Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Growth Chart of a Young Reader

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If I had any sort of graphic talent, I'd photoshop a kid's growth chart where instead of just age and height, there would also be a space to record books that my kids have read and loved. 

My 17 year old stepdaughter announced the other day she didn't have time to read for fun anymore. That made me sad; she's been my biggest reading buddy. We've shared so many books.

(Warning: I'm about to become nostalgic. You can skip to the end for my conclusions!) 

She first took off with reading in 2nd grade (age 7) with the Pony Pals series.  The next two years were a long succession of horse books.

Then came the Harry Potter books, which she discovered at age 9 (and I at age 33, you are never too old to enjoy a great book or series).

After all the Harry Potters, she introduced me to The Enchanted Wood, by Enid Blyton (she wouldn't confess how many times she'd re-read it), and then during a library visit she picked out Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, and I read it right after her. Talk about a severe contrast! - from fairies to stark survival-ism.

At age 12, she called me up and talked to me for TWO HOURS about this amazing new book she'd just read.

Yup, you guessed it.


Of course I found it and read it a couple days later. 

Later that summer, we had a race to finish reading Breaking Dawn the day it came out, her in Washington and me in Wyoming, then called each other to share all our favorite (and not so favorite) parts. She won the race because she went to a midnight release book store party; I waited until the next morning to purchase mine (you wouldn't catch me dead at a release party for this series). (No pun intended, groan...)

Somewhere around this time she also discovered My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult and then several other Picoult books with high-school age characters - though I really question whether these are young adult books? They resulted in lots of good discussion though.

At age 15 she couldn't talk about Twilight without scrunching up her face in disgust. She was "so over" those kind of weird romances and had moved on to a whole new, darker world: The Hunger Games. As soon as she told me about it, I hunted it down to read. Wow. We had another "reading race" when Mockingjay released last summer (She won. Again).

Throughout her 16th year,  I continued to bring home paranormal YA books like Firelight (Sophie Jordan) and The Iron King (Julie Kagawa) and dystopians like Divergent (Veronica Roth). But some of these she'd start and never finish or not finish for weeks. Now she's 17, and I asked her what kind of book she liked these days.

"I really don't have time to read anymore," she told me. "I have too much reading to do at school." (She's currently reading 1984 for English). "But if I do have time, I want something really dark."  (Yeah, 1984 qualifies).

My own reading growth chart started the same way as my stepdaughter's with tons of animals stories from age 7-10 (that's where my 10 yr old daughter is still at). Since Harry Potter wasn't yet around, I advanced to The Hobbit and at age 14, Lord of the Rings, which blew me away. I read Dune shortly after and that blew me away, again. But my reading growth stalled out after my junior year of high school with the ultimate kill-joy, The Stranger, by Albert Camus. Just as dark, if not darker, than 1984.

What is it about high school required reading that kills the joy of reading? Or maybe it's just that there is too much studying to do in college? (or too much partying? ha). I don't remember having time for fiction (for fun) again until after college, and then nothing hugely memorable until a friend convinced me to read Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.


Well to wrap this up (sorry it's been a bit of ramble), what I've learned from my teenage girl is that fantasy rules the middle grade years and paranormal romances (still fantasy, but now tied to high school) during the early teens. But they quickly burn out on them by the time they actually reach high school (until you reach your thirties, apparently then they become popular again).

By 15 and 16, they want realism and the darker, the better. By 17 or 18, it's game over. Of course, everybody's reading growth chart is different. What were some of yours or your kids' growth chart books?

Here's more blogs participating in Teen Tuesdays:
Writers' Ally aka sa larsen

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