Middle School should come with a warning label and a set of instructions–but it doesn’t. I know there are kids who sail right through without a moment of angst–I just have never met these kids. After all, middle school is the last step before high school, a.k.a the land where everyone is “too.” Too tall, too short, too thin, too heavy, too smart, too dumb … There’s a lot to contend with in middle school.
Why your middle school kid would be open to any additional work that even remotely resembles schoolwork is a good question. Kids this age are intensely social, intensely private, and intensely independent. They have their assignment books and if it’s not in there, it’s not easily on their radar. So let’s mix it up a bit.
One simple rule to make and keep is the “no movie until you read the book” rule. Hated by all kids, it states that if a person is old enough to read the book, they must read the book before they see the movie. I’ve found that if I read the book, too, it gives us something to talk about in small amounts. It also allows me to join with my child in looking forward to seeing the movie–although I hasten to add that I am neither going to the movie with my child nor seeing the movie until it is available to the home audience. My children and I have, however, been able to discuss things like voice and style and whether or not the writing is good now that they understand I’m going to remain firmly in the background and not turn the entire experience into a much-dreaded teachable moment. And that I’m not going to go on and on and on and on …
As for discussing the book… Voice has to do with the way the author speaks to the reader. It may be that the author sounds like a lecturer throughout the book. It may be that the author has the voice of a teenager in the book. It may be that the author has the voice of an older narrator type in the book. If the voice is working, it will grab the reader and lead that reader through to the end. Jane Austen’s voice is not JK Rowling’s voice.
Style has to do with whether the writing is formal or informal. Is the vernacular used? Are slang words used? Curse words? Are these used well in the book or are the words sprinkled in to give the book an authenticity it can’t quite carry? Jane Austen’s style is not JK Rowling’s style.
Whether or not the writing is good is both subjective and objective. One person may find run-on sentences to be a wonderful thing because it gives the book a breathless quality. Another person may find those same sentences enough to be cringe-worthy. Your child is learning the basics of good writing in school. Chances are good they’re discussing it in their classes and with their own work. Chances are good your child will have an opinion about the writing and also be able to point to examples in the writing. There are those who claim that JK Rowling uses too many adjectives. I’ve always been too busy turning the pages to notice.
If you manage to walk the fine line to discussing the book with your child, don’t overdo it once they see the movie. Chances are far better than even that they’ll have an opinion about the movie versus the book and wouldn’t you know it? You are the perfect person for that conversation–but only if you’re not trying to be a buddy and intrude into his/her life. I know–that’s about as clear as mud. Which is why that set of instructions would really come in handy!