A Brief and Profoundly Unscientific Survey

In which I attempt to get a sense of what the hell is going on, and what's the right thing to do in a given situation, and which is up and which is down, and what does good, or even great, mean? And how do I approach these questions, both literary and quasi-literary? Well I ask you guys, duh.

So: Would you…..

1) Get a kid's kindle-type-e-reader-type thing for your kid*, if it were less than $100?

2) Abolish all reading log–associated activity, if you could?

3) Ban all aesthetically reprehensible books (think My Little Pony, Berenstain Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Mary-Kate & Ashley mysteries [yes, they exist!]) from your kid's library and ultimately his/her brain, if such a thing were actually possible?

And, last but not least,

What do you think is the best book in the whole wide world that both kids and grown-ups can read? I'm being told it's The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber or maybe Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Yes?

*Meaning, somewhat indestructible.

**Oh, I should have probably said, If you have answers to any of these, put them in the comments! Because I swear, that's what I meant.

23 thoughts on “A Brief and Profoundly Unscientific Survey

  1. 1. Yes if the kid was at least 10.
    2. Down with the reading log!
    3. It is so selfish but such my parental desire. I remember devouring Sweet Valley Twins when I was in middle school. Those are hours I can never get back for my brain!

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  2. 1) Totally. I have a Kindle myself and it’s great (though not a replacement for paper books). It would only make sense if the kid was reading text books of a certain length. Actually durability of the regular Kindle is pretty good, as long as you have a case for it. I guess you’d have to have some way of regulating number of books bought though 🙂
    2) I haven’t gotten there yet, but definitely. I haven’t heard anything about them yet that makes me think “Oh that sounds like a good idea.” On the other hand I’m a reader from a reading family, and my kids are likely to be readers too. Maybe the idea is more helpful for families where the parents aren’t interested in reading.
    3) I’d want to, but no, I wouldn’t.

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  3. yes to the kindle
    hate the reading logs if they are only used for retelling of the story. If they are used for quiet communication between a student and teacher…keep it.
    keep those books, no matter how bad they are…they can be gateways into better reading material. I can’t begin to tell you how many Bernstein Bear books we read, and had huge discussions around them.
    btw…i’m really enjoying your blog!

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  4. 1) Eh…I’m not a Kindle fan, so I think I wouldn’t immediately think of getting one for my kid. On the other hand, I think they’d be brilliant for lightening kid’s backpacks (I’m convinced that my 22 year old daughter’s back surgery was a result of the massively heavy backpack she toted for years.) On the third hand, I had a kid who loved gadgets and if she had asked for one, probably would have gotten her one. So, sort of a not-very-helpful answer.
    2) I don’t see that reading logs have a point. Except maybe to make the readers who like them and do them well feel smug and make the others feel bad.
    3) No banning of crap books (I think Rachel had all the Animorphs…and she still has a soft spot for them.) though I always made it clear that I didn’t care for them. I remember telling her I wasn’t going to read one out loud to her because I disliked it so much.
    4) Oh The Thirteen Clocks is so wonderful…it may be my favorite kid’s book….but my list of favorites is so long.

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  5. 1) Maybe. I think I’d encourage the maintenance of at least a small real-world library, for the pleasure of browsing, but an e-reader has its place in the world. I don’t have one, and don’t want one, personally, but I don’t have a problem with them. If it makes reading more attractive for people, then it’s good.
    2) I don’t know. Life is full of small-to-medium irritations, and I’m pretty sure that I don’t have energy to spare for that one.
    3)Nope. My husband and I both refuse to read certain (but different!) books to our daughter, and we don’t hesitate to tell her when we think a book is utter dreck. However, I’m very clear with my daughter that I also enjoy reading dreck, and there’s no shame in it as long as you read good stuff, too. There’s a place for drecky books in the world, just like e-readers! (Reading dreck on an e-reader, though, might be beyond the pale.)

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  6. 1) In a heart beat
    2) I like the logging part that allows kids to remember what they’ve read, and why they liked it. As for keeping track of minutes or pages per day, that can go.
    3) No on the banning. I know I read my fair share of unspeakable dreck, and so have my kids, on our way to finding what we really love. I prefer reading to be a judgment-free activity.
    4) I’ve got two daughters, so that may sway my choices, but I’d go with The Penderwicks, The Wee Free Men, or The Sisters Eight for our bests.
    (Hey, Sarah R.)

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  7. 1. Does the kid want it? If not, why not?
    2. In theory I hate it, but it’s actually motivated my reluctant older kid to read out loud to me so that’s been good. But she is a reader anyway so not a good test case. I am sure there are many kids whose interest in reading is such a slender thread it can be snapped by a very small amount of compulsion.
    3. If you ban the crap, what will they compare the good stuff to?
    4. Just So Stories!

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  8. 1) maybe…but then how could she do the “reading seven books at the same time, one in each room” thing that she does? It sure would make cleaning up easier, but I don’t break books if I step on them… (I love mine, BTW)
    2) Yes, at least the way it is now, it’s too easy to be rote with her answers. I wish she had some model of questions to ask herself and discuss with me for 5 minutes a day – I’d be happy to sign a “talked about book” log.
    3) Yup. Without hesitation. There are so many good, good books to leave lying around for reluctant readers. Also who puts #%$! abridged books in a school library! Slapped that one down a couple of years ago…
    4) Current read-aloud picked by me: Twenty-One Balloons
    (she’s almost 10 but we read every night, with me doing the choosing, and my husband totally enjoys sitting in since as a boy he missed out on so many good books, thinking they were “girly”)

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  9. 1. No (I love paper-feel too much)
    2. Not sure (we aren’t there yet)
    3. If only… but then again I survived it so I suppose anyone can overcome it.
    bonus: any of the Roald Dahl novels

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  10. 1. Meh.
    2. I keep a reading log myself. As Kaethe said upthread (I love your name, btw): remembering what you read and why you liked it? Awesome. Beancounting how long it took you? A world of meh.
    3. I grew up in the golden age of pony books, so who am I to judge. I hate those fuckin bears though.
    4. The Thirteen Clocks is truly great, but it’s The Wonderful O that always makes me cry, and that turned me anarchist at 8. Also: Just So Stories, The Twenty One Balloons, The Pushcart Wars, Charlotte’s Web, Swallows and Amazons, anything by Joan Aiken, anything by Diana Wynne Jones…

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  11. 1) No, too much electro-magnetic radiation whizzing around as it is.
    2) Yes. If you read a lot, reading logs take all the fun out of reading. I can see how they could be helpful in some situations, but not as a one-size-fits-all program.
    3) No. Censorship is censorship.
    2 Books for both kids & adults: Jonathan Livingston Seagull & A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

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  12. 1)No. I still think it’s “screen time” even though I’m probably technically wrong. But no.
    2)Probably not. Not loving it right now, but think it’s important for kids who aren’t from reading families and/or don’t have access to a lot of books at home that their teachers/school show interest in reading other-than-in-classroom. Think it should ONLY be for “fun” books though. Or as my daughter implored her teacher when all that was coming home were leveled readers “books that tell a story, have lots of facts, or are just plain good!”
    3)Would want to, but no. Slippery slope, that. Although now that she reads there are books that she has to read herself if she wants to read them, I won’t read them aloud.

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  13. 1. I think they can be useful in addition to regular paper books. I, for instance, have a Kindle and use it regularly, and STILL read paper books. I imagine a kid would do the same, and it is great on car trips, plane trips, vacations, etc.
    2. If it were for myself or my daughter, then yes, because the log wouldn’t be necessary and it ultimately makes reading seem like a chore. But for reluctant readers, it might be good to get them reading more.
    3. Nope! Everyone needs some junk food reading sometimes.
    4. The Phantom Tollbooth. The best book EVER. I have read it over a hundred times and I still read it every couple of years.

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  14. 1. I don’t know. My husband has one and loves it. I can’t really name a reason why not.
    2. I make my kids do theirs, but am fine with whatever they write. Even if they didn’t read that night. It is called cheating, I think. But we will not waste our time figuring out all the books that were read and how many minutes. We just document a book and leave it at that. I know that they are reading enough. That is what counts.
    3. No. I hate them too, but we all read at that “junk” level at times.
    4. Charlotte’s Web came to mind, and I agree with whoever mentioned Roald Dahl. I haven’t read The Thirteen Clocks though, so I will get right on that!

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  15. 1. Not quite yet. I don’t think the tech I’ve seen for the ones coming out is quite there yet for children’s books and I want the issues with libraries to get worked out a bit better. We rely very heavily on the library and used books, meaning that so far the cost (even at $100) is on the high end.
    2. We try to just record the books read. Just a nice record – that’s all. What’s the issue?
    3. Weeeeeellll… From the library? Unless they were donations, then maybe. It makes me want to cry to think that a library looked at the offerings and bought The Berenstain Bears Never Talk to Strangers instead of a picture book by a new author from a smaller press or something. Of course, I’m only talking about the very dregs of the publishing market – the things written by committees instead of authors… or authors’ children trying to milk their parents’ creations to the last penny while simultaneously telling us all how to parent. As much as I dislike some other things (I’m looking at you, Junie B.!), I accept that there’s a range of opinions about them. From my kids’ brains though? No, I feel that goes too far. Unfortunately.

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  16. Oops… forgot to answer that last one.
    Haroun and the Sea of Stories might be it. Or The BFG. Or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Or Charlotte’s Web. Or The Twenty-One Balloons… But doesn’t it depend so much on the readers? There can’t be one perfect book, can there?

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  17. 1. Hmm, maybe, but not til the kid was older than mine is. At 12, maybe?
    2. Yes I would abolish reading logs.
    3. DEFINITELY, and if you have a plan to do this, please share it with me so that I may implement it immediately.
    I’m not sure what your last question means. That said, the first thing that popped into my head was The Wind in the Willows.

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  18. Yes to the Kindle if your reader child plows through books.
    Down with the reading log, one of the world’s worst inventions and biggest impediments to instilling the love of reading.
    Down with bad books. Except I did go through a brief and glorious period in my teens when I actually BELONGED to a Harlequin Romance club. And I’m a literary snob today, so it didn’t do too much damage.

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  19. 1. Probably not, because we use the library a lot, and I’d be worried she would lose it or have it stolen.
    2. We don’t do reading logs, and I like that. My kids are supposed to read for half an hour a day, but there’s no tracking. In summer, we do the reading program at the library, and they just want you to write down what you’ve read, not by page or time, just the titles so they can talk to you about it.
    3. No way! Then I’d never have read Sweet Valley High or Choose your own Adventure, which I loved! As long as they’re mixed in with otherstuff, I have no problem with trash reading.
    4. Kids books I’ve loved recently include Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson and A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck.

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  20. 1. Maybe. I don’t know. If I had a kid who didn’t read much and loved the screen and needed the motivation, maybe. Or if we travelled a lot.
    2. Maybe. I don’t know. If it was driving my kid crazy.
    3. No.
    4. The Saturdays, Dealing with Dragons, The Wee Free Men, Saffy’s Angel…there’s more but my brain is fried.

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  21. 1. Definitely. I wish all books were digital. And I am a librarian.
    2. Not a fan of reading logs but support my teacher friends to some extent if used reasonably.
    3. No. Never. Publish MORE schlock, I say! I will continue to buy it for my library to relieve you parents some of the pressure!
    4. My favorites: Holes and When You Reach Me, two finely crafted plots. Might throw in The True Meaning of Smekday because it made me laugh and The Willoughbys because it made me laugh darkly and Walk Two Moons because it made me cry. And because all kids I know (and that’s a LOT) love all of those books, too.

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  22. 1) Probably. We’ve been thinking along these lines for Christmas, but I’m just not ready to go there. E-book libraries are going to have to come a long way, because this mama is cheap.
    2) Not really. Not yet anyway. Our log is only Sunday through Thursday and we can count what I read to her at bedtime, there aren’t a lot of rules and I think it’s good for keeping us on track. We’ll see if it gets worse as the years go on.
    3) No. I loved books my mom hated and I’m sure my kids will love books that I hate. Those books serve a purpose and I am just as happy to have them around, so long as there is also a healthy complement of other types of reading materials.
    4.)This is hard for me, because I feel like I can read any kid lit. I guess Where the Red Fern Grows or A Wrinkle in Time, just because those are still my favorites from my childhood.

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