Weekends don’t count unless you spend them doing something completely pointless. – Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes creator
I’m currently in a love-hate-hate-hate-hate relationship with a book series that is as engaging as a four-years-old’s joke.
Split second pause. “Knock-knock.”
The first few books of this series were fresh, zany and completely entertaining. The last, er, thirteen books have regurgitated the same characters, plot line, dialogue, and zings as the initial ones.
It was a tiresome way to spend the weekend, and I can’t explain why I read skimmed through the dang book except I was hoping for some glimmer of that zip I recall from the series debut.
Frankly, even Calvin and Hobbes would have said, “Enough already.”
In 1831, Lydia Maria Child, a no-nonsense woman who championed ending slavery, equality for women, and the habit of reading, advised mothers on how to select books for their children:
I would suggest it is better to have a few good books than many middling ones. . . . A perpetual succession of new works induces a habit of reading hastily and carelessly; and of course, their contents are either forgotten or jumbled up in the memory in an indistinct and useless form. . . . There is much good sense in the Roman maxim, ‘Read much, but do not read many books.’”
The poor woman would bury her face into her apron if she knew how many books I’d read, and, yes, forgotten.
Just as she warned her readers, I was the child who read “a perpetual succession” of books without “forming the habit of observing.” Although I was a voracious reader as a child and teen, I didn’t advance into reading challenging material until my late twenties.
In fact, I’d say my reputation as a fast, avid reader prevented me from becoming a careful reader. When I was forced to read the “classics” for schoolwork, I sensed I didn’t understand what I was reading but wouldn’t ask for help because, heck, I was well-regarded as A READER.
Can we read too much?
This debate on whether or not if any reading is better than no reading has continued 180 years after Mrs. Child’s book for mothers was published.
Last year, when Cynthia McGabe asked, “Is All Reading Good?” she got a flood of comments from educators and parents. Here are a few:
“Read trash just because it is reading? Isn’t that the same as saying, ‘Let them eat cake for dinner – at least they are eating?’”
“Twaddle is an insult to a learning mind.”
“. . . getting a student interested in any type of book is better than nothing at all.”
“Whatever hooks them is wonderful . . .”
What do YOU think? Is any reading good? Or was Mrs. Child correct when she said a few good books were better than a slew of junky ones? Does your opinion shift if you are considering a child’s reading habits?