Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Have You Seen This?
Recently there was an article in the New York Times about Scholastic book clubs. I seem to remember a previous article that spoke out against Scholastic book clubs, but this is a fresh one. The article was about if Scholastic's inclusion of toys and games negates any good they might be doing. Some in the article feel the book club entirely too commercial and not literary enough. I can see the point being made--in a way--a video game is a video game is a video game. But lumping stickers, posters, educational board games (teaching math and whatnot) and craft books (be it oragami or necklace-making with beads) into the same 'evil' category seems a bit much. Okay, stickers and posters may not engage the mind, but are they harmful? With the educational board games and craft books I'm a bit stumped as to what the harm could be? See, both of those would be engaging the mind. It takes brain power to learn how to do a craft, and to actually do it. It is engaging your hands and your mind. And it is bound to be 'better' for the brain that watching television, playing on the computer, or playing video games. I'm curious now actually, the article is saying that kids may be ordering things just to get these goodies. Ordering a book...just to get a page of stickers. Really? I'm not saying that it couldn't happen. It might be happening. But while stickers are appealing--to some more than others--stickers are available in multiple places. It's not like there's a shortage of stickers. My thinking is at least it's not candy. I could see the outrage if it was order this book and I'll give you a bag of candy. But a page of stickers?
Personally, I'm a book girl. If a book came with something else--usually something I thought was silly or useless--that was besides the point.
If you're going to make a case against Scholastic--and I'm not saying you should--I would think that you'd target the kinds of books being included. The fluffy items of little literary value. The celebrity tie-ins. The movie-and-tv-show tie ins. The toy-tie-ins. They're a waste of money--in my humble opinion. Barely worth the paper they're printed on. Of course, there may be exceptions to the rules. And if the movie-was-a-book-first, I don't have a problem with the movie-tie-in book being included. If it's still the same book underneath.
But the bigger issue here is judgements. Who has the right to judge in this case? Is there any harm if a child chooses a fluffy un-literary book (High School Musical, Miley Cyrus, etc.) over something more literary? Is reading a book reading a book? Don't we all go through a phase where we're interested in the book-equivalent of junk food? Don't we all have to go through that phase at one point or another? Don't we all come out of it...in our own time...in our own way. For some readers, it may last a month or two...in others it might last a year or two. But things do get old....and tastes change...improve. If I'm honest I'd much rather a child pick up a book that I deem 'worthy' but really the point is that they're reading something, excited about something.
A further thought...who's doing the choosing here...and who should be doing the choosing? Isn't it up to the parents as to what they spend their own money on? Parents have the power--and ability--to say yes or say no (or say not now, not this month.) They can order quality books--yes, there are still quality books in these book orders. They can order junk--yes, there's plenty of junk. They can order a bit of both. They can let their kids pick out a book or two that may not be the best book in the entire world...but they can also order something else to balance it all out.
Is literacy being damaged by the book club? Or is it being encouraged? It really is a matter of balancing choices. As my mother says, food in and of itself isn't bad. It's your choices about food that can be good or bad. Some foods are better choices than others. But all food--in moderation, of course--can be okay. If you choose to buy junk food at the grocery store...who is responsible? The grocery store? The food manufacturers or companies? Or you? Do they all share the blame? I suppose you could always argue that Scholastic could be doing a 'better' job offering 'better' choices. And that would be true enough. But it's also equally true, that just because they offer junk, you don't have to choose it. No one forces you to give Scholastic money. Parents can make 'better' choices too if they're concerned about what their kids may be getting.
And for older kids, those that may have money on their own to spend. It can be a lesson--good or bad--on money management. If you buy something, and you're disappointed with it. Or you don't end up loving it as much as you thought you would. Or if it turned out to be a dud, poorly made, not worth what you spent on it...then that is a lesson. And it's something that you've got to learn on your own. You've got to be allowed to make these kinds of mistakes. And if you end up loving it, even if others don't understand just how you could...then that's a lesson too. Everyone has to learn personal responsibility and accountability for their choices.
What do YOU think? If you've got thoughts on this issue, please leave a comment...
© Becky Laney of Young Readers