Juvenile Genres

There’s a popular (and long-lived, since I remember it from my own grade school days) elementary school reading assignment that involves requiring students to read a book from each of the major fiction genres. The drawback, I feel, is that they are the major fiction genres for adult fiction (Realistic Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, etc.*), not for kid fiction, and they haven’t been changing with the changes in publishing.**

I just found a couple possible books for a fourth grader who needed to read a mystery. The drawback being that mysteries are far more popular with people well out of childhood (and possibly well on their way to 40, as I find myself enjoying mysteries more these days). This may have something to do with children being less interested in books involving horrible murders and police corruption and poisoning and secret hatreds. Seems to frighten them, for some reason. The mysteries available for children almost feel like a different beast. More art theft, for instance.

And why not have kids read kid genres? I think this will teach them that there are different types of books within fiction (at least I hope that’s the purpose of the assignment). How about requiring them to read a book with animals that act like people, a dystopian novel where kids save the day, a school-based comedy, a best friends/worst enemies popularity drama, or a book with Serious Family Issues?

*Thank all that’s holy that they no longer require Westerns, since even adult fiction isn’t publishing more than a handful these days. I also don’t get why Fantasy is so often required while Science Fiction almost never is. Yes, there are fewer F than SF in the children’s section, but there’s some great new kid SF these days.

**The only possible benefit of teaching to tests is that it’s harder to keep using the same assignments for decades on end.