In “Forget Pat the Bunny: My Kid’s Reading Hemingway,” The New York Times hypes KinderGuides where children read the simplified versions of adult novels converted to picture books–without the X-rated parts. The whole purpose of this is to get 5-12 year old children ready for adult books.
I am not one to hold children back from books they wish to read, but forcing watered-down adult novels into the life of a 5-year-old is extreme. Such an experiment could backfire badly.
Pushing children to read anything they aren’t ready for could make them hate reading.
From The New York Times article:
Along with “On the Road,” [Kerouac] KinderGuides recently published picture book versions of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” and Truman Capote’s melancholy novella “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” (It skipped over the awkward question of whether Holly Golightly is a prostitute.) In one of its most ambitious and bizarre efforts, it released a cheerful take on Arthur C. Clarke’s opaque, mind-bending science fiction novel, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” an allegory about the evolution of human consciousness that many adult readers find impenetrable.
Though the premise of their project may strike some as absurd — does a first grader really need to be introduced to Kerouac or Capote? — kiddie lit has become a surprisingly lucrative and crowded niche. Anxious parents who played Mozart for their babies in utero and showed them Baby Einstein educational videos have snapped up children’s books that promise to turn their offspring into tiny literature lovers.
By the way, Baby Einstein enthusiasts eventually demanded a refund because their baby turned out to be…well…not Einstein.
While The New York Times may sound like they are writing a balanced article, the KinderGuide creators are delighted to be recognized! I wonder how many books they will sell with the free ad.
I’ve worked with students with learning difficulties, many of whom disliked reading at the middle and high school level. The challenge for me as a teacher often was to help students learn to enjoy reading.
As a parent, I’ve also helped my own child learn to read. She is now a successful adult who reads all the time and loves it.
As a teacher, I studied how to teach reading along with corrective reading in college.
I’m sure many parents and teachers have good reading instruction techniques of their own. If you have something that worked for you, feel free to share.
And if you have a child with dyslexia, you can modify the following list or add to it. You may have a particular program or technique that helped your child. Tell us about it.
Reading should be natural and enjoyable. Here are some helpful hints. And they are free!
- Don’t dismiss picture books. Children need pictures to connect to words. They build a great base for reading. They also have tremendous meaning. Consider the The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski. It deals with loss, hope, and new life. Children who learn to love picture books will grow into sensitive and caring adults. Read as many picture books as you can to children.
- Enjoy silly books. Children love to giggle and find humor in life. The more funny books you give children to read, the more they will want to read!
- Don’t dismiss wordless picture books. Pictures are important to help children think about script meaning. They look for clues in the pictures. Pancakes for Breakfast by Tommie dePaola illustrates this well.
- Read picture books to babies and toddlers. Read soothing, rhyming words and point to bright pictures while cuddling. Read with quiet inflection. If baby fusses, quit and do something else. Dr. Seuss is fun to read to babies and toddlers.
- Expose babies and toddlers to board books in different shapes and sizes. I like the touchy-feely ones that make sounds (as long as they don’t scare the baby). It is important to develop curiosity.
- Invest in Richard Scarry’s The Best Word Book Ever. It really is! When your toddler is old enough to hold this book, give it to them to look at. It will keep them intrigued. Also, get other books by Scarry. Busytown keeps children busy!
- Take children to the library at an early age. Let them pick out whatever books interest them. Designate a basket in the house to hold the books so you can keep track of them.
- Watch to see what kind of books they like to read. If they choose books about animals, get similar books, find movies about animals, and visit a zoo or petting farm. Connect life experiences to books whenever you can, if appropriate.
- Give book gifts. If you can afford to buy books at the bookstore that’s nice. Books as gifts are special. If a child prefers a reading device like Kindle to read so be it. Just so they enjoy reading. Every child should own some of their favorite books. Dolly Parton has a book program to make this a reality.
- Don’t worry if a child perseverates on one book. My daughter loved the book Pigs at Christmas (in the summer) when she was three! I could not stand it at the time, but I read it with her over-and-over and laughed like I thought it was the best book in the world. Now I remember it as funny and miss the days I had to read it to her. Trust me. She eventually moved on….
- Get your child hooked on the The Berenstain Bears series by Stan and Jan Berenstain. This family experiences real-life problems. But they are always amusing. Children learn important concepts. And Mama and Papa Bear are not perfect. They have their problems too, which helps if you aren’t the perfect parent either.
- Let children tell their stories. Give children ample opportunities to tell their own stories. They can do this with props like dolls or stuffed animals. Write down their stories, or videotape them if they like. Don’t interrupt or interject your ideas. Their words mean something to them, and that’s what’s important.
- Library story hours can be great. It adds to a young child’s reading experience if they can hear others read to them. I credit part of my daughter’s love for reading to a librarian who read lovely books and included music and puppetry and other supplemental story book tools. The room was dedicated to children with lovely paintings of storybook characters on the wall.
- Ensure that preschool emphasizes age-appropriate books. If a child’s preschool is only worried about reaching reading benchmarks for kindergarten, ask questions. Preschoolers should not be pushed to read before they are ready. They should not be made to feel they have a problem with reading. Preschool should be mostly play and fun activities.
- Avoid timed-reading requirements. Tell the teacher as a family you will take time to read each night but you are not going to record the number of minutes your child reads. This can be a real turn-off to children.
- Don’t emphasize how many books children read, or promise rewards for reading. Reading is the reward! Rewards change the dynamics of reading. And it’s fine if a child likes to savor a story. Only if they have age-related reading difficulties and dislike reading should parents be concerned.
- Supplement reading. If you wish to supplement stories Story S-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-r-s for Infants, Toddlers, and Twos: Experiences, Activities, and Games for Popular Children’s Books by Shirley Raines, Karen Miller, and Leah Curry-Rood is one of a series of books that provide activities coordinated to famous children’s book titles. Raines, by the way, went on to become the president of the University of Memphis.
- Try to read to children every night even as they get older. It is an enjoyable way to connect and it helps children relax and be interested in books.
- When children are ready for chapter books don’t hold them back. Conquering a book by reading it on your own is a great accomplishment for a child. You don’t need to coax them to do it if reading has been fun all along. But don’t give picture books away. Children might want to look at them again.
- Do phonics for fun. When it comes to phonics and sounds, stores have reasonably priced grade level workbooks. The workbooks address phonics and also teach printing and cursive handwriting. Some stores have social studies and science workbooks too. Make these activities fun. Never force a young child to “work” in these workbooks. Playing school the old-fashioned way, however, can be exciting for children!
- Screen reading instruction can be helpful or not. Computer generated programs for children on TV are disappointing and not the same quality of past programming. Too often it is geared towards phonics instruction. Computer programs might also provide too much story animation. The child doesn’t have to think to understand the meaning. It is too instantaneous. Still, computer programs can be helpful if students have difficulty with reading. And some computer usage seems fine in my opinion.
- Collect Golden Books. When grocery shopping with children grab a Golden Book title from the book section to keep children occupied. You can shop in peace and your child gets a new little book. Don’t forget to pay for the book as you check out.
Reading is one of the most important skills a child can learn to do, but because it is so important some parents and schools push children too hard to do it.
This leads to the gimmicky programs like KinderGuides which could have the opposite effect on motivating children to read.
Help children learn how much fun it is to read books corresponding with their development. Make reading an enjoyable activity a child will cherish for the rest of their life!