"Why Kids Need to Read What They Want --- and Why We Should Let Them"

Jan 9, 2014

Our guest is Michael Smith, a professor of teaching and learning at the Temple University College of Education. With Jeffrey Wilhelm of Boise State University, Smith is the co-author of a new book from Scholastic Teaching Resources titled "Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want --- and Why We Should Let Them." We probably all know that strong reading skills help kids get good grades, and later on, good jobs --- but as Smith affirms on our show today, when we as parents and educators are encouraging our kids to read, we should not forget that reading of all kinds is what's important...not just reading the classics, or reading from a syllabus, or from a standardized, state-approved book list. Smith tells us that, in a way, it all comes down to reading for pleasure. That is, pleasure is not simply incidental to reading --- it's essential. "We found, when researching this book," adds Smith, "that young people tend to be remarkably sophisticated in both their appreciation and awareness of reading for pleasure.... They're very articulate about why they read what they read." And reading what they love, of course, can only point kids toward reading avidly...and reading for a lifetime. (You'll learn more about Smith's book in an excerpt of it that recently appeared on The Atlantic's website.) Also on our show, we offer a thoughtful and perhaps surprising commentary from Barry Friedman; it's called, simply, "Four Couples."