I am reminded of what Jim Trelease had to say in his book The Read Aloud Handbook. He would ask adult readers what they read as children. Many times they were reading comic books and serial books that we would tend to view as “fluffy” reading. His conclusion was that it was the quantity of time spent reading rather than the quality of material that inspired adult readers. I don’t have the book in hand at the moment so I hope I’m remembering his idea correctly.
Now, I do think that students need exposure to quality literature, so I’m not advocating supplying our reading shelves with comic books. But in observing students over time, I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to make the stories accessible to students. By this, I’m thinking of their comprehension level and reading level. No one will read consistently for enjoyment if they are always wading their way through books and ideas over their heads. We have a few current eighth graders who continue to amaze me in their book selections–Ben Hur, The Last of the Mohicans, etc. But the class of seventh graders below them would be lost on the first page. It’s difficult to get them to read much of anything that isn’t assigned. On the same vein, years ago there was a student who had reading difficulties, though he loved stories. He spent a lot of time (as a 3rd – 7th grader) reading Curious George, Bill Peet, and similar type stories. He got to the point that if he found a book that interested him he would wade through it, even if it took a long time. By the time he was through 8th grade he’d made it through all of the Roll of Thunder trilogy.