One of my husband’s favorite sayings to the kids is “Bad food drives out good food!” He particularly enjoys saying this as they ask for a second dish of ice cream, shortly after they’ve whined about eating a second baby carrot.
I agree with him in theory – who would choose Brussels sprouts over a big pack of McDonald’s fries? – even as I commiserate with the kids.
I am wondering lately if the same theory – or its opposite – may be true of books.
Lisa has a quote on her blog that I love: Reading good books ruins you from enjoying bad books.
In my case, I think that’s definitely true. I spent my formative reading years in the ’70s, before much of the “light” kids’ lit of today existed. There were no babysitter’s club books then, nothing of that sort. No, I grew up reading Little Women and Girl of the Limberlost.
I remember one Sunday at church, a Sunday School “buddy” (I use that term loosely) quietly smuggled me a Harlequin Romance book, pronouncing it “the best book I’ve ever read!”
Well. I began reading the book that afternoon, and honestly I couldn’t make it past the first five pages. It was just – horrendous. People actually read stuff like this? Where was the poetry? Where was the description? Where was the appeal?
When I began teaching school, I always happily handed out the Trumpet Club book order form. Trumpet feature “quality” children’s lit: Caldecott and Newbery winners, classics. Then I’d reluctantly also hand out the Scholastic and Troll forms – sigh, they were full of New Kids on the Block books (with pull-out full color poster!) and all other manner of “lite” reading.
And sure enough, what do you think 90% of the kids ordered? Yep, the lite stuff. It was a little discouraging. It seems that “bad” books were driving out “good” in this case.
I see this with my own kids – I encourage a classic, and sometimes they do read them, but it’s so much easier to read a book of today that requires little of you. There’s no challenging vocabulary (and often not a lot of plot), but hey – that picture on the cover sure is pretty, and it can be read fast!!
I can’t claim to be a total reading snob – one of my favorite reading pleasures is 30 minutes with my trashy US Weekly magazine. I guess it’s true that there’s a time and a place for reading of all kinds.
So, what do you think: do good books drive out bad? Or do bad books drive out good?