One of my wonderful sixth grade students asked me to read a book that she really likes. She told me she connects with one of the main characters and felt that she was like the character in many ways. She even allowed me to borrow her personal copy to read. Now, I have quite a few students who want me to read what they're reading and, when I can, I do. I am always honest with them in my opinion of the book after I read it, and it's never been a problem...until now.
You see, I'm having a real problem with this one, and I haven't resolved it yet. My first thought was to blog about it, and then I remembered I had decided to take a break from blogging. I now realize it's my cheapest form of therapy. I need to write things down to figure them out.
So,...here I am.
The book my student likes so much? It's bad. Why is it bad? It is poorly written, it feels...clunky...when you read it. There isn't a nice flow to how it reads or describes scenes and characters. The dialogue is pretty cheesy, too. I think the plot is ridiculous, but...I tried to look past that and just focus on what the student must like about it,...and I am at a loss. A real loss.
What do I say to this precious student? How do I tell her I don't like her book at all? We've only known each other four weeks now, so my first feedback to her on the first book she suggests is really important. I know this. I know what it means to her, but I can't say a book is good - or that I enjoy it - when I don't.
To be completely honest, I am forcing myself to read it now because I hate to really pass judgment until I've read it all. (Sigh) Trust me, it feels like a beating. It's a horrible way to feel about a book. It makes me think this student doesn't truly read as well as she wants me to think she does, and I don't want to hurt her feelings.
A friend of mine, who is also a teacher, said that I should suggest another good, well-written fiction book on the same subject. The student could read it and see the difference for herself. I love that idea, and will do that, it just doesn't solve the problem of looking in the face of this child and telling her the book she asked me to read is...awful. (No, of course, I won't actually use that word, but I will use it to tell you. It really IS awful.)
I still have to finish it.
Maybe I could convince her to start the other book before I finish this one and say we'll swap reviews after she finishes the other? I could hope that she sees the difference for herself. And if she doesn't...?