Did You Catch Michael Chabon’s Essay and Nicholas Kristoff’s Op-Ed?
Michael Chabon’s is the current New York Review of Books, tinyurl.com/netgaa; Krisftoff’s was his regular Sunday Op-Ed in the Times, tinyurl.com/lflloo In a way, they are the two poles of how bright, creative, adults tend to write about kids and books — for better and for worse. Chabon is lamenting how controlled childhood has become, how kids are constrained, how we hover over them, manage them, and deny them that venture into the island of the wild things that they actually need. I agree completely — one reason I love pick up basketball is that, as far as I can tell, it — along with pick up soccer — are the only places we still let kids play with whoever shows up, making up their own rules, settling their own disputes, finding their own ways. Yes, kids need spaces to explore and play. My only objection to Chabon’s essay is that it is old news. Here is just one version of the same argument made three years ago, and there are many more: tinyurl.com/mfcwol
I don’t disagree with Chabon at all, and he is an articulate spokesman I am glad to have speaking for a point of view I care about. But so often authors who don’t follow the world of children and literature closely parachute in with an opinion, as if they were the first to notice this neglected area — neglecting themselves to note how much serious thought and attention has long been given to exactly the same issues and concerns.
Which brings me to Kristoff. Great to have a thoughtful, educated, articulate author notice and care about kids and summer reading. But notice, again, his list of the Best Kids Books Ever! is entirely fiction — and yet his reason for writing the article is the apprent decline in IQ over the summer of kids who don’t read during those months. Isn’t the obvious point that kids who don’t read, don’t like to read so — back to my blog of a few days ago — shouldn’t we offer them books, articles, websites related to their interests — which, over the summer, are very likely to center on sports, physical activity, real actions in the real world.
I really do appreciate having such smart writers notice us. I think we need all of the cross-fertilization with adult critics we can get. But, in turn, I wish those critics would look past their own children and own experience say they can write about our books with the same consideration and depth they use when writing about books written for adults.