How Not To Read Aloud to Kids
Want to make your children hate books forever? Here are some tips to keep them from reading—or, for book-loving parents, pitfalls to avoid
8. Never read anything that rhymes.
Why do schools keep banning Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss? (Yertle the Turtle, with its message of seditious politics, caused a teacher in British Columbia to be disciplined just last week.) I’ll tell you why. Because you can hide all sorts of un-American thoughts and ideas in verse. Yes, research shows that rhymes can engage children, teach them about the structure of language, increase involvement with the text (for instance, when you stop reading before the end of a line and let them guess how it’s going to end). Yadda yadda yadda. I will merely point out that Hitler wrote poetry. (I would prove it to you, but then I’d have to link to a neo-Nazi site. I win.)
9. Finish every book, even if kills you. Or your kid.
Let’s say you made a bad choice. You hate the book; the kid hates the book; it’s scary or boring. If you quit, you will teach your child that your home is a safe place and reading is not a punishment. You might as well buy them the rock cocaine and light it.
10. Read only Newbery- and Caldecott-winning books.
Literary experts are never wrong, and books never become dated. I have forced my children to memorize the 1927 winner, Smoky the Cowhorse.
11. Don’t do any research.
You wouldn’t want to get The Best Books To Read Aloud With Children of All Ages, by the Children’s Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education (which is only $2.99 in demonic electronic form) or Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever, by Mem Fox (author of multiple classic children’s books including Time for Bed, which, if you woke me up at 4 a.m., I could instantly recite in its entirety) or LitWorld founder Pam Allyn’s What To Read When. You wouldn’t want to pre-read a book to see if it’s right for your kid. You certainly wouldn’t care about the Jewish perspective on reading to your children. You wouldn’t want my friend Joanna Brichetto’s advice on Jew-ifying secular books by talking about bikkur cholim (visiting the sick) while reading Little Red Riding Hood or discussing selichot (forgiveness) while reading David Shannon’s No, David! You wouldn’t want to go through the list of Sydney Taylor Award winners to see which ones might make good read-alouds for your family. And you’d never read the list of books in the slideshow attached to this article, which mentions some of my favorite Jewish read-alouds for every age group.
Go make your child do some standardized-test prep, already.
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