So, my daughter had me watch this video on "Mom Jeans" this week. She wanted to remind me that my jeans are so out of fashion...
Seems that the same thing can happen to books according to a great post at Miss Rumphius Effect entitled "When Books Fall Out of Fashion". A sad thing when an amazing book from our childhood is no longer one that our children or students love. I remember being appalled when they "updated" the Nancy Drew books a few years ago. Nancy Drew became hip--with a cool car and a cell phone. But, more importantly, as my students told me, the books were told in first person which made the mysteries far more interesting. I couldn't imagine it. Now, Nancy Drew is in graphic novel. I can't match the Nancy I knew to the illustrations in these books yet. How could Nancy Drew, the books I climbed to my grandmother's attic for each Sunday, be updated? I thought they were perfect!
A few years ago, I read another of my favorite books from childhood to my 4th graders--FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER. I was sure my students would love it. I could still picture almost every scene in my head--30+ years later. My husband, a child who chose not to read much, remembered and loved this one book from his fourth grade year. His teacher had read it aloud. So, I was sure my class would love it too. How wrong I was! The class could not get past the idea that the security cameras did not catch Claudia and Jamie on that first night. In their world, they could not imagine such a place without security cameras and metal detectors! There was nothing I could do to make the story believable to this one class. (So, I hooked them on E.L. Konigsburg with A VIEW FROM SATURDAY and THE OUTCASTS OF SCHUYLER PLACE instead--both were VERY well loved by this same group of students.)
I am not the kind of teacher who expects all of my students to love every book I read aloud. But this one threw me and made me think about the ways I choose books to read aloud. I wonder if Konigsburg's newer books are more current for kids today? I can't imagine it but how would I know since I am reading from an adult perspective. FROM THE MIXED UP FILES is one of the best books I've ever read. How do we, as teachers, know if a book will be current and believable to our students?
I have never been the kind of teacher to read the same books year after year to my students. But, I no longer choose the books I love from childhood to read aloud. I think I do it for selfish reasons. I want to protect these favorites for myself without the comments of the children of 2007. I don't want my love for the book to discourage their honest comments. These books define my life as a reader and as a person. Reading them to a group of students who do not love them as I do is a very difficult experience--for all of us! (I do hand these books to individual students who I am sure will love them as I did!) With all of the new, amazing books coming out these days, I have no trouble finding new books that I love. Very few of them make me feel like Nancy Drew did or like I did when I was in the museum with Claudia and Jamie. But, I love them in a different way.
Do books fall out of fashion? Are there books that are too old (no security cameras) but not old enough to yet be classics? I'm not sure. I hate the thought of a new, cooler Nancy Drew just as I hate the thought of Claudia and Jamie escaping to a museum with security cameras. I don't want the times to ruin the books of childhood and I don't want my experiences as a child to rule the books I read in the classroom. I know that the students I have come to know as amazing readers relate far better to this new and improved Nancy Drew. I know that they love the characters in A VIEW FROM SATURDAY just as I loved Claudia. I am good with that. I don't think those books will ever fall out of fashion for those of us who read them at the perfect time in our lives. (Hopefully, we'll realize that the mom jeans have fallen out of fashion though!)