Readers have comfort zones as well. I know that for years, I tended to read the same sort of book over and over again. I was a serial reader even as an adult. That need once I began working with middle school kids. Our comfort zones did not align. Suddenly, I found myself trying something new. I discovered that I could grow from my comfort zone if I were willing to try new forms, formats, and genres.
Now, I am pretty much an omnivore: I read widely. Do I still have preferences? Sure. But each time that I try something new, I am often surprised that I am pushing myself, embracing the new, tasting the different.
Because I read widely, I think, I can encourage others to read widely as well. It was true when I was teaching middle school, and it is still true today with grad students and in professional development. So, it is always a shock when I encounter educators who do not read widely. I have heard a librarian comment that she did not read fantasy. A teacher once remarked that he did not like novels in verse and avoided reading them.
If we reject a genre or form or format, who knows what kids we might lock out of the chance to share a book with us, share their interests with us, talk to us about books and reading.
Does this mean I like everything I read? Nope, not at all. But even if the book was not my cup of tea, I can still talk to someone else who has read the book. It also means that when I post out about books, you will not see the title or cover of a book I found to be subpar. It means, too, that I abandon a book from time to time.
How does this play out in a school or a classroom? For me now it means that my students can talk about books they liked and did not like. I picked up an interesting exercise from Chris Crowe a log time ago. At the end of the semester, he had students rank order the books read for class from favorite to least favorite. Then, he collected them all and combined the rankings. Students were always surprised to find that books they loved made the bottom of other people's lists and vice versa. One reader's favorite book was another reader's least favorite. Most of the books ended up with a similar mean "score" when tallied.
Talking about our thoughts and feelings about books is a great way to spend time getting to know new people. This past week, during our 800+ mile round trip, two of my colleagues discovered that they love some similar things in books. The exchange of titles and authors that followed was fun, fast-paced, and passionate. While I did not have the same interests, I listened intently, making mental notes. I know more of what these two love in books. I have similar knowledge of others with whom I work, and they know about my predilections, too. In some ways, this is part of what makes us a tightly knit group.
As readers it is fine to have preferences and interests and favorites. But if we do not also venture out into something new from time to time, how dull and predictable it would all be.