The first words I remember reading were the names of the states on a puzzle map of the United States I had when I was a baby. Even before I could make out the letters, I would study the shapes and memorise the edges and their location to other funnily shaped pieces. As I got older I began to attempt to pronounce the names and their capitals and once I was old enough to read I would ask that other family members time me on how fast I could complete the puzzle and my knowledge of states and their capitals.
This knowledge served me well in 5th grade when weekly we had a state quiz. We were given a piece of paper with enough blank lines for all of the states with just the initial letter to help us out. From the very first test to the last I could remember and spell correctly all of the states and did so in a short manner of time.
So, from the very beginning, I loved words and their shapes and potential. I loved learning more about them and what I could do with them. And it stuck with me.
But not every child is like that. For some letters, words, and their placement is a battle. For some they aren't magical but a chore and no matter how deftly crafted the story the interest isn't there. I understand this as that's why people are individuals. However, when Harry Potter was released, and then, later, Twilight, it was almost as if an entirely new door was opened for so many kids. It didn't matter what they were reading, just that they were. Without those doorways and then the genre that opened up after some of those kids many not have had the interest to continue.
One of my biggest issues with books in general is that sometimes an author - or maybe even a parent- assumes that big words or realistic overtones will scare a kid off or implant bad ideas into their heads. Is that possible? Yes, of course. Statistically, no. Give children credit. They are smarter than people give them credit for and when you give them room for their imaginations to create and explore than you've given them a gift beyond measure. People need to know about Deb Caletti's Stay and that it's okay to say 'no' to an abusive relationship. They need to know they aren't alone and that there is help out there for them. Or they could read David Ward's Between Two Ends and get lost in a sea of words but learn about the deeper relationships between people.
Judy Blume. Roald Dahl. Dr. Seuss. J.D. Salinger. Lois Lowry. C.S. Lewis. Stephanie Meyer - you know, it doesn't really matter. There are a lot of decisions parents should be making for their kids, but I don't think acting as a shelter from YA really should be near the top of any list.
Thanks, Mom, for letting me read as much as I
wanted needed to and the only fine we had to pay was to the library.