A young reader told me that she loves my books and wants to read all of them, but currently she is not allowed to read anything else of mine because her teacher thinks she needs variety and therefore must read other authors. This made me sad and angry. I would be just as upset if the teacher had told this child she could not read any more books by Andrew Clements or Lois Lowry or any other author, but had to branch out and read Peg Kehret.
This child is reading for pleasure. We should rejoice and encourage her, not limit her choices. I can assure this teacher that I can not write books as fast as a child can read them. Very soon, this girl would run out of my titles and at that point she would choose a different author. Maybe she’d find another one that she likes. Perhaps then she would be bingeing on Richard Peck or David Patneaude. It doesn’t matter! In the long run, if this student is allowed to choose her own reading material, she will get variety. She would actually get a variety of topics and themes even if she read only one of the authors I’ve mentioned, including me.
I keep a list of all the books I read, jotting the title and author in a spiral notebook. After reading this child’s letter, I looked back through my list to see how often I’d gone on a book binge of reading one author. I found several examples. In Dec., 1993, I read G is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton. In the next two months, I read Grafton’s A, B, C, D, E and F titles. Does that mean I didn’t read anything but Sue Grafton mysteries from then on? Of course not. All it did was bring me up to date so that when the H title came out, I was ready to fully enjoy it. There were similar binges when I first discovered Anne Tyler and Alexander McCall Smith.
I don’t think devouring everything by a particular author makes me a less discerning reader. The first time I read one of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, I laughed out loud. I immediately got the first book in the series and began reading them in order. By the time I reached #10, I was bored with the same old plot devices. I wanted some character growth. I wanted Stephanie to learn from her mistakes. When it didn’t happen, I quit reading the series.
Much as I enjoy bingeing on a favorite author, the books that have stars beside them in my notebook are all, with the exception of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s wonderful series, stand-alone titles. I’m stingy with my stars, giving them only to books that I truly loved. I’ve given two stars in the last six months, to Lottery by Patricia Wood and to The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.
I have no problem with assigning specific books that every student in the class is supposed to read, but telling a child she can not read any more books by a particular author is a censorship that I believe is wrong.