Dear Book Lovers.

I am big on kids being educated and I’m not just talking computer skills. I am talking about literature. But I also believe (I doubt this will surprise you) that what kids read should be age, not just reading level appropriate.

Here’s the dilemma—the “classics.” Most books that we dub as “classics” were not written with teens or pre-teens in mind. They were written for adults. They explore adult themes. Yes, they often are beautifully written. Yes, they often have fascinating characters and intriguing plots. Yes, reading them will improve a child’s reading skills and vocabulary. But that does not keep some of them–not all of them, and again not all of them–from having questionable values or their authors espousing questionable conclusions.

I was in middle school when one of my teachers said I should be reading the “classics.” (She meant the more grown-up stuff. I had already devoured most of the children’s classics.) I chose The Three Musketeers.

Initially, I thought the book was a romp. The energy, the historical setting, the sword-play, the danger and the adventures–I loved it all. But I almost stopped reading the book when I realized that heroic D’Artagnan was in love with and pursuing a married woman. Heroes, to my mind, didn’t do that kind of thing. The romance it turned out was ill-fated and it could be Dumas meant it as a subtle warning. Reading the book alone (without adult imput), I didn’t even see that possibility. I guess I was too young. I finished the book because I needed it for a book report, but it put me off reading the “classics” by myself for a couple years. Maybe that was a good thing.


Teen writer Jeanette Hanscome and I have been talking about this topic–kids reading the “classics.” She discovered a “classic,” Les Miserables, which she can’t say enough good things about. On Thursday I will start posting her thoughts. She has some great insights.