Parents asked this former teacher what kids should be reading. Her response was perfect.

When parents ask children's author Kate Messner about what kids should be reading, she always says the same thing.

Messner is an award-winning author who has written more than 30 books, including the juvenile fiction series "Ranger in Time." She was also a middle school teacher for 15 years.

In a Twitter thread, Messner shared that parents often approach her to express concern about the kinds of the books their kids read.


"Sometimes, adults worry that summer reading isn't hard enough or challenging enough or academic enough," she wrote.

Her advice? Let them read what they love: "If they love it and want to read?" That is enough."

Messner also offered comfort to parents whose kids only want to read graphic novels.

She assures parents that comic books and graphic novels are still great reading choices.

She told the story of a dad who stopped her in the grocery store one day to say that his son kept reading graphic novels and ask her what he should do about it. Messner replied, "Buy him more graphic novels. And go to the library because they have some great ones."

Messner pointed out that she grew up reading "Archie" comics, which made her a reader. "Comics and graphic novels of today are smart and sophisticated," she wrote, "and they create readers in a big way."

That endorsement of graphic novels is a balm to parents who worry their kids aren't "really reading" when they indulge in comic-style books. But reading can be done in a variety of ways, books come in a variety of formats, and if a kid is enamored with stories being told a specific way, there's nothing wrong with that.

Reading graphic novels is a good "in" to the reading world for some kids, and when they are ready for something different, they'll already have the reading habit established.

Forcing kids to read books they don't like or aren't interested in is a quick way to make kids hate reading.

In our eagerness to create readers, parents and educators can do some unintentional damage. For example, mandatory reading logs, where kids are required to read for a certain number of minutes and keep track of it each day, have been shown in at least one study to diminish a child's interest in reading.

"When reading is portrayed as something one has to be forced to do," the authors of one such study wrote, "students may draw the conclusion that it is not the kind of activity they want to engage in when given free time."

Since 1 in 4 American adults don't read any books, helping kids love reading is important.

According to a Pew report, about 24% of adults in the U.S. haven't read any books — in whole or in part — in the past year. That includes, print, electronic, and audio formats. One might assume that those numbers are a product of the digital generation, but the report found that Americans under 50 years of age are more likely to have read a book than those over 50.

Books don't have to be long or difficult to be valuable. And considering the research that shows how reading increases intelligence, empathy, mental health, and more, developing a habit of devouring books is more important than fretting over specific kinds.

And way to do that, according to Messner, is simple: "Let your kids read what they love. The End."

More

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular

Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Wikipedia

Women in country music are fighting to be heard. Literally. A study found that between 2000 and 2018, the amount of country songs on the radio by women had fallen by 66%. In 2018, just 11.3% of country songs on the radio were by women. The statistics don't exist in a vacuum. There are misogynistic attitudes behind them. Anyone remember the time radio consultant Keith Hill compared country radio stations to a salad, saying male artists are the lettuce and women are "the tomatoes of our salad"...? Air play of female country artists fell from 19% of songs on the radio to 10.4% of songs on the radio in the three years after he said that.

Not everyone thinks that women are tomatoes. This year's CMA Awards celebrated women, and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles saw the opportunity to bring awareness to this issue and "inspire conversation about country music's need to play more women artists on radio and play listings," as Nettles put it on her Instagram. She did it in a uniquely feminine way – by making a fashion statement that also made a statement-statement.

Keep Reading Show less
popular