Friday, January 7, 2011

Why I Write For Middle School Continued

     Somewhere during kindergarten and first grade I found myself stuck in the world of Dick and Jane. Talk about boring narratives. I found myself daydreaming more exciting stories. Unfortunately, this caused my phonics to wane and I didn't pass the necessary reading assessments.  The result was a lower reading level than my interests. Translation: more boring stories and books. While everyone else was reading Little House on The Prairie, Wrinkle in Time, I was still reading books that were below my social/emotional maturity. Needless to say my interest in reading didn't peek again until I was an adult. 
    It has taken years for me to achieve a speed that satisfies my curiosity and desire to learn. When my own children began reading I immediately worked hard to find books that would interest them and I read to them well into their teens. When they showed an interest in a book that was above their level, I didn't discourage them and offered to help. Over the years I have worked with many children having difficulty with reading.
     There is an assumption that reading level corresponds to social and emotional development. We often hear about the advanced reader enjoying Asimov but rarely the reluctant reader being confined to a world of "See Spot Run". An exaggeration? Yes, but it illustrates the seemingly punitive nature of the system. Why do we challenge advanced readers and leave the reluctant ones in a world of boredom?
     When my daughter decided she wanted to ride a bike, she was intent on teaching herself and refused to use training wheels. She found a place that she could use as a stabilizer and spent two entire days, morning to night pushing herself off, falling and doing it again. Sure, she could have immediately been riding with the help of training wheels or the supportive hand on the back of her seat, but she was determined. Learning is a unique experience for each person.
      How often have you laid a book down because you found it uninteresting or neglected to finish a magazine article because it didn't provide you any new information? Should we expect any different from our children?
    There still seems to be a shortage of interesting books in 8-11 age bracket. Over the last few years, there have been several authors that have contributed: Donna Gephart, Jeff Kinney, Sue Stauffacher to name only a few.

I want to be a contributor to this body of work. 

What kind of reader were you? Where do you think we need more great writing? 
Have you read an awesome middle school book, lately? What was it? 

8 comments:

  1. I wish there were more books that made my kids laugh. There's certainly no shortage of books which show insight to kids or teach some kind of moral lesson.

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  2. Yes, my children had that same problem. I love reading but it did not take so easily with them. Now, as adults, they are both avid readers.

    I don't have an answer but do know the need you speak about is there.

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  3. I've always been an avid reader, but my kids didn't take on my love. I read to them when they were little, but they got distracted with sports and tv. My eldest daughter now says she wishes she had stayed in the habit, that it would be of help with her college reading. The others are just starting to put in some effort, and I'm loving my role as provider of interesting reads;-)

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  4. Cinette, I think you are right that kids now have so many distractions. I know for mine I used technology to "bribe" them to read. My rule was they could stay up as late as they wanted as long as they were in their beds reading.

    Gail, There are certainly late bloomers. Which I'm sure I was.

    Angela, I guess what I mean is that there is a shortage of new work being published for middle grade readers vs. young adult and easy readers. There are many quality books out there but when you search for middle grade books at Amazon, for instance the list is considerably smaller than for the other kids categories.

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  5. I have two sons. One's always been an avid reader (as I always have been); the other HATES to read. I'm also a bookseller. What kinds of books do I recommend to the so-called reluctant readers? Well, to start with, if they like Wimpy Kid, try Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow or The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angelberger.

    Anything by Roald Dahl is great. My reluctant reader actually enjoyed The Fantastic Mr. Fox. He also liked the Wayside School series by Louis Sachar. As he got older, he tackled the Harry Potter books, and from then on would read nothing else.

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  6. This is one of the best reasons I've ever heard for writing for this age group. I write for them because I have such strong memories of being transported by books, and I want to try and create that experience for others.

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  7. MG is far and away my favorite genre, and I believe it is an area hungry for more great reads! :-)

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  8. I wish there were more books like Because of Winn Dixie: Newbery book suitable for grades 2-4, short chapters that are practically stand alone short stories, wide leading, and short novel. Also, fantastic story appealing to boys or girls with really authentic, interesting characters. Finally, the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

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