First, my two confessions:

  1. Despite my desire to “keep short accounts” and finish the books currently on my bookshelves, I have already been bitten hard by the bug to keep reading others’ (new) recommendations…. I have 4 books in process right now, one of which has languished on my bookcase for a few months, one of which was a library checkout prompted by some review somewhere, and two are Advance Review Copies (ARCs) on my Nook. (sigh) The plus side is that they’re all GREAT, so stay tuned!
  2. I’ve never read Jane Eyre.

I know, right?! How can someone carry on with a literature blog, profess to have been an English major in college, a former English teacher, and have a literature-based MA… and NOT have read Jane Eyre? It’s a shocker. (Thankfully, I’m not the only one with this dark and dirty little secret.)

So, I’m going to redefine my goals for this year. First, I’m not going to attempt to read every book that sits on my bookshelves, hitherto unread by me. Second, I’m really going to make an attempt to finally read Jane Eyre. My secret lurks in the back of my mind, calling out “fraud!” 

And, let’s move onto the idea of the literary canon….

I just wanted to encourage anyone reading this blog (I’m assuming it’s primarily parents) to RELAX about making sure little Susie reads every single “right” book. Think about it this way: when Dickens was a kid, did he read Charlotte’s Web? No. Did Shakespeare grow up on a steady diet of “the classics” including, but not limited to, Huckleberry Finn, The Scarlet Letter, Wuthering Heights? No. Are there new, wonderful works being published all the time? Yes. Is there enough time to read all the “best” books? No.

So, why do we stress over little Robbie’s seeming lack of interest in any of the “great” books? There is certainly merit in providing the young people in your life with opportunities to read well-crafted books, but that quality literature can still be a formative experience with The Secret Garden missing in action. (ouch. that hurts me to even type it. I’m considering scratching it out. Secret Garden is one of my ALL-TIME faves…I have this edition pictured below)

I’d encourage you to offer the best writing you can get your hands on to the young people in your life. But pay attention to what they are interested in reading. Some folks just don’t enjoy reading for fun. That’s OK. It’s important to be able to read well, to make proper inferences, to critique at a world view level, and to appreciate the craft of writing. You can accomplish those things without Farmer Boy or Heidi.

Seek out well written nonfiction (Redeemed Reader has done a nice job promoting some interesting nonfiction). Encourage children to read books that challenge them in between “brain candy” like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Take advantage of movie tie-in’s (Hugo Cabret is a big book to tackle, but it’s not a hard read. TinTin is a vocabulary heavy adventure comic series from decades ago).

Bottom line: READ (to your kids, with your kids, and in front of your kids)

And, for what the ALA deems the best of the latest children’s books, stay tuned. Newbery/Caldecott/Printz Medals get announced Monday!!! I’m hoping to be able to go back and update some of my recent reviews with their new award status.