Like many of you (as I imagine you), Sweet Farts is not something I ever contemplated picking up. Aside from being 43 years old, I also never contemplated bringing it home to my five-year-old, since I thought only the worst could come from it, as parents--especially parents of boys--should instinctively know.
I try to take several multi-day backpacking trips every summer, and last year my son started expressing interest in camping. I decided a light introduction was in order, so I took him to a "resort" in the Cascades--a compound of nine rustic cabins at the northern edge of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, all lacking electricity and the usual civilized amenities. The caretakers met us at the parking lot and drove us up the mountain on a deeply rutted eight-mile logging road, dropping us off with our packs and cooler at our tiny A-frame called Larkspur.
And then it rained. Not your typical Pacific Northwest drizzle, but a socked-in-drops-the-size-of-hummingbirds mountain storm. We made a couple of easy forays into the forest and called it good, deciding to wait out the rain till morning, but in the morning, it was even worse. Suddenly I was looking at 24 hours in a 20x10 unelectified box with an easily bored pre-K jaguar. Edmond DantÃ¨s never had it so bad.
In a move of total desperation, I reached for my Kindle, which I had brought in order to catch up with my unread pile of virtual New Yorkers. (By the way, that's the biggest benefit of the Kindle that I have found: there's no guilt in an invisible stack of unread magazines.) Incredibly, I had one bar of reception, and given the weather, maybe only one chance to get it right. It had to be something that would take some time to read aloud, while absolutely guaranteed to keep him entertained. Sweet Farts.
I started reading, my son predictably doubled over at all of the expected places. But while I was reading, I learned something else about Sweet Farts: it's actually about teaching scientific method. As it turns out, the protagonist--Keith--is a fourth-grade boy with a perception problem. That is, he's mistakenly fingered as the perpetrator of several heinous gas attacks, and accordingly ostracized and dubbed "S.B.D." by his classmates. Rather than play the victim, Keith takes the offensive, planning a series of experiments designed to eliminate the foulest odors of human gas. A quest to find the titular Sweet Farts.
Still with me?
Author Raymond Bean (a nom de plume) is a school teacher, so we may infer that he is an expert in the field. He takes the experiments seriously, and Keith's hypothoses and test results are rigorously documented. By the end, the reader has a good sense of the process required to reach sound conclusions based on a series of testing and iteration.
Also, there are lots of fart jokes, and my kid loved it. So Mr. Bean seems to be onto something where it comes to getting kids interested in reading. After the jump, take a look at his five tips to encourage young people to develop a lifelong love of words in the age of video games and infinite cable TV. And check out all three Sweet Farts books, as well as other titles by Raymond Bean.
Comments? Let 'em rip.For Young Readers, Is It Books vs. Everything Else?
If you're anything like me, you went through periods in your childhood when you didn't like reading. My earliest memories of books are wonderful. The picture book period in my life was filled with Dr. Seuss, Disney characters, and Frog and Toad. But, as I learned to read on my own, I remember finding it harder and harder to find books that I liked. My parents and teachers expected me to read longer chapter books, and I wasn't always onboard. It was about this time that I started playing a new gadget called Atari, discovered this channel called MTV, and my family got a brand new color TV with a newfangled remote control (with cord).
Today, countless distractions, most of them digital, compete for our kids' attention (and they're much cooler than Atari). Kids have choices when it comes to their entertainment, lots of choices. Books have stiff competition and some parents are left feeling they're fighting a battle of books vs. everything else. So how can you help your youngster learn to love reading in a world saturated by media and all things digital? You can't"¦I'm kidding, of course you can, if you try some of the tips below.
5. Read With Your Child: Many parents stop reading with their children around the time he/she can read chapter length books independently. Stop what you're doing when they have reading time and join them. I don't care how old they are, they'll learn to love reading with you.
4. Reduce Book Hopping: Many kids read bits and pieces of books. They read a few pages of one book on Monday and then a few pages of another book on Tuesday and so on. Encourage your child to read entire books. If he abandons a book make sure he understands why. Was it too hard, too boring, too "lovey"?
3. Find Balance: Many kids watch tv or play video games for hours a day. Help your child find a balance between digital time and reading time. Sacrificing one or two episodes of Spongebob or iCarly a day can do wonders.
2. Set Goals: Many kids languish in the same book for weeks on end, never really connecting to the book. Prior to reading a book, set a goal for the completion date. Instead of having time limits for daily reading, i.e.: thirty minutes a night. Try setting page goals, i.e.: twenty pages a night.
1. Get Tech Savy: Young readers love digital devices! Get him his own digital reader. He'll love the ability to buy books instantly and digital readers make finding new books easier than ever before.
There's no perfect plan for helping your child love reading. Be supportive, patient, present, and let the video games and tv cool off a bit.