Friday, April 4, 2008

A View of reading by Jon Scieszka includes "stupid reading."

I have copied this from an interview/article by |The Washington Post on the Chicago Tribune website, April 1, 2008. We all knew he was a great choice for U.S. National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, but his message also hits the nail on the head.

The way he sees it, parents and teachers should:

•Give children freedom to choose what they want to read rather than what adults think they should read.

•Expand the definition of reading to more than novels. "Nonfiction, graphic novels, comic books, magazines, online, audio books—I think all that works. It all helps turn kids into readers."

•Stop demonizing other media. "Don't make computers and TV and movies the bad guy. Those things aren't going to go away. I think we did ourselves a disservice in the past of saying TV is bad, reading is good. It's not that cut and dried."

Scieszka calls himself "a fan of stupid reading."

"I've been a big champion of stuff like 'Captain Underpants' and 'Junie B. Jones,' " he said. "It horrifies some parents and teachers because it is not grammatical and there are misspellings, but that is fun reading."

And fun, he said, is the ticket to getting youngsters to read, especially those children for whom reading is difficult.

Books that appeal to a child's interests can avoid what he calls "the death spiral," which goes like this: "It's where kids aren't reading and then are worse at reading because they aren't reading, and then they read less because it is hard and they get worse, and then they see themselves as non-readers, and it's such a shame."

Scieszka was born in 1954 in Flint, Mich., and received a bachelor's degree in writing from Albion College and a master's of fine arts from Columbia University. He spent several years teaching 1st through 8th grade, spending the most time in 2nd grade, where many children learn to read. That experience, he said, helped him realize how hard it is for many children to learn to read.

Reading, he said, is not an elective in life, but a necessity.

"Why do we care if people are reading?" he said. "Can't we watch YouTube forever? The answer is no. Because your brain will turn to mush."

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