Liesl Shurtliff and I go way back to early blogging days. Our first books debuted one year apart. As a Class of 2k12* graduate, I picked her as my Class of 2k13 mentee. We’ve met a few times in person — once after a Chicagoland school visit** and another time at nErD Camp MI.
In a recent Nerdy Book Club post, Liesl said the following:
“Shaming any child for their reading choices, no matter what it is, is a death sentence to the child’s budding and delicate passion for reading.”
Liesl was talking about graphic novels, but her assertion can be applied more broadly. Sometimes adults decide what books children will and won’t like based on their own preferences and biases. (I’m thinking of verse novels here. And historical fiction. And non-fiction. And anything that an adult decides a child won’t like without really knowing.)
To the grown ups who work with young readers: please remember it’s our job to enthusiastically expose kids to all titles and genres and forms, even the ones we think they might not like (as well as the ones they think they might not like). It’s our responsibility to meet kids where they are, to encourage the reading they’re doing now, to honor their choices, and withhold our known (and unknown) biases.
Give them graphic novels and novels. Give them poetry and short stories and picture books and magazines. Give them fiction, non-fiction, contemporary, historical, fantasy, and sci-fi. We want kids to read widely, to grow and expand their horizons, and we adults should be the best examples of these reading practices. But for the love of all that is holy, please don’t tell them the books they go to again and again aren’t worthy. That’s basically saying THEY are not worthy, that they are not a real reader.(Liesl Shurtliff, “In Defense of the Graphic Novel and Those Who Read Them”)
Let’s share, encourage, celebrate ALL reading. Our children are watching and listening.
*The Class of… debut groups for middle grade and young adult novelists started in 2007. My Class of 2k12 crowd is still very dear.
** Liesl may have taught me how to start a push-button ignition car. How I left the airport and my hotel is beyond me!