Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It Gives Me Goosebumps

I've read plenty of good "how to" books on writing for children. But nothing compares to what I'm learning from my eight-year-old son, Gabe. He has two favorite authors, R.L. Stine and Dav Pilkey. Hand him a classic boy book like Treasure Island and he'll read a chapter or two but that's usually it. But the Goosebumps and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series are another matter. He can't put them down. He's turning pages at the breakfast table. He skips TV or computer games to finish them. (If you knew my kid, you'd know this is huge.)

Gabe's book choices used to bother me. Goosebumps is masterfully done, of course, but it's just a bunch of ghost stories. File under "fiction light." And all the poop, booger, and other potty talk in the Wimpy Kid books used to make me cringe

Not any more. As long as my kid's reading, I don't care if it's a joke on a gum wrapper. He is falling in love with fiction--one lovely, scatalogical word at a time. He'll discover the classics soon enough. Until then, creeps from the deep and lunch ladies from Mars will suffice.

I just watched a video interview with R.L. Stine. If you want to view it, here's the link.


If not, here's a great quote from R.L.:

"Kids like my books because they’re like a roller-coaster ride. You know what you’re in for when you get on. There are lots of thrills. Lots of crazy twists and turns. And it lets you off safe at the end. The point of my career is getting kids to read. The whole point of my books is you can turn to reading and just be entertained."

R.L. Stine has sold over 300 million copies of Goosebumps. I can see why. And so can Gabe.


  1. I don't think I'd expect an eight-year-old to read Treasure Island by himself.

    This brings up another question. How does your eight-year-old feel about being read to? I have a feeling many kids today don't want to be read to by the time they're eight and that's too bad.

  2. Gale, I should have mentioned...he has the easy-to-read version of Treasure Island...geared toward his age group (Random House/Stepping Stones).

  3. As for being read to...no, Gabe...like many kids his age... doesn't like it. On the other hand, one of his buddies is hooked on Harry Potter, which his Dad is reading to him. They're up to Book 5. I do, however, think he's the exception to the eight-year-old rule.

  4. My son was 8 when the first Harry Potter came out - nearly 10 years ago! It was too difficult for him to read on his own so I read it to him. I read him the second book as well, even though he probably could have read it himself, he enjoyed me reading to him. We were in London when the third book came out. I read the book to the whole family on trains, on buses, and while lounging in Hyde Park. My daughter, who was entering high school, was hooked!

    By the time the fourth book came out, my son wanted to read it on his own. I was disappointed. He was, I think, 13.

    Maybe I was lucky that reading to my kids lasted that long!

  5. Lucky indeed! I'm also envious of your Hyde Park Harry read-aloud memory.

  6. Well Goosebumps seems like a "Tale of Two Cities" compared to what my son liked to read at age eight. He was into "Captain Underpants" and I used to loathe it on so many levels, until I realized, like you that he was, after all, reading!

  7. Goosebumps sure brings back memories! They were the most popular series when I first started teaching second grade.

    As a classroom and a reading teacher, I have always been a huge fan of books like this for kids. It is so important for kids to see reading as fun, and I worry that the kids who are always made to choose "worthwhile" books may never develop that true love of reading. (Research shows that many adults who are avid readers loved comic books or other series fiction as kids. For me, it was Trixie Belden. Not great literature, but I moved onto Louisa May Alcott and Anne of Green Gables and grew up to be an English major. :o) )

    As far as reading aloud, I so hope it doesn't stop by age 8. I am a huge fan of Jim Trelease and "The New Read Aloud Handbook," and I love how he talks about reading aloud as "the advertisement for reading". He has a wonderful annotated bibliography at the back of his book describing which books might meet the listening levels and interests of different kids!

  8. My kids didn't want me to read to them once they read novels themselves. And even though they are 14 and 17, they still occasionally pick up Captain Underpants for another read.

    While my younger son is an avid reader, my older son almost knocked me over when he recently told me how much he was enjoying reading The Stranger in his English class. He went on to say that he wished all of his classes involved reading good novels. It was a glorious moment.