We should get something out of the way here. It is bogging down teachers and inadvertently, kids, everywhere.
It doesn't matter that YOU don't like the book. I'm looking at you, parent or teacher, who is clutching your pearls at this very moment because I started with an image from the new Captain Underpants movie.
Authors know what I'm talking about. You receive it in scathing Amazon reviews, you might receive a nasty letter from a parent who has never sneezed or burped or farted (say that last part in a Gru voice), or you might even be lucky enough to write a book that has been placed on a Banned Books list. As late as 2012, Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was still making the yearly top ten list because of uptight people contacting the Office for Intellectual Freedom. This book was released in 1989 and if my elementary librarian had a record of the amount of times I checked it out, I'm pretty sure my mom would have said "wow, my kid was reading... and reading a lot. Well done fine librarians and Alvin Schwartz!" I was obsessed with all things scary as a kid. My attitudes about reading might be different now if I was censored when it came to checking out children's' books in my own school library.
Look, no one needs you to publicly declare that you don't like Captain Underpants, or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Guess who does? Kids. (And a lot of cool adults, like me). Need data to support that statement? There are now more than 164 million copies of Diary of a Wimpy Kid in print. When Old School was released in 2015? Over a million copies sold in the first week. (Independent, 2015). This is about them, not you. The last time I checked no master villains have been developed because of reading funny books. We probably could have defeated some epic jerk faces IF they had read funny comics as a kid.
Scholastic's Kids and Family Reading Report shows us what we already know: kids love to pick out their own books. Just like adults do. It also shows us that kids want books that make them laugh. They want fun reading experiences. Books like the ones I've mentioned give kids exactly that. This article from 2012 sums up my sarcastic attitude towards these parents who are upset that their kids are having enjoyable reading experiences. It is all about Captain Underpants being the most challenged book of 2012. I highly encourage you to read it.
This past weekend, my family went to go see Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. I haven't heard my husband laugh that hard at a movie in years. I was in tears because I was laughing so hard. My almost eight year old, glued to the screen. My three year old? Cried because we had to take her to the bathroom right when Professor Poopypants was getting his. Underneath the humor was this sad realization that Dav must have had years and years ago. So many schools are sucking the fun and life out of kids. Complaining that kids can't think critically when they haven't been given the time they need to play and explore their own interests. This system is bringing kids down and this movie highlights this, just like all of Dav's books. I believe if we as teachers, and parents, helped our kids find what they really love and gave them time to explore it, lives would change.
My dad always gives me great perspective in this area. He has always been an avid reader. I am talking taking the whole family to Barnes and Noble to read and explore, whole room dedicated to his beloved motorcycle magazines, always something in his hands avid reader. I was explaining the movie to him and the commentary it provided on education. He said that his first favorite motorcycle magazine, Cycle, is what taught him writing mechanics. Not his teachers drilling isolated grammar and sentence structure, but reading an actual mentor text is what showed him how to write. He battled the stigma around being a kid that wanted to make and work on things with his hands. He became a reader despite the adults around him, limiting him. I want my kids to become readers with my help, not in spite of me. But how many of our kids are forced into these same situations because of teacher attitudes?
This movie is powerful, just like Dav's books. The movie that I had posters for up in my classroom, and one that my fourth graders were pumped to add to their must see lists for the summer. Imagine if I would have had a bad attitude about that book and movie as their role model? I might not have had kids writing Dog Man inspired comics literally all year, I might not have had kids experience a resurge in the original series, I might have even decided to keep these books out of my library all together. In that case, what message would I be sending my kids?
That I don't value these books and reading experiences.
What an awful message to send to children. I won't be the one to do it. All reading experiences should be valued. LET KIDS READ! I am about sick of all these adults standing in the way! You want readers, so stop attaching rewards, AR quizzes, leveled baskets and shitty attitudes about children's literature. LET KIDS READ!
The kids will find the comics.
And then they'll read them.
Stop being a baby.
Sit down next to them and read them too.
It might just lower that high blood pressure.
6/14/2017 12:35:26 pm
YES! 100%!!! I had this conversation TODAY in my summer school class. "I don't read." "You NEVER read? You've NEVER read anything and liked it?" "Well, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. But my teacher said that didn't count." IT COUNTS! IT COUNTS! IT COUNTS!
6/14/2017 01:00:46 pm
Wonderful article!! I am proud to say I am "that teacher" that proudly read Captain Underpants to my students and they couldn't get enough. It was the one book that gave my reluctant readers incentive to read...for the others, pure laughter and enjoyment! Years later, my former students still say that Captain Underpants is one of their fondest memories of my class (and by years later, I mean like 18-20). Kids need the opportunity to enjoy reading...and teachers need to relax and have fun with them. They'll never forget it!
6/14/2017 01:04:19 pm
Truer words couldn't have been spoken. Get rid of the Accelerated Reader programs, let kids READ. They will foster a love for it without the worry of a test, or the idea that are reading because the teacher said they had to. Well said!
6/14/2017 03:33:10 pm
Thank you for speaking the truth and always advocating for kids and their reading lives. As I've said many times, if we want kids to read, we have to let them! We worry that kids don't read, then bemoan their choices when they do!
6/20/2017 11:25:52 am
YES, YES, YES. This exact idea was the topic of something I just wrote a few weeks ago for a graduate class. Who cares if we as teachers don't 'like' the books our students read? Isn't that one of the biggest JOYS of being reader- choosing what YOU like?! Thank you for always having the eloquence to say what I'm thinking.
6/22/2017 08:47:40 am
This is so incredibly true. I had students who chose exclusively Wimpy Kid books for the first six months of school. That's okay! If I had forced them to put it down, they may not have EVER picked up something else. We need to make reading a positive experience for kiddos and support them in branching out when they are ready.
7/28/2017 07:58:02 am
A million times yes!! Thank you for putting into words the sentiments of so many trying to build up and encourage the reading life of kids. ❤❤❤🙌🙌🙌
7/28/2017 05:52:00 pm
Yes! Thank you! The greatest gift we can give kids is the choice to read what makes them happy.
7/28/2017 07:33:49 pm
Fantastic essay. I agree on every point. I once told a class of college developmental English students that I gained much of my vocabulary from reading Regency romance novels ;) Also, I adore Alvin Schwartz's books, and I read them to my kids when they were younger. They loved all the books mentioned in fact.
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