Reader to Reader

A Family of Readers: The Book Lover’s Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Literature by Roger Sutton and Martha Parravano, editors of The Horn Book Magazine, is indeed a book for anyone who loves literature for young people.

It could be particularly useful (what an awful thing to say about a wonderful book) to parents. In four sections that mirror the early reading life of children, there are essays, reviews and lists for reading to them, reading with them, reading on their own and leaving them alone. Each addresses what children crave and need throughout their development.

The humor and passion exhibited by the writers make this a remarkable companion. At every stage there is someone who can help with your own choices. The dilemma faced by Bruce Brooks and Ginee Seo is faced by many new parents. The rule they embraced was  “We will not censor books and toys.” It became “We will not censor books or toys unless they are crap.” But their discussion is nuanced. They admit and are humbled by the fact that “children, especially young children, have strong irrational likes and dislikes.” So in the end Brooks and Seo provide excellent advice: “. . . bin everything cutesy and stupid . . . But be prepared for some surprises.”

Dean Schneider and Robin Smith helpfully provide “Thirteen Ways to Raise a Nonreader.” If you yourself are a reader, this may not apply to you, but keep it handy. If you find yourself putting a TV or a computer in every room, pull out this list and refresh your memory.

“By the time a kid is ready to read on his own, he’s ready to . . . read on his own. Your job is, essentially, to let him,” writes Sutton. But there are books no reader should miss and that’s where a parent can help. With an awareness of the broad range of genres, parents are in the position to share books, go to the library together, to read and listen, with a child.

For the final developmental stage noted, Roger Sutton reminds us that “even the healthiest, happiest teen needs to be able to be alone with a book . . . ” We tend to want to protect the young, but from what? We know that reading a murder mystery does not turn us into killers — it’s a story, not a how-to manual. Why do we think children and young adults read differently? Reading does have an affect, but it is not so simple.

So, in the end, this is a book for readers, with a list of contributors that is breathtaking — Sendak, Scieszka, Hamilton, Paterson, and more. Read it and the books recommended, then share them with the young people you love, reader to reader.

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