Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Slice 27 - Reading YA Too Soon

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March we are challenging ourself to write a Slice A Day. Here we go! 

I logged onto Twitter tonight and saw the following tweet from my friend, Colby.

And I have to agree with him, this is a problem. I have spent the last twelve years teaching fourth and fifth grade. Kids want to grow up faster and faster, and I don’t think that is anything new. And while I’d like to see them act their age in many areas, specifically I’d like to see in in regard to their choice in books.

It starts early. My boys both came back from first grade saying they were ready to move into the “chapter book” section of the library. This was seen, by them, as a huge deal, a right of passage. I begged them to stick with picture books. Elephant and Piggie. The Pigeon, Dr. Seuss. Why rush out of these books? They are made for this age, chapter books will always be there I would tell them.

Luke is in third grade. Last year he began to beg to read Harry Potter. This year his new quest is to read Hunger Games. In both cases my response was the same, absolutely not. My reply to him was that there are perfect books made for second, and now third graders, that he hasn’t read. Colby used Charlotte’s Web as an example, which is ironic because I had just discussed it with Luke. I told him that it was an amazing and magical book but there is a chance he will miss the beauty of this quiet book if he is used to the action packed adventure of a young adult novel.

In my district I’m lucky, the majority of my class reads at grade level, if not several years above. And the amount of kids that read YA books increases each year. The problem, I’ve found, is that once they start reading YA they don’t tend to want to go back and read books about kids their own age. And so they miss out. They miss out the opportunity to identify with someone in the book that is going through the same problems they are. They miss out on some classic books that are part of our culture. They miss out on some quiet books that have amazing characters, great stories, but not as much adventure or romance as they are used to. This makes me unbearably sad.

So, do I have Hunger Games in my fifth grade classroom? Yes, along with several other YA books. I guess I’m part of the problem. But when I know kids who’ve already crossed over and won’t read anything else, I try and find relatively appropriate books for them.  I get it, I love these books too.  I also know how much these readers adore these books and if they were here right now would argue with me, tell me they do connect with these books and these characters. (Hi kids! I know, I know.) And, very important in my opinion, I do teach them to monitor what they read. Are they comfortable with it? Do they feel it is appropriate for them? That being said, I do grieve for all of the amazing books they are missing and wish they would be satisfied being a kid awhile longer. Something I’m sure my teachers thought about me too.