When Squire Tuck was but a wee small thing, I read to him all the time. There were so many books that I had loved as a child and so many books that I had been introduced to as an adult that I wanted him to know, and so little time. And then there were the books that he loved that were new to me; you don't even want to know how many times we read "Dazzling Diggers" ("Diggers are noisy, strong, and big/ Diggers can carry and push and dig"). Striking the balance of getting a book into him at the right age -- not too early, so that it wouldn't be wasted, but not so late that it seemed childishly easy to him, was a frank delight. There were some missteps, of course -- like trying to read "The Once and Future King" to a nine-year-old obsessed with Arthurian legend was not my best choice ("The Sword in the Stone" was not so bad, but "The Queen of Air and Darkness" was... uhm, not age appropriate). But most of the time, reading to him flowed, and we both really liked it.
When he started reading for himself, he stuck mostly to books that were below level, which I know is normal for some kids, and which was fine because dude, nobody hated the Magic Tree House series more than I did, and I'm pretty sure the only reason they exist is so that kids can read below level. And it meant that the reading aloud could continue because even to a kid who can read pretty well, their own ability is usually not up to the speed of their comprehension yet. Plus (sing along with me, I know you know this one): I love the sound of my own voice ever so much.
And then all of a sudden one day I realized we weren't reading together anymore. To an extent it's because he got old enough for movies and there are not quite as many movies that I love as there are books, but still so many great movies that you should see when you are still young, and we had a lot of watching to do. And to an extent his reading had caught up with his thinking and he didn't need me to read to him to make it fun. I mean, this is sort of a GOAL, right, so I'm not complaining. I tried having him read to me but as soon as I sit still enough to be read to I tend to fall asleep, so that didn't work.
And anyway, he was reading. Not as much as I thought he should, but more than most people, and not the best books but books that he really enjoyed. And since every study I've read says that basically: a) an avid reader has nothing to fear in terms of brain development, learning skills, etc and b) it really doesn't matter what you read, I figured: ehn.
Last week, it occurred to me that part of the purpose of reading was that I wanted him to be grounded in my culture -- the whole delicious American entertainment bundle; that he would know what an American 16-year-old student would know. Now, a lot of stuff that Czech teens and American teens know is the same, especially anything on the internet. But books, the books that you read in high school, are not something that seems to be actively taught here. In my experience, the average Czech high school student can rattle off Shakespeare's oeuvre in the order they were written, tell you what's a comedy or a tragedy or a historical drama, but odds are they haven't read a single one. This Will Not Stand.
So I started trying to find out what the books that are assigned in high schools are... it's interesting how hard it was to find a comprehensive list. I know that some of the books we read were ridiculous to assign to high school students (Gatsby, seriously?! Because as a teen I assure you I had no idea what that drunken mess was about), and some books are fantastic no matter when you read them (I didn't read "To Kill a Mockingbird" until I read it with Squire, and it was perfect for both of us), but there are books that you sort of HAVE TO read as a teen, because that's the ONLY time you're going to really, really get them. "The Catcher in the Rye" or "The Diary of Anne Frank" or anything by Robert Cormier.
Anyway. I'm working on a list, and I've told Squire he's got to read at least one a month off the list, and I have to read it too if I haven't already, so we can play book group about it. Anything you think I might have missed?