Sunday, December 16, 2007

But My Child is Sooooo Advanced!

YA author Alix Flinn just put up a great post about parents of advanced readers who have rude awakenings when they bump into books that are (surprise!) too mature for their child.

Key quotes:
I am then faced with the unpleasant task of explaining that my books aren't really for 10-year-olds.

To which they say, "But (s)he's a very advanced reader." (Yes, every single one of them. Apparently every single child within a 10 mile radius of my home -- including my own children, I should say -- reads above grade level. This does make me question the concept of "grade level," but it wouldn't be the first time).

Hehe! I see this a lot at work: the parents who diss Charlotte's Web because their seven-year-old's reading levels mean s/he should be reading War and Peace. Then I bite my lip until it bleeds to stop myself saying, "Have you ever read War and Peace?"

I know whereof I speak. I was one of those supremely annoying precocious children, and during Easter break of my fourth-grade year, I decided the time was ripe for me to read Gone With the Wind. I hated it. I still hate it. If I'd read it at a time when I was emotionally ready for this story, I might have felt differently. (Maybe not, though. That Scarlett was a pain in the ass.)

As Alix writes, there's a difference between sentence structure and vocabulary that a kid is capable of unraveling, and the actual content of the book. My horror story about this concerns Annette Curtis Klause's The Silver Kiss. Amazing book, but very definitely for 12-up. Maybe even 15-up. But according to Accelerated Reader, it's suitable for a fourth-grader.

I wonder how many parents of "advanced readers" ever read for the joy of it. Maybe if they had, they'd understand that reading is not a racetrack, but a map to an undiscovered country.

Thanks to Liz B over at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy for pointing me at Alix's post.

P.S. In a fun bit of synchronicity, I'm currently reading Alix Flinn's Beastly. This book is unputdownable. Would I give it to a fourth-grader? Hell, no.


Anonymous said...

Nothing much to say except, this has got to be in my Top 3 pet peeves as a children's librarian. I like your Charlotte's Web example, because it especially drives me crazy when a parent looks at 101 Dalmatians or Bambi, also beautifully written classics, and says either, "This looks too young for my [definitely not too old] child" or "My child has already seen the Disney version; would they really get anything out of this?"

Jen Robinson said...

This must be really frustrating as a librarian, indeed. There are so many great great books aimed at kids of each age range. I think people deprive the kids by not making it ok for them to read these books. Sigh!

Bibliovore said...


Or how about the kids who will only accept the Disney version? When you show them that marvelous Jazz Age Cinderella, they turn up their noses because there's no Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo in it. Gah!

Ms. Yingling said...

Bless the teacher (and there are many of them) who tell students to disregard the Accelerated Reader levels. As I like to point out, Asimov's I, Robot comes in at 6.1, and Service's Stinker From Space at 6.8. For struggling readers, the level can help, but I usually want to slap people who use it as a firm guideline.

Anonymous said...

We have a lot of demand for Disney stuff, for sure, but I'm always gratified to see how many families are actually happy to consult our bibliographies of non-Disney princess (e.g., Paper Bag Princess, Princess Dinosaur) and fairy books. It's about the silverest lining I see in this Disney princess craze. Disney's not the alpha and omega, folks! :-)

Bibliovore said...

Oh my gosh, Ms. Yingling--you have teachers like that in your school district? I am so envious! All the local schools, including the private ones, use that dad-blasted AR. I can't count the number of times I've handed a child a book, seen their face light up as they look at it, then seen it fall again as they check the AR list and find out it's either not on there or it's not their level. I always say, "You can read it for fun," but half the time I still have to put the book away again.