Reading a book like Cleaving is depressing, on so many levels. Life is short; think what else I could have done with that misspent time. How unfair that such a poorly written book will probably sell quite well – unfair not only to those who spend their money on it, but also all the other authors of good books that will languish on store shelves, because, let’s face it, we all only have so much money, and money spent on one book is money that won’t be spent on another.
My mood got even more grim when I saw the following book added to my friend’s goodreads list: Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It. The author’s basic premise is that the way reading is currently being taught in schools is creating a generation of non-readers.
Let me get this straight: I’m wasting my time on crappy books and my daughter’s school is actively trying to turn her into a non-reader.
It’s a little disheartening.
But then, on Monday night, there was a bright yellow beacon of light at the end of the literary tunnel. Did you see it? The signs were all there, for months:
Coming October 12 – Diary of a Wimpy Kid 4!
I don’t really know much about these books except that they contain stick figure drawings and are “SO FUNNY,” according to Emma, their target audience. So when we found out that Barnes & Noble in Woodinville was hosting a Release Party at 5pm on October 12, we were SO THERE.
On the way there, Emma and her friend Kate sat in the back seat counting down the time on the car’s clock and asking if we would be there on time. 4:55 … 4:56 … We have four minutes to get there? Did you know? 4:57 … We have three minutes now. Three minutes!
I’m glad to know that at least you’re learning math at school. No, I will not go faster, because a) it’s not safe, and as a Good Parent, I don’t do unsafe things; and b) you can do math and I don’t really need you telling the cop who pulls me over exactly how much above the speed limit I was driving.
We got there at 5 on the nose – the exact time the book was to be released. No, I didn’t slow down just to torture them. A Good Parent wouldn’t do a thing like that, would they now?
All I can say is, if schools are trying to kill reading, my independent research indicates this is yet another area where they are failing. The bookstore was packed full of 9-12 year-olds, each of them clutching their very own bright yellow copy of Wimpy Kid 4, fresh out of the box. The bookstore staff had a series of Wimpy-Kid-themed games for them to play, which it did at intervals to allow the kids plenty of time to peruse the shelves and plead with their parents to buy more books, please. PLEASE!
You could barely walk for all the kids sitting on the floor, examining books with their friends. Emma and Kate busied themselves with a copy of Pirateology, lying in the aisle and carefully removing and replacing all the bits and pieces. Occasionally someone stepped over them to obtain a copy of Fable Haven, a popular series that they seemed to be blocking access to. Every so often, a jolly and very patient store clerk would announce another game and all the kids rushed up, to demonstrate their superior knowledge of Wimpy Kids one through three, and win Wimpy Kid temporary tattoos and bookmarks. Kate proudly showed me her tattoo for knowing the answer “Ploopy.” No, I don’t know what the question was.
We stayed to the end and then had a quiet drive home - Emma and her friend turned on the car’s reading lights and read their new purchase quietly in the backseat, stopping only to giggle and then share an occasional joke with each other. We dropped Kate off at home, but I had to wait a few minutes so that Emma could borrow a book about making magic wands. It was getting late but I know better than to hurry this along too much – magic is important and you need just the right book to learn about it.
Because when you get the right book, it really is magic.