17 December 2007

A Question for the Audience

I had parent-teacher conferences the other day, and the most common statement-then-question from parents was, "My child doesn't really like to read, and I don't know how to turn him/her/it onto the pleasures of reading. What can I do?" My stock response was, "If I had an easy answer to that, I'd be a millionaire." I didn't want to say that I think most of the time we English teachers are an impediment to students' enjoyment of books (though I do think I slipped and said that to one parent), and that suggesting to an adolescent that anything is good for them is the surest way to make them avoid it at all costs. I didn't want to tell them, either, how little I feel like I understand adolescents anymore, how far I am from their frames of mind, how much they seem to have changed (or I have changed, or not changed enough) since I began teaching ten years ago.

Many of the parents who said, despairingly, that their child doesn't like to read were parents of boys. The parents of girls most often were concerned that their daughter didn't read the right books -- that instead of challenging herself, building her vocabulary, expanding her mind, etc., she goes to the library or bookstore and finds "junk".

I wished I had easy answers. I wished I had any answers.

A couple of parents asked me for recommendations of places where their kids could find out about books they might like. No answer came to mind, because I've never looked at the sorts of websites or resources that kids might look at, and I honestly wouldn't even know where to begin. But I know some of you out there are interested in such things as YA books, and so I thought you might have some good pointers. I'd particularly love to know if there are any teen-oriented blogs out there that ever talk about books, particularly blogs by teens themselves. If you were (or are) a teenager, what sorts of resources would help you discover books you might like?