I grew up among intellectuals, admit to being one, and like to teach kids the joys of intellectual activity as well.
Now I read many sorts of things in many ways. To my mind there are many ways to read with pleasure. Roger Sutton suggests a high school course in reading (“… designed to demonstrate the breadth and methods of reading in one’s life quite apart from the pursuit of educational degrees.”) that does sound fun. Ironically, I have always known how to read for pleasure the sort of genre literature Roger is proposing be central to his course; what I never have gotten enough of is reading the difficult stuff with great teachers. In fact, what I wish I’d had in high school wasn’t a course of the sort Roger proposes, but teachers who taught the books we did read with passion. I didn’t particularly like some of the classics I read, but I bet that I would have found the experience much more interesting and rewarding if those teachers teaching those books had done something to get me to look at them in a way that was exiting and stimulating.
Which is sort of what Robert Pinsky is all about. As it is National Poetry Month and tomorrow is Poetry Friday (when I will be slogging through pouring rain with my 4th graders at Plimoth Plantation). I draw your attention to his article “In Praise of Difficult Poetry: the Much Maligned Art.” He’s discussing poetry for adults, but I think it applies to poetry for kids just as much. I mean, there is an awful lot of lightweight poetry for kids too. Fortunately there is lots of great poetry that they can dig their teeth into as well, in just the way that Pinsky suggests.