professornana (professornana) wrote,

Book Shaming

I am used to the stares and second glances. When I read my usual fare in public, I know some folks must be puzzled. A grown woman reading a book that is obviously below her RL, Lexile, ZPD, etc. It has happened in a number of places: someone will gather up the courage to ask me what I am reading and why I am reading it. While I think they are relieved to know that I teach courses in literature for children and young adults, I know they are still a tad concerned when I also admit that I prefer these books to most adult fare. I tend to think of this as book shaming. It explains why people I encounter have removed the covers from Harry Potter or Twilight or Hunger Games if they are adults reading in public. But the cover for 50 Shades of Gray stays in place because, hey, that's a book for adults, right?

So, I loved these pieces about not apologizing for book taste in the NY Times: Here is my favorite quote from the pieces.

"We like to think of reading as an ennobling, uplifting activity, which it very often is. But sometimes we’re reluctant to admit that it can also be entertaining, escapist, even arousing. Books might not incite us to murder, but they really can “sow the seeds of lust,” just as Comstock feared. Far from being shameful, that’s proof of how powerful and various, how transforming, reading can be. Alone with our books, we ought to feel free to take off the brown paper cover and think and imagine whatever we want. No one is looking."

I think books can be entertaining and uplifting, escapist and ennobling at the same time.

I love reading the latest BabyMouse graphic novel. And I am not alone. BabyMouse is immensely entertaining and escapist. It is also, though, uplifting, worthy, and all those other adjectives we might apply to a novel or another work of art. Why can I not enjoy BabyMouse's antics while I learn a little something about the dynamics of a family or a school?

The book BONE GAP is making its way among my circle of reading friends. We are all excited when someone else has picked up the book because we know we can talk some more about our thoughts and feelings about the book soon. Someone will see my #bookaday and ask if they can have it next. This past week I floated on GEORGE and THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE plus a handful of other books. I cannot wait to talk about these books with other readers.

So, we need to do something: stop the book shaming. No one ties to shame my taste. But there are countless folks out there who will shame kids' choices. One of my friends recounted a teacher berating a young man for his independent reading choice, forcing him to get a book "on his level" instead of the book he WANTED to read. That is book shaming, and it happens all too often. I have to hope the adult is well-intentioned, but sometimes I am not so sure I can defend her or him for this incessant nagging for longer books, more complex or rigorous (whatever that means) books. The BEST book is the one I select, the one that is my choice. The latest Scholastic report indicates the importance of choice in reading.

As Donalyn Miller says, LET MY PEOPLE READ!
Tags: book shaming
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