They made me ponder the recent NYTimes article, "Is Junie B. Jones Talking Trash?" which discussed the familiar story of some parents dislike of Junie B. and Junie-speak.
I have fielded my share of sniffy "well-I-don't-care-for-her-language" comments from parents in my role as school librarian.
As a parent and an educator, I am always flummoxed when folks think their child cannot discern between fiction and reality and will absorb an attitude and a dialect from an early reader. Please folks! Do parents who read murder mysteries or watch CSI: insert-city-name-here on television become inspired to go on crime sprees?
If books had THAT much power then there would never be another diet book published in this country. We would all be skinny pictures of health.
Do parents themselves ALWAYS use perfect grammar? When they do not, do they instigate a discussion with their child to make sure that they understand the scope of the grammatical tragedy and that they are not scarred for life?
Parent: Darling, I'm afraid I just committed a grammatical faux-pas and left a modifier dangling in the run-on sentence I just uttered. I think I may have also employed a double negative while trying to correct to my misuse of a possessive before a gerund.
Now we need to talk about this so you don't think this is proper and begin to split your infinitives too.
When confronted by a parent about Miss Junie, I always voice my support for this wonderful series (if children love them and flock to them, I think they are wonderful) but usually end up with a prosaic comment about other choices and if this one does not fit, try another.
Just looking at my daughter's books though (and there are many many other books in similar re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-read condition on her shelves) made me rethink my answer.
As this school year begins anew, you and your children are about to embark on an adventure of a life time. There are math problems to be computed, scientific principles to be acquired and history to be absorbed. A school year passes quickly. There is no time to waste.
The ability to read is essential to your child's success in acquiring all this knowledge. Learning to read means your child can successfully decode printed symbols on a page and comprehend the story or read for information with fluency. Your child needs background knowledge of syntax, semantics, phoneme awareness and other abilities to proceed.
Like any skill, reading is improved with practice. Michael Jordan did not get to be a basketball all-star by practicing just once a week. The more words that pass below your child's eyes, the stronger and more comfortable he or she will become as a reader. We want your child to read books the way you eat popcorn at the movies, continuously and by the handful. Surely, you do not just eat one kernel every fifteen minutes or so?
I know you want your son or daughter to succeed. I have never heard a parent despair, "I wish my child was not such a excellent reader. I wish they did not read above grade level. I wish they did not enjoy reading books."
With so many non-print media sources vying for your child's attention, you should drop to your knees and make offerings of thanksgiving if he or she finds a series of books they are passionate about.
If they love a certain book, you will not have to "schedule" reading time. They will seek it out on their own. If they love a book, they will beg to read the next one in the series or another one like it. If they love a book, you are not going to have to bribe them to finish it.
Please be tolerant of your child's reading choices. Certainly as a parent it is fun to guide, suggest, offer--but in the end, it is THEIR reading life. Do you really want to get in the way and ruin the experience for them?
When children love what they read, they love reading.
May the school year ahead go smoothly for school librarians who are working so earnestly and fervently to answer that perennial question, "Where are the good books?"