Wednesday, April 20

Reaching The Next Generation

bebe's been at us to let her watch Star Wars lately - pretty much since The Force Awakens released, but it's been more prominent since the beginning of February. I'm guessing some of her little friends keep talking about it, but for whatever reason, she's been desperate to see it, and until you've faced down a 7 year old's desperation you don't know anything about desperation...or maybe I'm just a pushover. In either case, we decided to institute Family Movie Night last Friday and to appease the kid, it was a Star Wars: The Force Awakens night.

This isn't going to be a movie review, although I'll say if you haven't seen it you should see it. It's a good movie. They picked up in a good place, all the best things about the original trilogy were in there with none of the crazy-hard-to-follow-angstyness of the 3 'prequels' from a few years ago. That's my pitch.

Why am I talking about a movie if I'm not going to review it? It's about the story.

What many people hated about the movie were the jumps it took from a character who thought Luke and Leia and Han were myths to that character not only believing in them, but using the force. That part didn't bother me at all, and I'll tell you why: the story.

What I loved, as a kind and as an adult, about the original trilogy were the characters. We had a pirate/smuggler, a princess, an outcast (say what you will, I've always thought of Luke as a kind of outcast), and we shouldn't have liked any of them. Han was a little too smug, Leia was a little too princessy and righteous and Luke was a little too clueless, but George Lucas was so good at drawing their characters that Leia's righteousness was equal parts annoying and amusing, and Han's smug, piratey attitude was just right against her prim etiquette...and who can't root for the underdog of Luke who was abandoned, whose family was murdered and who kept pressing forward?

All of those things, the new writers did with The Force Awakens. Rey is abandoned and clueless, but she risks herself to protect a robot. Finn is a rogue Storm Trooper who risks his life to save Rey. And then we see Han and Leia, and they're just as wonderful as they always were...and there is the evilness of the dark side, and all those crazy alien beings. I have to tell you, a few times I caught myself watching bebe instead of the movie and her awe and absorption in the movie was breathtaking...and at 7 I know there were parts of it that were totally over her head, but the story was told so well, that she knew who to root for, and why they were fighting, and what it all meant.

And all of that got me thinking: a lot of people say reading is dead. That Baby Boomers are the last big reading generation, and that Gen Xers don't read, and Millennials read even less than Gen Xers and whatever they decide to call bebe's generation won't read anything at all.

I think those experts are wrong...I think, as a kid, it's hard to find your reading niche. A lot of people think children's and YA books are one size fits all - a girl will read anything princess and a boy will read anything alien...and instead of giving them what they want (Harry Potter aside, of course), the kids get pigeon holed into only reading certain kinds of books. If we don't help them find their niche - be that sci-fi or princess or historical space opera with a twist of paranormal - they'll never find their reader niche as an adult.

Do I have a solution to the problem? I have a mom solution, and that solution includes encouraging bebe to read across the spectrum, having dedicated reading time and never saying no to any book purchase. But I think, in the grand scheme of things, the solution is to get back to the basics of good storytelling - heroes and heroines and misfits and grand evil and ultimate goodness...and a hell of an adventure.

What about you? What kinds of books would you like to see hit store shelves?


  1. I remember talking to a high school English teacher and asking her why--when "Johnny wouldn't read"--Johnny wasn't offered choices in popular fiction instead of being forcefed Hawthorne. I admit to being glad I've read what few of the classics I have, but I'm a reader; if I weren't one, I'm sure Hester Prynne would still be a dark spot in my educational history.

    I love that you encourage bebe to read across a wide spectrum, but I hope the kids who never do that are still allowed to find and read within their niche.

  2. For sure, Liz! Niches are important - romance is mine (for reading and for writing). So far bebe's been lucky in that her teachers encourage reading of any type - there's a boy in her class who only reads science textbooks (O_O) and another who only reads comics...I hope that continues.

  3. Kristi - Kudos to you for seeing to the proper cultural education of bebe. And by that, I mean, letting her watch Star Wars! :-) I would definitely say it does not matter what you read, only that you are reading! It cultivates the joy and appreciation of the written word. Plus, it helps fortify proper grammar... which is essential (sorry if I'm being a big, mean, grammar snob :-)

    1. totally agree - let kids (and adults) read what they want to read...books change how we look at the world.

  4. KB learned at an early age that if she asked for a toy, chances were a "No, not today." But, if she asked for a book, she got it. LOL And she is an amazing reader.

    Jordan reads a lot of fan fic and and has an amazing imagination. I think fostering their love of reading was probably the best thing I did as a parent.

    And based around YA and MG sales, I don't think reading is going down the tubes any time soon.

    I've gone through several reading niches throughout my life--from romances to sci-tech to thriller--dystopian--womens and back to romance. So, why wouldn't children do the same thing?

    1. exactly - I just hate when kids get pigeonholed into only reading one thing...especially when that one thing isn't of interest to them.

      PS: bebe has also figured out that toys/no/books/yes thing! lol

  5. My mom never censored my reading list--I remember when I was about 11 or 12, someone gave me Daphne DuMaurier's REBECCA. My grandmother was horrified, my mom simply said, "Go ahead. Enjoy." and I did. Of course, I didn't get it all, but the mystery was cool and the characters should be given everything to read. It's the reading that's important. Books, books, and more books! ;-) Kristi, we're save The Force Awakens for when we we're out with Son and Grandboy at Son's request. Anxious to see it!

    1. you're going to love it, I think, really is a great continuation of the series!