This summer my reluctant-reader son will be sitting down with a Canadian YA novel that is completely issue-driven. Shattered by Eric Walters is contemporary, meaningful, and relevant. It’s a school book, assigned as required summer reading by a teacher who probably wants to get the jump on the Holocaust unit the students will be studying in Grade Eight.
I read it, because I wanted to, and my son will also read the book, of course. He might even find things in it that resonate. But he won’t enjoy the reading experience, and that’s a shame. (How do I know this? His Grade Seven novel study was The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis, another contemporary, meaningful and relevant novel about real issues. “Mom,” reported my beleaguered son, “it was dreadful.”)
There are so many entertaining and significant books out there (the novels of Arthur Slade and Kenneth Oppel come to mind), but a shadow continues to loom over classrooms. Ouch! That’s the sound of kids being hit over the head with a curriculum full of “meaningful” issue-driven books.
And if you listen closely, you can also hear the sound of reluctant readers running hard in the other direction—away from the pleasures of reading.