Posted on November 16, 2010 - by JerriLynn
I admit, it’s been a really long time since I was a teenager. And both of my kids are now teenagers (one is legally an adult, but he’ll remain a teenager for a few more months). So, if I’m being completely truthful, I’m a little out of touch with what kids read.
Sure, I know about popular literature that’s been turned into movies and television series. I’m only slightly out of the loop. But beyond those three or four series of books, what is it that interests teens? I wish I knew.
My son loves R.A. Salvatore. My daughter hates to read (gasp!). She’ll only do it when forced, and then it’s a difficult thing for her. I blame it on early reading teachers that taught sight reading over phonics. I’ve spent every year since then trying to help her, but reading just hold no pleasure for that child.
My step-son and step-daughter both are voracious readers. Seems they both have a book in their hand all the time. But I have noticed one thing about the books that and my son read: they’re usually Science Fiction or Fantasy. Even my best friend’s daughter, who at the age of 10 reads at a collegiate level, tends to lean toward Fantasy.
What I see, then, is that kids lean toward something that takes them away from this world and gives them a little time to escape into another place that’s as unrelated to this world as possible.
It’s understandable. Kids today seem to be under much more pressure than back in the stone ages when I was in school. But I wonder what lessons these kids are taking from these books. I remember all too well reading “Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret” when I was about 10. I came away from that book with some serious life lessons, including a reminder to always rinse my oatmeal bowl so the cereal wouldn’t turn to cement when it dried.
I identified with Margaret. Growing up a middle child with two working parents, I was often on my own, and Margaret was kind of a hero to me. She struggled through the same things that I struggled through and I wanted to be just as successful at winning those struggles as she was.
Then there was “The Island of the Blue Dolphins.” I’m not a re-reader, but I’m pretty sure I read that book a dozen
times before I was 13. Sometimes I thought it would be cool to be Karana, even though she much of her time being lonely and struggling to survive. There was something about her strength that really appealed to me.
Strength seems to be the theme for all of the books that I read growing up. I naturally chose books, often autobiographies such as that of Joan of Arc, that portrayed strong young women, fighting for something against completely impossible odds.
So, thinking about what my kids are reading today, I wonder what lessons they’ll take from those books? Which of those books will be with them for the rest of their lives?
Don’t hate me, but I only barely sensor what my kids are reading. As long as it not obviously pornography or supportive of illegal activity, I let them read. My stance is that it’s better to allow a teen to read what naturally appeals to them and use it as discussion points about reality versus fiction. And so I have conversations with my kids as often as possible about what they’re reading.
It’s amazing to me that my son, at 14 could discuss meaning and symbolism better than many college students. But these days, they don’t talk books to me. They all seem to be going their own direction, living their own lives. And I’m okay with that. It’s what happens when kids grow up. But I do wonder, which of the books that they’ve read growing up will be their constant companions through the rest of their lives?