Newberry awards, and they aren't the deepest most well thought out paragons of writerly ability. They are fun to read though, and they can pull you right into their fantastic stories of DNA acquiring kids who change into animals to fight the evil alien invasion. This is the kind of book that's perfect for when you want a quick read that will let you let go for a couple of hours or days.

If any point just sticks with me it's simply that kids should read. Parents should know what their kids are reading to be able to weed out books that are not appropriate for their kids, but beyond that, why stand in the way of a kid who wants to read? I fear that many parents limit their children's reading by making up standards of quality, the people who will tell you that their kids never read twaddle, that their kids only read classics. I say there's room for all books and that no one should be made to feel bad because of their choice of what to read. It's that old unschooling philosophy to me, giving kids the richest library we can, making them aware that it exists for them and that they are welcome to what they want.