As I shared with Kathy, @Books Kids Like, it was how she grabbed my attention that piqued my interest. The moment I began cruising through her blog, and great selection of books, I said to myself “this blogger has a great handle on the way she introduces books.” A major custodian voice was written all over Books Kids Like blog. It was only after a few visits when I peeked over at her bio, when it hit me, “oh, that’s how she lured me in. With that teacher’s persuasion I’ve long since been away from!” I should have known she was a home-educator and high-school English teacher.
I’m now very pleased that Kathy was willing to share her wisdom and knowledge on book etiquette by answering a few questions on the reading material she blogs on @Books Kids Like.
OEB: My first and biggest question, do you notice a difference in the children’s books published today from children’s books published when you grew up? (Speaking of books for young readers up to age 5)
@BKL: These days, my major contact with books for young readers comes from reading books with the grandchildren. I don’t sense any real change in content. Picture books are still written with the intent to teach little ones about things like manners, feelings, etc. or to teach them about the world in which they live. They certainly are more colorful which adds to their appeal.
OEB: What were some of the children’s books you read growing up that today you are still very fond of? (again, speaking of books for young readers up to age 5)
@BKL: My mom tells me that I really liked the Cowboy Small books by Lois Lenski. I was a wanna-be cowgirl so it seems highly likely that I did. Personally, I remember Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Story of Ferdinand, and Dr. Seuss.
OEB: Which brings me to asking about the definition of children’s books. Is there another term to use for books where the audience is designated for readers between 5 and 13? (I ask because I have been asked what children’s books I’ve read as a child, to which I go rambling off titles like Hansel and Gretel, The Three Little Pigs and such, to be greeted with this hushed silence. Not until recently have I read a book designated for readers between 5 and 13.)
@BKL: Well, I’m not sure how politically correct my definitions are but here goes:
Chapter books: for emerging readers ages 5-7
Children’s fiction: ages 8-12
Young adult fiction: ages 12 and up
OEB: This being the case, can you suggest five titles that I should read in the children’s/YA category?
@BKL: Miracle’s Boys by Jacqueline Woodson
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
OEB: What would you consider a ‘bad’ children’s or YA book?
@BKL: Any book that lacks realistic characters and engaging descriptive language isn’t worth reading. I dislike the “clone” books that imitate well-written best sellers. Also, books written solely for shock value or sensationalism aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
OEB: “Clone books” and sensationalized children’s books are new terms for me. Can you give an example of each? Also, what books would you suggest all children should read before leaving high-school?
@BKL: Clone books are books that are written by authors who want to "ride the wave of fame" that comes with best-sellers like Harry Potter and Twilight. Also, look at all of the Jane Austen look-alike books that have been published lately. I think it's a travesty to combine paranormal with Jane's wonderful books! Incredible!!! Sensationalism. First, let me say that there are many great young adult books that address drugs, abuse, cutting, anorexia, gang violence, date rape, etc. in a honest, realistic, and sensitive ways. However, there are those writers who include these issues in their books for their shock value; it's gratuitous. They do a disservice to today's teens.
I’m a firm believer that every high school student needs some exposure to Shakespeare. Beyond that, they need to read books by authors whose works have stood the test of time: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, L. M. Montgomery, John Steinbeck, George Orwell, Mark Twain, and Harper Lee to name a few.
OEB: As it applies to reading, one of my biggest peeves is reading comprehension. Is this discipline still taught in school? And what are some techniques that help, even adults, become better readers?
@BKL: No Child Left Behind requires teachers to teach comprehension. That being said, experience has taught me that a reader’s ability to comprehend what he reads is directly proportional to his ability to read. If the brain is busy decoding words, it does not comprehend the meaning of the words. So, the focus must be on decoding first, and comprehension will follow. Reading aloud really helps.
OEB: When you taught English, which are you more of a stickler on grammar, syntax, or reading comprehension?
@BKL: All of those things are important. Children need to read a lot so that it becomes a natural process. When this happens, they will comprehend and retain what they read. The same goes for writing. They need to write a lot and become very comfortable with putting their thoughts on paper. Then, a teacher can help them fine-tune the syntax and grammar.
OEB: Approximately how many books do you read and/or review in a month?
@BKL: I usually have one audio book and one print book going at the same time and finish 5-6 books a month. On the blog, I try to feature a minimum of 5 books each week so my posting outpaces my reading. I’ve been keeping track of the books I read since the early 1990s by writing a summary of each book. Many of the books featured are ones that I read some time ago.
OEB: What are genres do you prefer NOT to read (i.e., paranormal romance, horror, erotica?), and why?
@BKL: Those are exactly the three genres that I don’t read. Here are the reasons:
--Paranormal romance: Twilight was such a disappointment that I haven’t given the genre a chance.
--Horror: I have insomnia anyway and scary images from books don’t help.
--Erotica: I believe that sexual intimacy should be savored by the two people in the relationship and not the whole world.
OEB: What are some of your favorite all-time books, or authors, and why? (Any genre)
@BKL: I favor books with strong protagonists who take charge of their lives by owning their mistakes and changing their paradigms. So, some of my favorites are: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith; Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor; and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
OEB: And last, not near least, are there any new upcoming happenings coming up over there @Books Kids Like?
@BKL: I started a giveaway this week and plan to host one each month from now on. I’d like to start an on-line book-club but I need to research how to do that. Any suggestions?
Kathy, I truly thank you for this interview and sharing your insight. Visit Kathy@Books Kids Like to catch up on a great selection of children's and YA books.