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I plan to be a diva someday . . . - Why My Books Really Are 12-up

Dec. 16th, 2007 05:21 am Why My Books Really Are 12-up

With the holidays come bunches of my friends, wanting to buy an autographed copy of my books for their child, grandchild, or neighbor's kid.  While I do appreciate the support, I've noticed that the child in question is invariably 10 years old.   I am then faced with the unpleasant task of explaining that my books aren't really for 10-year-olds.

To which they say, "But (s)he's a very advanced reader."  (Yes, every single one of them.  Apparently every single child within a 10 mile radius of my home -- including my own children, I should say -- reads above grade level.  This does make me question the concept of "grade level," but it wouldn't be the first time).

To this, I say, "Yes, I know your child read Harry Potter when (s)he was 4.  The difference is that Harry doesn't have sex in the books."  (He doesn't, does he?  I never did read Book 7).  "He also doesn't drink, swear, abuse his girlfriend, contract HIV, or bludgeon anyone to death."

By now, they are thoroughly horrified, but that is why the books are for 12-up.  After 12, I trust their -- by which I mean the kids'-- judgment to decide whether my books are okay for them.  My own daughter really doesn't have much interest in my books, preferring fantasy.  She's read Beastly only, though she has friends who have read all of them.

I realize I could just let them pay the natural consequences of their actions (as a friend of mine did when she bought a copy of Gingerbread for her young daughter, and the girl came up to her and asked, "What's a condom?" after, like, the first page), but, particularly because the books are often gifts for someone else, I worry about this (I'm sorry, but LJ doesn't seem to want to allow me to insert in-text hyperlinks, so I'm just going to put a very unprofessional http://www.amazon.com/review/product/0060574941/ref=cm_cr_dp_hist_1?%5Fencoding=UTF8&filterBy=addOneStar )  That got me mad.  Who told her that a book about the protagonist's fear of contracting HIV from a gay friend was appropriate for her 9-year-old?  It certainly wasn't the publisher.   But I'm guessing her child is "gifted."

I do wonder why parents are so desperate for their kids to read and do everything ahead of schedule.  I mean, I read the Little House on the Prairie series when I was in third grade.  No one told me that they weren't advanced enough for me because I was reading above grade level (even though I was one of the better readers in my class).  That was just when they happened to interest me, so that's when I read them.    I didn't realize I was behind.  And, know what?  I actually did make it through law school (which has a reading-intensive curriculum) anyway!  I read quite well!  I also managed to publish 6 novels.  

I understand the fear that, by not being ahead, kids might be behind.  The parents whose kids are ahead are always so much louder about it than the other parents (Why do parents think I care about their kid's AR level, their GPA, or how many points they have?  Since when is this interesting conversation?  If you don't brag back, you feel like you're admitting your kid is inferior, but if you do brag back, then you're one of those obnoxious parents who brag).   You hardly ever hear about someone's kid who is a B student and very happy.  

One year, I got a Christmas letter from an acquaintance whom I did not see as often as I once had.  She wrote something to the effect of, "We took Janie out of piano and violin lessons because she never wanted to practice."  It was so refreshing after years of Christmas letters from people whose kids were straight A students and lead violin in the youth symphony, that I actually made a conscious effort to reconnect with this woman.  I, too, had taken my daughter out of piano because I was tired of nagging about practice . . . but I didn't put it in a Christmas letter.  I have to admit I was impressed . . . more impressed than I've ever been by the letters about perfect robot children.

And I am guessing that my child and this woman's child are going to grow up and go to college and marry and have families and homes and jobs . . . just like the kids who stuck with piano lessons. 

I've been a pushy parent, mostly due to worry.  When my older daughter was in preschool, I was worried that the crowded classrooms at our local elementary school might preclude her learning to read.  So I tried to teach her myself.  She knew her phonics okay (She was in an academic preschool), but she just didn't want to sit and apply herself, so finally I gave up.  On approximately the 6th day of kindergarten, she was reading well.  Something just clicked and she was ready.  We never had to practice a sight word list or worry about anything, but she didn't want to learn to read a minute before kindergarten.  At 12, she is an avid reader and yes, she does read well above grade level. 

With my younger daughter, having learned the lesson from the older one, I didn't try to teach her to read before kindergarten.  In fact, I put her in a less academic preschool because I felt that the first preschool did not emphasize learning through play enough.  She learned letters and sounds, but  not so much emphasis on putting them together.  In kindergarten, she was not ahead of the other kids.  She learned every word list when she was supposed to and not a minute before, and sometimes, she was behind friends whose parents had pushed them more.  On the first day of first grade, she was reading on exactly the first grade reading level, not one smidgeon above.  And then, one day in the middle of the school year, something just clicked on.  Now, she reads at the exact, identical reading level that my older daughter (who attended the academic preschool and had the reading practice, and learned to read earlier) read when she was in 3rd grade . . . and she is ahead of some kids who used to be ahead of her.

But I let her read what she wants, whether it's Harry Potter or Dear Dumb Diary.  Or both.  I'd hate to have her miss a book she might enjoy because of a race to a nonexistent finish line.

And, when she is 12, she can read my books if she wants (I suspect she will want -- she is always the one who is trying to stay and be very quiet so she can watch television shows which I deem inappropriate).  But I won't push her to read them before.

So my message to parents who want to buy a copy of one of my books for their 10-year-old is, don't do it (I would, however, be happy if you'd let them read my books when they are older, instead of pushing them to read War and Peace).  Please go to the 9-12 section of the bookstore and choose something you think the child might enjoy.  If they are "above grade level" (whatever that means), you might want to choose something from the 10-up section, which are generally the more Newbery-ish type books.  But my books aren't for gifted 10 year olds.  They are like PG-13 movies, only books.

So if you give them to your 10-year-old, don't blame me if he asks what a restraining order is.

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Comments:

From:lizzb
Date:December 16th, 2007 01:09 pm (UTC)
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Wonderful post!
From:alixwrites
Date:December 16th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC)
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Thanks!
From:candycana
Date:December 16th, 2007 01:37 pm (UTC)
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Great post! I'm so with you! My children also did not read before kindergarten. But they were read to! A lot. They loved books. I never wanted to push them to read on their own that way. I have a sister-in-law who never seemed to enjoy any of her child's growth stages, she was always so anxious for her to get to whatever that next stage was. I swore I'd enjoy each phase of their lives while they were in them, although I'll admit it's sometimes more difficult now that they are teens.

They are both avid readers now, and like with everything...food...friends...interests...their style of reading is markedly different. My son is very selective in his reading. My daughter will read just about anything (except fantasy) and has read, and enjoyed, some of your books. I remember asking you at a conference whether I should wait to have her read DIVA. She was 11 then. I decided to read it first and then let her read it. I think it's her favorite of your books. I don't think she's read very much of BREATHING UNDERWATER yet, she just isn't mature enough to understand it, and therefore isn't interested, yet.

But I read that review you posted and am amazed that the reviewer chose to complain about the book. How can she complain when it's clear that the book is for those 12 and up when her son is 9? Go figure. I suspect also, that if she has more than one child, the 9-year-old is her oldest. She's in for a surprise to see just how much her son will know by the time he's 12. And yet, all 12 year olds are not the same. As I said, my 12 year old daughter isn't ready for the more mature book, but I know a couple of 12-year-old girls at the school where I teach who have been pregnant.

The bottom line is that if you're a parent of an "advanced" reader, it's your responsibility as a parent to know what they are reading before they read it. And if you're going to let your child pick out what they want to read without any guidance, don't blame the author for parent negligence. It's the same sort of attitude that starts the book banning.

Your post said it much better than I, but you struck a chord with me, both as a parent and a teacher.

I'll see you in January. I love your books, although I haven't read them all yet. Realistic fiction is probably my favorite style of YA, especially those that are page-turners, as yours are. I look forward to learning a lot from you. I signed up for the writer's intensive.

Edited at 2007-12-16 02:19 pm (UTC)
From:alixwrites
Date:December 16th, 2007 06:48 pm (UTC)
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I've learned a lot over the years because I also had one child who just absolutely refused to do Accelerated Reader. If the school had the test for the book, she wasn't interested -- though she read a lot of other stuff. She also completely eschewed the Harry Potter series, which I realize most parents see as the be-all and end-all of children's reading. I always felt that she was too smart to need to prove it;)
From:debbierfischer
Date:December 16th, 2007 01:43 pm (UTC)
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My book isn't even out yet and I'm dealing with this issue, although you would think "Braless in Wonderland" might be a clue it's for an older kid (even though it's squeaky clean compared to many edgy books. The edgiest thing about it is the title) I get two reactions: one is, "My daughter reads Judy Blume. She's very advanced, reads all the time, read all the the Harry Potters, so I'm sure she can handle it, etc." Or the extreme opposite: "And your book is for high school? With a title like that?" I guess I overestimated my friends' knowledge of YA books. They know Harry Potter or Judy Blume. Period. They've never heard of Bras and Broomsticks or The Meaning of Cleavage. And this whole reading level thing gives me hives. Whatever happened to reading as a form of entertainment? Parents these days equate reading to taking your vitamins or getting a shot. Like learning your math facts, it's something you should do because it's good for you, not because it's fun.
From:d_michiko_f
Date:December 16th, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
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OH! I love the title of your book! I look forward to reading it when it comes out! Must put it on my list....!
From:debbierfischer
Date:December 16th, 2007 03:03 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for liking the title! It's reassuring when I hear that. And thanks for putting it on your wish list! Loved this post.
From:alixwrites
Date:December 16th, 2007 06:49 pm (UTC)
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Oh, gosh, I try to avoid the topic of my books' content if at all possible. There's a woman at church who still thinks I write Nancy Drews.
From:d_michiko_f
Date:December 16th, 2007 02:35 pm (UTC)
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Alix! What a great post! Brava!
From:dlgarfinkle
Date:December 16th, 2007 04:55 pm (UTC)
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Oh, yes, let kids enjoy their childhoods! There are so many great middle grade books out there, and some are long and have hard vocabulary but don't involve sex or drugs or violence. And what's with my eigth grader's friend having a birthday party in which they went to see an R-rated movie? There are plenty of good PG-13 rated movies out there too.

My editor sat next to me at my book signing last month during which I told a ten-year-old who wanted to buy my book that she should wait until she was twelve. It was weird discouraging a book sale in front of my editor, but I wasn't going to give her something she may not be ready for and/or make her parents mad at me for the sake of a sale.
From:alixwrites
Date:December 16th, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC)
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And they see the PG-13 movies at 9. But even though parents let their kids see PG-13 movies, they have fits over a swear word in a book. I mean, I appreciate that they see the written word as being so powerful, but it seems to me that you'd have more time to process something in a book.
From:marypearson
Date:December 16th, 2007 08:25 pm (UTC)
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Great post, Alexandra. When people ask me about my books for their pre-teens, I usually tell them, yes, they might be ABLE to read them, but they probably wouldn't get much out of them yet. I point out that Hemingway is written at a fourth grade level so technically any fourth grader could read it, but it doesn't mean they would enjoy it.
From:teenbookreview
Date:December 16th, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC)
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Great post! I just linked to you on my blog post on the same subject. On which I have a very different POV and opinion than you! My mother did try to keep inappropriate books from me as a ten year old...But I was far too curious and read them anyway. It would have been nice if she could have known what I was reading and answered my questions, because I kept reading anyway.
From:alixwrites
Date:December 17th, 2007 02:33 am (UTC)
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I'm sorry -- did you think my post was pro-censorship? Please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying parents should try to keep books from their kids if the kids want to read them (I was reading The Godfather in 7th grade, so I really don't get it when people tell me that Speak is for high school only). I'm just saying they shouldn't push them to do more, more, more or tell them that books aren't advanced enough if they want to read them. I'm pretty much for letting kids read what they want to read . . . as opposed to what the parents want them to read. I think there's not nearly enough reading choice nowadays. Sorry if that wasn't clear.
From:teenbookreview
Date:December 17th, 2007 02:49 am (UTC)
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No, not so much pro-censorship, but the part I was thinking of when I said I disagreed was this: "[W]hen she is 12, she can read my books if she wants[...]But not before." Of course, I know you're not advocating book banning or real censorship like that, but you are limiting what your child reads because you don't feel it's appropriate--as is your right, as a parent, no matter what I say. And, of course, we're going to have different takes on this issue, you being a parent and me being a teenager. I don't know; perhaps I'll completely change my mind someday when I have kids and limit what they can read. I agree with you that some parents do push their kids to read on their academic rather than interest level, and that can seriously kill a kid's joy in reading. I'm sorry if you think I've misunderstood what you wrote!
From:alixwrites
Date:December 17th, 2007 10:57 am (UTC)

Sigh!

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No, sorry. I can see where you could take it that way, but I wasn't really addressing the limiting issue at all. My older daughter has absolutely zero interest in my books. I sort of assumed my younger daughter would be the same way because, so far, she's read stuff at pretty much exactly what I would consider to be her interest level. A lot of people would place my books at 14-up or older, so I sort of thought 12 would be the youngest my kids would develop that interest. But if they had a real interest in reading them younger (which I think is unlikely because neither of them even like realistic fiction), I wouldn't have a problem. I never thought my books were that bad, as long as the kid understands the underlying material. I just meant that I wouldn't push them to read them earlier, to show how "gifted" they are and brag to my friends. That was the subject of the post, nothing else.

I'm sure if you wanted examples of people posting stuff about how parents should filter everything their kids read in an attempt to keep them innocent, you could find many people who actually do feel that way to cite as examples. Why don't you try http://www.pabbis.org/ Because, the thing is, I actually agree with what you're saying. I give whole speeches at conferences, agreeing with what you're saying. I offer a program on the subject. So it's kind of frustrating to have to argue with you about it to prove that I agree. I just chose 12 as an arbitrary number of when I thought a kid might develop an interest in books like mine, but since that wasn't the subject of my post, I didn't really worry about it too much.

Anyway, check out the PABBIS site. There are many great, pro-censorship folks to argue with there. I'm an ally.
From:teenbookreview
Date:December 19th, 2007 09:51 pm (UTC)

Re: Sigh!

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I understand now--sorry about the misunderstanding before! I'm glad to see you agree, and I will look at the other site you mentioned.
From:alixwrites
Date:December 17th, 2007 11:09 am (UTC)
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Here -- I made a clarifying word choice change to my post. Thanks for keeping me on my toes.
From:teenbookreview
Date:December 19th, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC)
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I've also remove the sentence from my own post that said I disagree with you--because, of course, I don't!
From:booksblogger
Date:December 17th, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC)
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I just have to interject and say:
A parent can try to protect, shield and yes censor a child. A good parent can do all that and yet give their child the tools to understand what needs to be understood at the right time.
What good does it do for a 10-year-old to read a book about date/partner abuse? Give them a couple of years so that they can process it correctly and understand. Don't rob children of their childhoods.
From:teenbookreview
Date:December 19th, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC)
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I am not advocating forcing books on kids that they're not ready for. But if they're picking something up on their own, and wanting to read it, taking it away isn't the best idea--lots of kids will find a way to read it anyway, and without guidance they might not understand what they're reading.
From:booksblogger
Date:December 19th, 2007 10:43 pm (UTC)
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I do agree with what you're saying, but at the same time, I believe strongly in a parent's right to rear their children as they want. So while, it's not the best parenting strategy, but then again the strategy can be: I don't think you should read this book because...
From:teenbookreview
Date:December 19th, 2007 11:30 pm (UTC)
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It's the parent's right to do that, no matter what I or anyone else has to say about it, but that doesn't make it a good idea.
From:brokentapedeck
Date:December 20th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)
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Just butting in to say I totally agree (with the both of you). As a teen, it fiustrates me to no end when my father feels the need to censor what I'm reading. We'll stand on the YA section, and he'll point to the little 'Young Adult' sign and say "That's not just YOUR age group."

Kill me now. I'm not 2. (Grrs off.)
From:slayground
Date:December 17th, 2007 03:23 am (UTC)
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I rambled about this topic at my blog earlier this year.
http://slayground.livejournal.com/158677.html
Not every book is for every reader.
Not every reader is ready for every book.
Accelerated readers should be praised and challenged.
Readers who need assistance should get that assistance.
And more...
From:alixwrites
Date:December 17th, 2007 11:06 am (UTC)
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Interesting post. When my first book came out, I persuaded my publisher to label it 13-up because I worried that older kids might be turned off by the 12-up label. Every book since then has been labeled 12-up, but I hear from a spectrum of kids from 5th grade to college. Oddly, they labeled my current book as 14-up, even though I think it's the youngest thing I've ever written (few swears, only some minor longing). I thought maybe there was a publisher-wide movement to label things older, but I just read a book with a sex abuse scene (not exactly explicit, but you could definitely tell what was happening) that was labeled 12-up. I don't necessarily think it was mislabeled, but I do think my own book is perfectly appropriate for middle school and should not have been labeled older. So I know it is a challenge. Anyway, I'm not sure kids really notice the age variations within the YA section anyway. What do you think?
From:slayground
Date:December 17th, 2007 02:11 pm (UTC)
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In most stores and library, there aren't age breaks or separated genres in the YA section; it's just one big free-for-all. (Usually, manga/comics are in their own spot, and, occasionally, series, but series now are more like sequences than the monthly, numbered series from ten and twenty years ago.) There are books suitable for a twelve-year-old next to books for older teens, fantasy books with a comedic streak next to dramatic looks at drug addiction. I have seen parents freak out by this. I calm them down and put what I think are appropriate books in the hands of the reader(s), but also encourage them to look around and see what appeals to them. Every reader reads differently!


From:booksblogger
Date:December 17th, 2007 11:04 pm (UTC)
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This was a wonderful post. As a middle school librarian, I often struggle with what's appropriate for this age group. 11-years-old is far from 13 or 14-years-old. Your books are on my library shelves, but I don't booktalk them or recommend them to students before they're in 8th grade. (Though I won't stop them from checking them out if they stumble upon it themselves.)
When I first started in libraries, I didn't give much thought to what kids where reading. Sure, everyone could read everything, but over the years, I've grown increasingly uncomfortable with the the fact that 6th graders are reading mature books (like say... Gossip Girls) or that my 8th graders regularly read Urban Fiction/Street Literature books that are meant for adults.
It is a problem when young children are advanced readers, because challenging books (challenging in vocabulary or comprehension) aren't necessarily ready for more mature themes. It's a struggle. Perhaps, the answer is to write something that is a bit more advanced but yet has themes that are appropriate. So will you write something like that?
From:alixwrites
Date:December 17th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)
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I never had a problem with 7th graders reading my books because I remember what I read in 7th grade (and I wasn't mature beyond my years either). But my daughter, as I said, has no interest, so obviously it depends on the kid. I've talked to 6th graders who read and seem to understand my books, which surprises me. A friend who teaches in an urban area says her students all know about this subject matter, from their lives, at an early age, so there's that to take into account too. But I do think that kids should choose to read a book themselves, rather than being pushed into it by their parents. Childrens' reading is another red badge of courage for parents, and I think that interferes with kids' enjoyment of reading for its own sake.
From:booksblogger
Date:December 17th, 2007 11:50 pm (UTC)
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I do believe parents can and should monitor what their children read if what's in a book is contrary to the belief system that they're trying to raise their children in.
Can a 7th grader read and get your book? Sure. Should it be suggested/recommended to them? I'm not so sure. If they find it on the library shelves or bookstore shelf should they be stopped from reading it? No.
Our 8th grade does an author study project and you're one of the recommended authors. The boys love your books. They get a lot out of them.
From:alixwrites
Date:December 18th, 2007 12:02 am (UTC)
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Hmm, but "contrary to the belief system that they're trying to raise their children in" is such an iffy concept. What does that mean, exactly? Do all characters in books have to behave in an exemplary manner at all times, in order for the book to comport with the parents' belief system? What if a character does something wrong, and regrets it. We were discussing this on an e-group I'm in -- people who object to books where the character does something wrong (For example, Chris Lynch's Inexcuseable is from the viewpoint of a rapist, but the book doesn't advocate rape -- it's anti-rape). Or is it that the author's values should be similar to the parents'. I think that the values of my books are pretty good, just for an example. The characters generally take responsibility for thei actions -- eventually -- but that doesn't mean that they're all perfect angels all the time. Does that qualify, or do good people have to read Anne of Green Gables all the time?
From:booksblogger
Date:December 18th, 2007 12:48 am (UTC)
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[deleted before to correct some errors]
I know I'm unpopular in how I believe, but yes, if the content doesn't meet parents standards/beliefs, then they have the right to tell their children no. While certain books have good values, they do expose kids to ideas like sex, relationships, religious ideas that don't mesh with the values they are raising their kids with.
The kids will either seek it out on their own, decide their parents are wrong or right, and grow up to be fairly normal adults. Or they'll grow up unexposed, share the value and beliefs their parents raised them with and grow up to be fairly normal adults.
I think that in our society, (especially that of librarians) we've become so staunch in our need to protect free speech that we forget that we also have other freedoms and one of them is the freedom to raise our children the way we want them to. I'm not rooting for those parents who say, my child can't read 'this and this' book and neither can any other child, let's burn all the offensive books.
I'm talking about the 8th grader who told me, "my mother wants my next book [for her author study] not to be so mature and a little less 'racy.'" This author generally writes more mature themes and so I had to suggest another author that didn't necessarily have such mature themes. There was nothing wrong with moving away from a book/ideas/themes because mom thinks that it's too much for her kid. The child is well read, well spoken, sweet, and mature. But her mom is looking out for her child because moms know their children and what's best for them.
From:alixwrites
Date:December 18th, 2007 11:05 am (UTC)
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That's fine. As long as the mom does not then decide that the entire school district's libraries or curriculum should then be revamped to comport with her values, I think that's absolutely fine.
From:bookiekat
Date:December 17th, 2007 11:21 pm (UTC)
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A right-on message! I never pushed my two sons into so many extra-curricular activities. School is the main job a kid has. If the child has an interest in music, dance, gymnastics, martial arts, whatever, then fine. But those activities must not come at the expense of time to be a kid. I was always the odd person at social gatherings where everyone bragged about their children's activities. I would ask, so when do they get a chance to sit and read a book, or play with toys, or play outside? And I'd get blank looks, and a "what do you mean?" comment.

And as a YA librarian for many years (now a part-time pre-K - gr. 8 school librarian), I have had to deal with parents who insist their children's abilities are far too advanced for children's books. Yeah, right. I would tell them their children may have advanced intellectual abilities, but their emotional development still puts them at the children's level, and they need to be careful of this.
From:djwarrior
Date:December 18th, 2007 06:26 am (UTC)

You're so right

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Thanks for driving home the PG-13 rating on books too. For teachers, like myself, I appreciate when someone gives me a heads up about content. This year, I taught a level of sixth graders. On my reading list was a book that contained a great deal of PG-13 content. I realized after the girls' had chosen to read it that I hadn't read it. It's the first time I failed to read a book before a student. Boy was I embarrassed when they pointed out the inappropriate content. Now, had my eighth graders picked up the book that would have been fine and dandy. Luckily, the parents were not upset. I enjoy your books, as do my 13+ students and friends. See you in Miami!
From:alixwrites
Date:December 18th, 2007 11:09 am (UTC)

Oops!

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Oh, yeah, gotta read them first. I once had a teacher write to me and say my books should have a warning label on them because she assigned BU to her students without reading it (There's a swear word on the first page -- thought that would be a tip-off), and frankly, I wasn't sorry at all that she got in trouble. However, a parent challenged the book, and she immediately pulled it away from all her students. She was complaining that she was stuck with the books. But if she'd pre-read the book, she would have been able to defend it to that parent (who hadn't read the whole thing) and maybe would have been able to continue reading it, instead of wimping out so quickly. I believe it was a high school too!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 18th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)

Oh, thank God for Writers

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Sometimes I think that if all the writers of the world spontaneously disapeared, society would finally in its self-dug, figurative chasm of extravagance.
And idiocy, too.
As a 14-year-old in America who has been squeezed through all manner of "gifted" programs since the tender age of eight, I whole-heartedly agree. Of course, it's exceptionally easy to fall into the same trap as all these other gifted kids - and their parents - who pushpushpush and really don't even know WHY. For example, I have a friend who plays piano and violin (both well), studies hours for every little thing, gets disapointed with any grade that dips below a 96%, works out for hours as well (even though she is a literal stick), volunteers simply to collect community service hours (volunteering is only poignant when its willful) and stresses over, well, EVERYTHING.
It's almost like everyone is in some eternal competition for nothing.
Seriously. What's the prize at stake, here?
I mostly just try to do what I like nowadays. I'm not pushing to get into Harvard or Yale - college, it seems, is largely pointless for most careers. High school doubly so. I don't want to have to wring myself through stress and worry and disapointment and depression just to excell at *high school*. (maybe if I was aiming for the nobel prize, but I don't think that's likely, especially not at age 14)
From:alixwrites
Date:December 18th, 2007 08:20 pm (UTC)

Re: Oh, thank God for Writers

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You go! I have to say that I wasn't a great student in high school and only got into college because I was a good singer (*That* I worked at . . . and I got a scholarship, actually, to the great annoyance of my high school guidance counselor who told me I'd never get into the school of my choice). While I will say I probably would have been less stressed out if I'd done a *little* bit better in school, I really don't see that my (current) friends who attended the ivies are significantly happier or more successful than I am. I also don't see that they're smarter. They just happened to have better study habits when they were 16.

I do think that it is important to learn, and I did a lot of that when I was a teenager. I read books and plays that weren't assigned in school (I was iffy on those that were assigned). I had an encyclopedic knowledge of opera and musical theater. I studied a lot of things that interested me, not all of which were on the curriculum at my school. In retrospect, if I'd devoted an extra hour a day to studying the stuff that *was* on the curriculum, life might have been easier (and thus, I try to encourage my own kids to keep up with their assignments), but after 20 years, it doesn't really matter.
From:alixwrites
Date:December 18th, 2007 08:20 pm (UTC)
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HA! I'd love to see that.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 19th, 2007 02:08 am (UTC)
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I really enjoyed this post. Just discovered your blog and now I know I'll be reading it frequently. :-)
-Em (www.emsbookshelf.blogspot.com)
From:alerra04
Date:December 19th, 2007 05:42 pm (UTC)
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Amen! And no, Harry does not have sex in Book 7 (he does -- Spoiler alert -- have children by the end of it, but at no point is the making of said children discussed in any way, shape, or form). The closest he comes is kissing.
From:brokentapedeck
Date:December 20th, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC)
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This post made me laugh. I've never seen this in action, but I've heard a bit about it from another author who did something similar to dlgarfinkle and discouraged the sale.
From:pamelalibrarian
Date:December 24th, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)

Great post!

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As a middle school librarian (and former English teacher), I also hear a lot of, "but my kid/student is an advanced reader." I am always explaining the difference between Interest Level and Reading Level. I usually begin by saying, "John Grisham has written books that are on the 3 or 4th grade level, but seriously, those aren't for 3 or 4th graders." I've found so many people obsessed with reading level! I always, always try to match readers with books they want to read, not books "on their reading level." And of course, with kids between 11 and 14 I am careful with the difference between middle schoolish books & YA books. I do that by reading a lot, so I can recommend apprpriately (without restrictions, of course).
Love your blog Ms. Flinn & I recommend your books all the time!
From:alixwrites
Date:December 24th, 2007 08:57 pm (UTC)

Re: Great post!

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Thanks!
From:heatherbird
Date:December 31st, 2007 01:45 am (UTC)
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Hi! I'm adding you as a friend, if that's ok!

This post reminded me of the semester I just finished of student teaching. The second week of school we had a parent ask when we would be done giving word study assessments so that she and her child could stop studying the third grade sight word lists... word study assessments given at the beginning of the school year are supposed to be based on students' phonetic abilities without studying!

During my student teaching experience I was shocked to find that so many parents of students with the "gifted" label take that to mean that they can read anything they want. I had students reading the seventh Potter book, which traumatized *me* when I read it... one of my favorite students was reading the fourth book, which a lot of third graders can handle vocab-wise, and told her parents afterward that Cedric's death made her very sad and she understands now why they only let her read ONE Harry Potter book a year so she can mature along with Harry! Thank goodness for parents like that (they also got me a Barnes and Noble gift card for Christmas, further proof that they're a wonderful family)! On the other hand, I also had a child in my student teaching classroom who was reading the Star Wars novels for adults. The parents assumed they were kids' books because they had the Star Wars illustrations on the front... meanwhile, my student was struggling through the book during his independent reading time, not comprehending much of anything except what he was familiar with from the movies. I just let him get frustrated and find a book that was on his reading level (which tends toward Little Critter).

So, thank YOU for being the kind of parent that DOESN'T drive teachers crazy :)
From:foresthouse
Date:January 16th, 2008 09:21 pm (UTC)
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(found you via blackholly, btw.)

What a refreshingly practical discussion of how to raise one's child without pressuring him or her to be the A+++ student and perfect at everything. I agree wholeheartedly (I was expected as a child to be good at everything I tried, and ended up playing flute all the way through high school instead of being able to acknowledge that I didn't care about it and taking art instead. *sigh*) And I always feel that children should be allowed to read what appeals to them, even if it's above or below their level.

P.S. I'm friending you, if you don't mind. :)
From:alixwrites
Date:January 18th, 2008 04:55 am (UTC)
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Thanks. Hope I can be worthy:)
From:foresthouse
Date:January 18th, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC)
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Yes, well, it is *very* difficult. You know how it is: worthy people must post 25 insightful journal entries per day, adventures must be had and described in novel terms...hehehe.

Just kidding! I am sure I shall enjoy reading whatever you post. :)