For elementary school children, there are basically just two kinds of books (if we ignore poetry), Fiction and Non-fiction. Fictional books present to the reader created characters living created lives, experiencing created joys while dealing with what are frequently universal human problems. NON-fictional books typically use lots of different visuals interspersed with carefully structured expositional text. These books serve as a means to share and explore information and ideas about the world and universe.
Now, I am the type of person that reads lots of fiction books. I love to be invited on the ride offered by a mystery or puzzle that is solved by made-up people whose talents and quick thinking are on display and in the process become inspirational to me. I also do a lot of non-fiction reading, but in fewer books. This joyful reading tends to be in magazines, newspapers, online research into matters of literacy education, and anything about unique current or historical cultures, exotic flora and fauna, and travel.
I’m convinced that being two sides of a healthy diet of enriching reading, each of these rather different kinds of reading materials contribute to my enjoyment and productivity with the other. Not only do they each offer wonderfully fulfilling vicarious experiences while I’m sitting comfortably around home or while traveling, but reading each one actually amplifies the benefits of reading the other.
As one illustration, the more I know about oceanography, the more I can fully appreciate mysteries based in the oceans, lakes and rivers of the world. Similarly, the more I deal with the challenges confronting favorite characters, the more comfortable I find myself problem-solving issues in my science, cultural and travel reading.
Such wide reading, the enjoyment of all kinds of reading material, can work the same for every reader.
At this date in the fast waning school year, every student in the US is joyfully anticipating an extended break from the challenges (and rewards) of attending school every day. They are looking forward to a generous serving of free time to spend any way they please. Such a period of personal liberation provides a uniquely fertile opportunity for each child to slowly immerse themselves into the deliciously cool summertime waters of self-selected fiction that will take them places they’ve never imagined and once there, that they won’t want to leave. Widely varied reading invites children to go deep into their own self-determined choices of non-fiction, seeking the answers to their very OWN questions and developing new insights by savoring books about fascinating and exotic historical characters, world-shaking events, and breakthrough discoveries.
Heads: These broadly varied summertime reading adventures will also continue to help children grow academically and intellectually, avoiding the now well-documented academic atrophy and regression that besets so many school children who don’t read in the summertime. Tails: this independent adventure will leave the children with an enhanced store of background knowledge, rich vocabulary, a sharper linguistic ear for guiding their own writing, and a deeper appreciation of the roles that books and reading can play in their lives.
Flip a coin. Heads or tails, THEY WIN!