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?