Spoiled-Rotten Readers

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Given how selective I am about what I read, I guess you can say I’m a spoiled-rotten reader…and I love it. It suits Unfinished 1my needs.

But I don’t believe I’m alone in this fickle reading life. A lot of my friends travel from one enthusiastic opening of a book to another, unhindered by the memory of teachers and others who tally reading success by books completed, rather than by the fabulous images and joyful experiences authors provide.

On the other hand, I have friends who are likely to finish every book they start, seemingly guilted into completing a book that their hearts long-ago abandoned. A conversation with someone like that goes something like this:

Kim Siever / Flickr

Kim Siever / Flickr

“How’s your book?”

“It’s okay, but I have another that I’m dying to get to. I’ll finish this book club selection this week and move on to that one.”

What’s up with that? Why not put down the uninteresting book and pick up the intriguing one now?

My guess is that many of us were trained during our school years to read each and every book that we were assigned or told to read. We learned to tally books read from cover to cover, eager for recognition and affirmation of our teachers and parents. Maybe we accumulated stars. Maybe we proudly displayed our stars on a chart pinned to a bulletin board or presented evidence of our reading in a carefully worded book report.

To some, this might seem like a good way to encourage “stick-to-it-ness.” But to me, each of those read-it-because-somebody-said-to-finish-it books is like a tombstone, a monument to a form of personal readership that isn’t personal at all. When we require children to finish books even if they’re not interested in the subject matter, we Unfinished 2could be leading a reluctant reader onto a slippery path that could end in a reading death, the dismissal of libraries and bookstores, and ultimately the dismissal of books as a boring waste of time.

None of us want that outcome, so let’s spoil children by allowing them to read self-determined choices for their own enjoyment. Let’s offer them the freedom to return a book that didn’t meet their expectations to the library before they finish it so they can choose a different, more promising read. Let’s give them gold stars for using the information gleaned from their self-selected books to engage in dialogue and conversations.

This type of spoiling will lead to life-long reading and book enjoyment.

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