What should children read?

  • Article by: Sara Mosle , New York Times
  • Updated: November 25, 2012 - 9:22 PM

Some food for thought as English teachers across the country begin to implement the Common Core State Standards.

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jdlellis1Nov. 25, 1210:11 PM

Children and young adults should read most anything with the exception of People Magazine. Come to think about it, adults should read most anything with the exception of People Magazine!

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erikj3Nov. 25, 1210:31 PM

What should children read? Everything!

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owatonnabillNov. 26, 12 5:54 AM

This is hardly an either-or proposition.There is nothing wrong (and a lot right) with children reading nonfiction, but let's not forget that often the best window into the soul of a time is the fiction produced by that time--not so much for the factualness--such works are not really a history, after all--but for the mores and attitudes of the period. Works like "A Tale of Two Cities", "Uncle Tom's Cabin", "Moby Dick", "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", "The Grapes of Wrath"--all provide a unique insight into a time before us whose mores and ideals helped shape who and what we are. It does not begin-or stop-there. Works as far back as the Iliad and Odyssey, The Aeneid, Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, etc. etc. all have their place, both as literary works and as a reflection of a time and place in history. To favor one type of writing at the expense of another is to deny our children a precious and meaningful experience. Meden Agan. Nothing in excess. What is important is balance.

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velmoholmNov. 26, 12 7:00 AM

This is an inane article. In the end, what matters is if children engage in reading independent of instruction and whether they are exposed to a variety of text structures and themes. In the world of work almost all of our reading is directed to expository text which has distinct structures. Naturally, children need to recognize the structure of expository text and they need to acquire knowledge of the content these texts present to them.

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akornNov. 26, 12 7:14 AM

The real question is why are there national "mandates" for what children across the country should read? Isn't that what the Soviet Union did?

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tandabussNov. 26, 12 7:15 AM

Thought-provoking piece. The only thing I will add is, if you want students to learn to be effective writers, they need lots of practice and lots of feedback--feedback from teachers--to develop those skills. My kids have been exposed to tons of "peer editing" which does very little other than save the teacher time in doing her or his work.

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BroonieNov. 26, 12 8:04 AM

My current pet peeves are affect vs. effect when effect is used as a verb (!) and rack/wrack. Yes, effect can be a used properly as a verb, such as "The criminal effected a rapid exit from the scene of the crime.", for example. Billiard balls are racked up, points are racked up, but nerves are wracked as spectators were caught up in the excitement of the championship match. I enjoyed John Irving's main character in In One Person stating that 'impact' is a noun, not a verb. Of course, it took a former Strib writer turned English composition instructor to explain to me in detail why commas do not properly belong immediately adjacent to another conjunction (and,or), rare exception permitted! The whole point of good writing is exactly that of writing musical composition: the spoken word is translated to paper, with all the indications of how it should be read recorded with it. It's not only young readers who need to learn about excellent writing; it's everyone.

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swmnguyNov. 26, 12 8:13 AM

I'm the only member of my family for several generations without a college degree, and I'm one of very few not in the field of education.

I agree with "owatonnabill" and most of the rest of the posters. I think everyone should read everything. I know from personal experience that it's foolish to make a 13 year-old boy read "Pride And Prejudice," but my son read "Macbeth" last year in 8th grade and was blown away. The teacher assigned them to write an alternate ending, and the boy did a fine job, writing Elizabethan English with only a few anachronisms and coming up with a bloody plot twist that wasn't out of place in the genre.

Too much emphasis is placed on cultural relevance. Kids don't need to read about "stuff they can relate to." It's far more important for them to learn to relate to people with whom they wouldn't think they had much in common. "The Epic of Gilgamesh" is still worth reading for many reasons; not the least of which is that it shows that people about 4000 years ago weren't a whole lot different from people today.

My dyslexic 12 year-old daughter read "Romeo and Juliet" last year in 6th grade in Minneapolis, and downloaded the audio book on her Kindle to help with the reading part of it. The story immediately resonated with her, and she even pt together a hypothetical cast for the play from her classmates who resembled the various characters. She "got" that it's about how teenagers and their parents can mess up anything if they lose their perspective.

Kids should read everything, write about it, and write their own stories real and fictional. They also need to read non-fiction and learn how to research and write their own non-fiction, as well. Not everyone will be good at it, but everyone needs to become familiar by it and not intimidated.

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beebee82Nov. 26, 12 8:36 AM

I would agree that nonfiction pieces such as newspapers can greatly improve reading skills and offer great models for writing. But to mandate that every senior across the county be assigned 70 percent nonfiction is going a bit far. This is the year most students are prescribed classic literature that they may never otherwise be exposed. If nonfiction is given substantial weight in all years of education, it would seem unnecessary to so severely unbalance the scales toward this single genre in the final year of high school.

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mattmoscNov. 26, 1210:13 AM

My take on this matter: Some of the best books ever written have been taken out of our school libraries, because certain people feel offended. maybe they should use these books as teachable moments. And one more thing, let parents decide what is best for their children to read!

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