Happy Children’s Book Week! I love seeing all the energy and excitement around books at this time of year, with all the special Days, Weeks, and Months! It does make me think, though, that we can bring more joy to readers by sharing our own joy about the books we really love, not the books we think we should love.
Recently, I was talking with a teacher who was describing a book he was in the middle of and loved—“not that I’d share that with my students.” Why not? Because it was a pure escapist read, a thriller, and the writing wasn’t even all that great, he said.
This made me feel sad. And guilty. Because I have done the same thing. Not with students on school visits (who usually want to know what my favorite kids’ books are), but with writer friends and educators and booksellers. I am not a reader of literary fiction, and I often feel dumb or shallow in my reading choices, because the writers around me are always discussing their latest amazing reads—almost none of which I have read.
Why I Read
I read for several reasons, usually: to learn cool things; to examine the world deeply; and to be entertained. I read awesome nonfiction (picture books and occasional adult books) to learn cool things. I read poetry and picture books to see the world in different ways and think deeply about it. And for entertainment, I usually read mysteries.
What I Read
I read mostly series cozies (amateur detectives), though I love a good dark, gripping, eerie serial killer mystery when I can find one that’s actually a mystery (not a thriller). I read to escape my own brain. I read mysteries set in places that call to me (like Scotland and Colorado). Or with main characters who do things I’m terrible at (baking, knitting, singing). Or that feature a villain so evil and horrifying I can’t put down my Kindle.
In many of these cozies, the writing is not…spectacular. I turn my analytical brain off and just lose myself in story. It’s what I’ve done since I was a child—escape into stories. And since I read multiple novels per week, it’s frankly just easier sometimes to stick with a so-so series where I know what I’m getting than to try (and abandon) several new authors/titles before finding one sufficiently escape-into-able.
So I’m vowing right now to stop being ashamed of the books I read. And of the books I don’t read. I don’t enjoy literary fiction. I never really have. And there’s nothing wrong with that. So I would appreciate it if people would stop gasping when I confess to specific books that did nothing for me. To Kill a Mockingbird comes readily to mind, as my confession of not liking it almost gave 84 educators a collective heart attack at a conference a few years ago.
You probably think by now that I’m a cretin. But I love to read. I don’t think I could live without books. I just love to read what I love to read…not necessarily what you love to read.
Setting A Good Example
To set a good example for every kid out there who’s ashamed because he doesn’t like the books he’s told are “fantastic,” “a classic,” or “great literature,” I vow to stop worrying about looking smart. I vow to share some of my own personal reading tastes with students–my REAL favorites. Making books—any kind of books—an integral part of your life—that’s the best example I can set.