I used to get concerned about some of my students' reading selections during Reader's Workshop. I wasn't as worried about the child who wanted to read books that were too difficult (often the ones her best friend was reading) or the child who found security in reading books that were easy because he didn't have to worry about making mistakes. I was hopeful that with with proper support, instruction, and encouragement, these children would learn to choose appropriate texts, to feel confident in their abilities, and to take greater risks. Each year, however, it seemed that a group of boys would discover books like The Adventures of Captain Underpants or The Day My Butt Went Psycho (yes, that's really the title) and want to spend all their independent reading time with these texts. I wondered about the value of these books - could they provide opportunities for responding to literature, for practicing comprehension strategies, for making connections? Because I felt it was so important to give children a choice about what they read, I never discouraged these texts, but tried to guide the boys toward other titles as well - ones about sports, fantasy, adventure, or non-fiction.
It wasn't until author Jon Sciezka visited with the first and second grade classes at my school that my thinking changed. My kids already loved The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. Mr. Sciezka connected with the children, especially with the boys, as if he were just another eight year old and he made them feel smart. His sense of humor and silliness appealed to them. He spoke about things that most adults would consider impolite, disgusting or weird. At the end of his presentation, he mentioned his new project, Guys Read. I later realized that my boys, some reluctant readers, were engaged in the texts I was questioning. They were reading and loving it. Isn't that our ultimate goal - to instill a love for reading, to create life-long readers? It begins first with knowing how to read, then having the interest and desire to read more. From there, children will begin to explore other books/genres and learn to read with meaning and understanding.
Here's an interview with Jon Sciezka. He used to be a second grade teacher!