Imagine this setting…
It’s a lovely fall evening at the public library. A therapy dog is lounging comfortably on the floor in the children’s area. A mom and dog owner are chatting agreeably. The librarian is helping child choose a “level one” book to read aloud to the waiting dog. The child chooses a book featuring one of her favorite characters — a character who earned picture book fame, and made the leap into easy readers. It’s a pretty book with a pretty cover and a perky title. It’s a perfect combination of community togetherness — the library, the public, the volunteer, the eager reader.
Everything is going, say, swimmingly? Until the goldfish dies. The girl pauses in her reading. Perhaps the fish is just sleeping? She turns the page. No. The goldfish is decidedly dead and is summarily deposited into the ground, though not without some amount of ceremony. Everyone glances around silently, awkwardly. The young girl soldiers on and finds another book, another easy reader — featuring, this time, a gym class bully. Thankfully, a certain Elephant and Piggie come to the rescue and the night ends on a humorous note — complete with newly hatched birds.
So, here is my musing, my opinion, and a query for you:
Have Beginning Readers, long the milieu of simplicity, friendship, silliness and love, taken a turn toward deeper and more complicated topics? Realistic fiction is a wonderful genre that is well represented in picture books and juvenile novels and early chapter books. Difficult topics fit well in these formats. Picture books are a shared experience, with adults on hand to answer questions, or place new situations in an understandable context. Juvenile novels are read independently, by children who have mastered the skill of reading, and can understand a concept in its entirety. The “easy reader,” however, is for a child who is often learning to understand a single word’s place within a sentence or a sentence’s place within a paragraph.
I’ve not seen too many examples of deep topics in easy readers, but I wonder, is this a trend, and if so, is it a good one? Your thoughts?