Designing reading

A neighbor stopped me on the street just now to ask what she and her nephew should be reading together. “he’s six but he reads like an eight year old,” she said, “and he’s growing up fast. But he likes classic books. We’re reading Winnie-the-Pooh together right now, and he’s noticing that Christopher Robin is growing up.”

“Natalie Babbitt,” I said. “Tuck Everlasting and Goody Hall. The Devil’s Storybook and the Search for Delicious.”

“What else?” she said. “Would you make me a list?”

“Sure,” I replied. “E.B. White: Stuart Little and the Trumpet of the Swan. Or what about Charlotte’s Web or The Cricket in Times Square?”

“Make me a list,” she insisted, and we said our farewells.

What would you put on the list? It’s harder than you might think. A lot of material I see today dumbs things down for kids, or underplays their potential, or limits their options for the future. How many kids are going to take up archery because of the Hunger Games? (I’d put Little Brother on the list, but I’m perverse like that — the book contains a how-to chapter between each chapter of the story on how to subvert authorities and digital networks. Maybe that is part of what we should teach? But I digress. ) in any case, It’s not a challenge many kids can solve on their own. What stories encourage kids to be great thinkers and leaders, and tells them the stories of cunning, pluck, bravery and independent thought, as well as engineering and know how that will help them succeed in this apocalypse recession we’re apparently planning to continue through the next four to six years at least?

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  1. I was thought to be slow in learning to read. I knew how to read! “Dick and Jane” were insufficiently rewarding. When I discovered “The Hardy Boys” I couldn’t be pried out books. I devoured all the available Hardy Boys books.
    Not too much later, my father introduced me to the works of Robert Heinlein ….

  2. If he liked Winnie the Pooh, perhaps he would like “Now We Are Six” by the same author. Its a delightful collection of classic poems.

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