Monday, August 25, 2014
Why Escapist Reading is Good for Children
We've all read them. A friend's sister calls them "middle-grade death books". These are the books that win awards and are required reading for most (if not all) middle-schoolers. They're also some of the most depressing, childhood-scarring reads ever.
When I was in junior high, I adored English class and my teacher. She was the sweetest, but even her shelves were filled with these dismal stories. There was little for escapist readers like me to enjoy within the confines of required reading. (Does anyone remember a book called Goodbye Paper Doll? That book left such a bad impression on me I still remember its title after 22 years.)
Since then, reading lists have expanded to include books my twelve-year-old self would happily devour. Where were they when I was in junior high? (We're talking books like Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Percy Jackson.)
I suppose I shouldn't poo-poo the 'middle-grade death books'. When I asked library patrons in my age group what books they liked as preteens, some of them even mentioned a few of those titles. People do like them, but, for the life of me, I can't understand why.
Just to give you background, I don't like depressing entertainment. I wasn't one of those girls who flocked to the opening of Titanic in theaters, tissues in one hand and chocolates in the other. (My boyfriend at the time suggested we go.) I'm not the kind of girl who invites all her friends over to watch The Notebook (with more tissues and chocolate). I'd much rather watch The Fifth Element for the thousandth time with pizza and ice cream.
Is it good to show raw, true, heinous life events to preteens because maybe it'll help them deal with it better when they're faced with it themselves, or maybe they're going through it now and it'll help them understand they're not alone? I don't know. I still stick by letting them dream awhile and escape from whatever it is they're going through - be it bullies at school, pressures of all kinds from peers, or abuse/neglect at home. And you know what? Within those escapist reads, some cunning authors weave precious truths kids will take away with them: truths like courage in the face of adversity, belief in the sanctity of life, trust in your friends, and hope that things will turn out alright in the end.
Hope isn't a bad thing to teach them at all.
What do you think?