Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reading isn't just words

I had a problem at the library today. We had a kid’s program in the morning, and even though I get anxious and flinch more than usual around large groups of children, that was not my problem.

My problem was a boy that kept bringing graphic novels up to the desk only to have his mom take them back and tell him to “get real books.” We have some short chapter books that are about Spiderman and Yoda and all those characters guys like no matter what age they are, but even those didn’t pass her scrutiny of the authentic state of “book.”

Eventually the kid got frustrated, threw his arms out and said, “What am I supposed to do, I’m not interested in anything else!”

To which I think his mom said something along the lines of “Well, get interested in something else.”

I’m with the kid here. Granted he was calling them “comic books” which is fine and I doubt his mom would have been swayed by the slightly snobby-sounding “graphic novel.” Unless maybe I said it with an English accent... Anyway.

So what if the kid isn’t reading Hawthorne yet? If you start telling him some books aren’t real and things he’s interested in aren’t put in books then he won’t want to read when he’s older.

And seriously. Look around at all the books in the children’s library… books about police cars or how bulldozers work or bat-eared foxes. Books on colors and numbers and feeling sad or making decisions. Getting dressed, saying please, sharing with others.

Up until we’re teenagers (and probably beyond that into adulthood) we use books to learn how the world works, and most importantly how we feel and interact with our world.

Reading is psychological, social, emotional, and intellectual. So maybe some people feel that authors can cram their agenda or people blindly follow the protagonist’s lead without contemplating how they really feel, but at least there’s an opportunity to explore how you react to situations and social schemas.

Let the kid get swept away in a comic book if he wants to. He’ll be interpreting the images just as much as the words. He will find moral dilemmas, be incited to use his imagination, and give his range of emotions a little workout in a safe place between paper pages. Which is exactly what any other “real book” does.

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