Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Expectations vs. Reality

Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment
by Emma Walton Hamilton
Sag Harbor, NY: Beach Tree Books, 2009.

My Children's Literature teacher taught me to review a book for what it is rather than what I want it to be. I'm trying to separate my expectations of what I wanted Raising Bookworms to be from my reactions to what it is, but it's really hard to distance myself from the experience of reading a book in order to look at it more analytically than emotionally, especially when the subject matter is one near and dear to my heart: getting kids to read. I should be up front about what I expected. I was hoping for a list of resources and suggestions that either might be handy in recommending books to children and teens in my capacity as reference librarian or that I could use to subtly encourage my younger sister to read.

The suggestions in the book, however, are of much more use to parents. Hamilton's main premise is that we should connect reading with joy, and many of her techniques such as reading aloud, creating a book nook, keeping books in every room, and modeling a love of reading yourself, hearken back to this main theme. Each chapter focuses on one age group - baby and toddler, preschool, elementary school, and middle school. She warns in the introduction that a lot of the techniques carry over into other age groups, so reading from cover to cover can be repetitive. Most of her suggestions are common sense; perhaps because I took so many courses in children's services, I didn't find a lot that I had not already known. Despite the introduction, I found myself quickly getting annoyed with the repetitive structure of the book and the frequent use of italics. At the end of each chapter, she includes a list of some of her "Family Favorites" as suggestions. I did enjoy the chapter of various resources - recommended books, awards, and websites - which again, was more along the lines of what I had expected from this read.

I was often bored or frustrated in the reading of the book, basically because it was not the book I wanted nor do I find it extremely useful right now, with no children and no real capability of putting her suggestions into practice either at home or at work. But what I did find was a handy resource to suggest to parents who want to interest their kids in reading from a young age and don't know where to start. The repetitive nature of her suggestions would probably be less obvious if you were to hone in on the applicable chapters for your children's ages. While the italics are still annoying (probably an editorial choice, but I felt like I was being talked down to) and the book suggestions put series titles out of order, it's generally a good resource and starting point for parents who want to positively reinforce reading in their homes.

For a completely different take on this book, check out this review from Reader's Advisor Online, which is also the blog that brought it to my attention in the first place.

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