I just read this Wall Street Journal article and I feel myself getting uppity and opinionated, so be warned...
I do take their point, in part. I think diversity in literature is of the utmost importance (to sound snooty for the moment), so it wouldn't hurt a list of recommended reading to include some classics in with the contemporary stuff (I truly, completely adored The Secret Garden as a child and as an adult). But here's what irks me--why assert that 20,000 Leagues or Wind in the Willows is a superior book to the lighter, fun fare? I mean, isn't that up to each reader to decide? Isn't that the whole point of books, that we're all different, that in the process of reading the individual reader creates the book uniquely in her imagination, that her experience of it is totally different from anyone else's, and that she decides which books, in her mind, are the greatest? Ergh. I haven't read the books that the WSJ condemned (though I have read another by Janette Rallison and find her funny and insightful), but even if I hated them and thought them absolute fluff, I still think it's wrong to claim that they're a waste just because they're light and fun. And what's with the irritating belief among the academic that the older a book, the better it is? Does an author have to be dead to be considered worthwhile? Does a book have to be 100 years old to be good for a kid's brain?
Wind in the Willows and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea are truly inaccessible to many young readers. They're written in a completely different style than literature today, and would be a real trial for many kids to get through. Besides, television is completely frothy. If you only give kids books that are laborious to read, particularly in the summer, then why wouldn’t they turn to television instead? Reading any book is using your imagination, even if it isn't a classic.
I've had so many parents and book business people tell me that they had a girl who would only read fluffy princess books, so they gave her princess academy to help transition her to a similar theme with more substance, and it worked. But if that girl hadn't been reading for fun in the first place then it would've been pointless. It makes me sad when adults in authority tell kids which books are good or bad for them. That's the surest way to discourage them from reading at all. It certainly did for me. Let them have fun, for pity's sake.
And it's SUMMER!
"What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult." --Sigmund Freud