Percy Jackson author, Rick Riordan, updated his blog today with a post about award-winning children’s books. Riordan, who was once a teacher himself, is very outspoken about finding ways to help children enjoy reading. In the post, Rick talks about his son’s past experience with a summer reading assignment. The book was Newbery Medal winner Ginger Pye by Elenor Estes and Patrick could tell the award had been given by adults, not kids:
Patrick put his finger on a problem that still troubles the world of children’s literature. What kids read is dictated by adults – from the writers and editors to the booksellers and librarians. We are all well-intentioned. We do our best to decide what will be good reading for children, but sometimes we pick what we think kids should like, not what they do like. And when we don’t promote books children actually want to read, what happens? We produce generation after generation of nonreaders.
Riordan continues to explain what kind of book he believes enourages children to become readers:
My primary concern is youth literacy. What will appeal to the most children? What will get them reading? What will inspire them to pick up more books? A book that can do this is, to me, a “best book” for children. If the book has levels of meaning, beautiful writing, great characters, a haunting story – that’s all wonderful and important. But will children enjoy it? Will they stick with it long enough to recognize those literary merits adults care so much about? If the answer to these questions is no, then I have a problem with that book…I care about books that will get them excited about reading – that will light up their faces and make them think, “Wow, reading can be fun after all!” To me, that’s a “best” book!
Riordan has received a lot of emails about his criticism of the Newbery Medal. Do you think you feel the Newbery Medal winners are still the best in children’s literature? Or does something need to change? Let us know in the comments!!