A guest entry from a correspondent in northern California:
(My son) Kyle is a big Star Wars fan and recently got (for his birthday) the novelization of the recent animated Star Wars movie. First off, the movie itself was beyond awful (of course, the kids enjoyed it, but it was truly terrible). You can imagine what this implies for the quality of the book. It’s a painful reading experience for me, but — under the premise that any reading interest of Kyle’s should be encouraged — I’ll grudgingly read the book with him in our pre-bedtime read aloud sessions. I remember my Mom used to defend me from teachers who thought it was unproductive that my only reading interest in second grade were titles like “Great NFL quarterbacks” or “Great NFL Upsets.” Still, it’s painful vocalizing the insipid dialogue.
I find the Star Wars (or Pokemon, another favorite of Kyle’s) type reading so painful that I’m constantly trying to steer him elsewhere. I had picked up an abridged version of Treasure Island on a recent trip to Barnes and Noble. I bribed Kyle into letting me read it to him by telling him I’d read two chapters of Star Wars for every one chapter of Treasure Island (if nothing else, the kid will learn the meaning of exchange rates). After I finished 3 chapters, Kyle was begging me to keep reading and voluntarily gave up the exchange rate deal in order to get more Treasure Island. It was great — he was physically curled up in a tense, expectant ball waiting to see whether the pirates would discover Jim and kill him like they had some others from among the “good guys.” Lots of guns, blood, and other various encounters with dangerous pirates. It’s a rewarding feeling to watch a child fall prey to the grip of a truly great story.
Interestingly, a determinant of Kyle’s interest in a book is whether or not it has illustrations. The TI copy I purchased has a few, but not enough to catch Kyle’s eye. I need to be mindful of this as I choose other “quality” books for him. I don’t want to denigrate his own reading choices like Star Wars b/c I want to practice reading, regardless of the content. Still, for read aloud time, it’s a heck of a lot more fun for me with a quality story in my hands.