This book was written to help you to understand and to discuss fiction with your children. The ideas presented here are based on the knowledge that there can be great joy in reading, and that good literature can enrich anyone's life.
Of course, there is value in solitary reading, but the enjoyment that can be found in stories is greater if it can be shared with others. There are models here of conversations with young readers as a way of showing how reading experiences can be enjoyed by both the young readers and their teachers.
Many adults, faced with the challenge of teaching literature, have the feeling that the job is too great to be reasonable. True, it is a daunting enterprise, but it can be an exciting and fun experience. One of the saving aspects of this help you have chosen to give is that there are no "right" answers to the question, "What does this mean?"
Most writers, when asked this question about what they have written, reply, "I don't know, I just wrote it. What does it mean to you?" This is not a bad philosophy to have as a teacher of literature. Most experts agree that the reader must create the "meaning" of what is read. If the work means nothing to the reader, then, for that time and person, the work means nothing.
This is what makes teaching reading so exciting; there are no wrong answers either to that most important question about meaning. How can a child be wrong about what he or she understands? It is possible in factual material to misunderstand authors' intentions, but the reading of fiction does not work that way.
The important thing to keep in mind, as you read through this small book, is that reading should be fun. If the young reader does not enjoy reading, it may be because reading is seen as work, or the reader is either above or below the level of the material, or the material has not been selected with the reader's interests in mind. If your student does not like to read, change the program. Forcing a child who does not like to read the material may make that child hate the material. Change the material—not the child. The point of this type of reading is the enjoyment of it, not the information it contains.
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