Or: “Reading Without Limits” Goes Both Ways
This is somewhat of a prelude to my Decade-End Review, and somewhat of a response to:
- Recent discussions on appropriate tween books (scroll down to the “Clean Teen” section),
- Debates over appropriate trick-or-treating ages (yes, I do think that’s relevant here), and
- This one comic I saw in my Facebook feed:
Whenever I see people getting indignant at the idea of limiting children’s access to “mature” books, or bristling at the idea of implicitly labeling certain subjects as “unclean” or “inappropriate,” I naturally pump my fist and say, “Right on!”
But then, another part of my brain launches into a painful flashback to all those times I got flack for the opposite reason: for reading books that were “beneath” my capabilities. For not challenging myself enough when I chose books for pleasure rather than for a test. For daring to set my mature foot in the juvenile section, bookstore gift card in hand.
Now, you may think the Internet doesn’t need another defense of Adults Reading Books Marketed to Children and Teens. Whether you claim nostalgia, sociological research, a lovingly snarky podcast, or just the love of a good story, it’s no longer so embarrassing for adults to be caught reading Baby-sitters Club books or the latest John Green novel. This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve raised the subject of crushing the Juv/YA stigma here @ Postcards, and I’m certainly not the only book blogger who feels that way.
Today’s post is is both a little more existential and a little more targeted, though. Today’s post is about the whole concept of Reading Levels and Growing Up and Challenging Yourself.
On the one hand, today’s post applies to any reader of any age. On the other hand, it applies especially:
- To those parents, teachers, and administrators who worry that your children/students aren’t “challenging themselves” enough. That they’re “stuck in La-La Land” and aren’t preparing themselves for the Real World.
- To those middle-graders, tweens, and teens who feel pressured to read only at or above their maturity level. Those middle-schoolers who get side-eyes from classmates or teachers because they’re still reading the Magic Treehouse books. Those fifteen-year-olds who feel like hiding their copies of Amber Brown. The young NeriSirens who learned to pretend they were only re-re-re-reading Jessica’s Mermaid out of nostalgia, and not because they found any unadulterated joy in the experience.
- And, finally: to those book-tivists who think it’s only a problem when children are discouraged from reading books that are “too hard” for them.