Books are pretty amazing things, don’t you think? Recently I have been having a lot of conversations with people about books. Most of these people are between the age of 6-12 and are students at the school where I am teaching. In school particularly, there is a lot of reading that you “have” to do. Teachers often pick the genre of book that needs to be read or the topic. Sometimes a teacher will even just tell a kid,
“This is the book you are reading.” And sometimes there are good reasons for that.
But, I have rediscovered something about kids. Kids know what they like. It has been fascinating engaging in conversations and discovering how many kids have a specific genre they just love. One girl, who is 12, was telling me how much she loves reading anything about WWII..specifically WWII in Europe. Another girl, who is 9, loves anything fantasy. She was quick to add that she doesn’t like science fiction, just fantasy. I asked her more about that and she answered, “Yes to wizards and swords, no to spaceships and lasers.” Then she told me she couldn’t talk anymore because she need to get back to her book. One boy, also 12, said he really likes series. He told me he doesn’t want to invest all the time getting to know a character and then just know them for one book. (I told him if he liked to get really invested in characters he might want to avoid reading the Game of Thrones series when he gets old enough.)
There is one girl, though, that has really helped me understand how important it is to find your kind of book. When I asked her initially, she said she doesn’t like reading except for The Little House on the Prairie books but that she had read them so much that they are too easy. I asked her what she liked about them and it became pretty clear to me that there were a whole bunch of historical fiction novels that she would enjoy. She was looking for a book to read at school but was having trouble find something she would like. I looked at the few books she was considering (and was not excited about at all) and I asked her why she thought she would like them. “I don’t know. Other people liked them,” was her answer.
I told her to hold on and found in the library Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson and a book from the Dear America series. All three of these books are early-America historical fiction. She read the back of the books, looked up at me and said, “I would like all three of these books.” She honestly looked surprised that there were three books she might like. I told her that I think she just needed to realize that she did like to read just fine and that there lists of books that were like Little House of the Prairie that could keep her quite busy for a long time. It didn’t take her long to settle on one of the three and she was off. J.K. Rowling’s quote was so true for this girl. She has been reading up a storm. She has found her right kind of books.
Self awareness and choice. So incredibly powerful.