"Are some books inherently bad--junk food for the mind? Are some books inherently good--the literacy equivalent of an oat bran muffin?"--Barbara A. Genco in SLJ March '91 "Juggling Popularity and Quality"
I read this article with my student teacher last week and just pulled the note I wrote the quote on out my purse today. Doesn't this quote just make you nod your head and make you think. Is any reading bad for you? I'd argue no it is not. But don't you feel that way sometimes--like, "I shouldn't be reading this, there's nothing to it."
I feel that sometimes we (teachers, schools) give our students this impression. Namely, that some books aren't worth it--series books like Goosebumps or what have you, graphic novels, magazines. That those types of reading won't count for book reports or towards reading goals. This lack of inclusion makes me frustrated. Doesn't Krashen pretty much lay it out there, that reading, ANY reading is good for you? That it doesn't matter what we read as long as as read?
I'd once read that most adult fiction is written at a 6th grade reading level. So when I read the latest Stephanie Plum novel, that might be my "junk food" reading, but I'm still reading. I'm enjoying it. I'm laughing. I'm relating to the character's family antics. I'm discussing the books with friends and family. Isn't that the point? I'll save my "oat bran muffin" for something meatier at times, but there is nothing wrong with either.
Similarly, a co-worker gave me a copy of the article titled "Reading to Learn and Learning as We Read" from Booklist Jan 1 & 15, 2008. In it the author, Joyce Saricks, discusses the merits of reading fiction to learn, not just non-fiction to learn.
"I came across a comment that got me thinking: readers read nonfiction to learn something...(this) implied that one doesn't learn from fiction....it got my dander up: Is nonfiction essentially superior because it offers information, the opportunity to learn something? And is it true that we don't learn from fiction?"She continues:
"Sometimes we read to escape, sometimes to discover and to learn, sometimes to be challenged to be comforted."We read bc it fulfills some need within us. We can learn about history from historical fiction. In fact, it often prompts readers to learn more and seek more out about certain topics. I thought that fiction and non-fiction are similar to the "junk food" and the "oat bran muffin" analogy used from Genco. Can't we learn from both kinds of reading? I rarely make it through an entire work of non-fiction. I skim, I read a chapter here and there, but that's it. Does that mean I'm not getting anything out of it? No. Both types of reading are good for us and it's important to keep that into perspective whether we are working with students who are struggling with reading skills or just even struggling with the liking to read bit or if we work with adults. It's all important and good for us bc it's a desire to learn!