Michael Norris, “an American publishing expert,” says, “Parents have too much of a role in deciding which books their child is going to read. It is turning children off. They should let them choose.” This is plausible. Let’s look into this some more.
First, he argues, reading should never be described with “work words” which make it seem like a chore. Too many families, Norris suggests, have fallen into the trap of stereotyping reading as a “good” activity and digital or online game playing as “bad”. Instead, it is important to let reading become associated with pleasure and achievement, just as game playing is.
I like that thought. But then Norris goes on to say,
“The average child consumes a ridiculous amount of media in any given day, from television, videogame content and audio content, so new reading devices, such as the iPad, are not going to have as great an impact on the younger market as people hope. When they are not playing games or listening to music, the majority of a young adult’s time is spent on the phone, talking or receiving and sending text messages. Books don’t even factor into their thinking.”
Seems generally true. But how can parents cause books to factor in to their children’s thinking without affirming that books are “good”?
Make sure children talk directly to a librarian or a bookseller, while parents stand well back. Looming over a child takes all the fun out of their discoveries, he says. Parents should allow children to choose their own reading material.”Even if a mother or father is just standing with the child when the bookseller asks them what they like to read, we have found that the child will give an answer they think their parent wants to hear. It will not be the same answer they would give alone,” said Norris. . . .It is also important, he added, for parents not to enthuse about books that they loved as children: “Parents often say, ‘When when I was your age…’, and it tends to put off children too.”
This seems to presume an oddly, strongly oppositional relationship between parents and children. Should parents really be forbidden to introduce books to their children that they themselves loved? Isn’t it at least possible that one bond between parent and child can be shared love of a book? It seems rather closed-minded for a “publishing expert” not to take that option into account. My son Wes was indifferent to some of the books I recommended to him — or, earlier, read to him — but rather than ceasing to recommend books, I simply made sure he knew that his response was just fine and that he was not expected to like something just because I did. And then there are other books I asked Wes to read that we both love and have talked about often over the years, to our mutual delight. Should I really have refused to recommend those books to him because of the chance that he wouldn’t care for them?Maybe we can understand Norris’s attitude better when we read this:
“My father forced me to read The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy when I was much too young and I have never read another Clancy since,” said Norris.
Ah, well, there’s your problem.