Students have not always been exposed to the language of literature in the ways they are today. By that I mean the technical language of reading and writing that brings with it a deeper understanding of a text. If we want them to comprehend, to think, and to succeed, we must continue to expect students to reach for this type of deeper understanding.
That's why we need to have conversations about text structure, main idea, and genre. These are the tools we use to bring us closer to an author and his/her subject or storyline. Genre, for example, is the type of text we read. Technically speaking, genre is defined as "a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter".
I have always believed that the best way to teach reading, and foster the enjoyment of reading is to allow readers to choose books in their preferred genres and at their personal reading levels. At the same time, we must all recognize that branching out to explore new territories can also be rewarding. I look at this with a fairly eclectic approach. It is much akin to a buffet: we peruse the buffet, looking past the sneeze guard, and we find the dishes we enjoy, but we also might take a little from an unknown dish. Just to try it. Just to see if it might be something we like. The same is true of our reading choices.
My four-year-old, like most other four-year-olds, tastes food with his eyes - judging a book by its cover, so to speak. Somehow, he has decided he does not have to put food into his mouth to know he likes or does not like it. He misses out on so many good dishes because of this. The same things happens when we quickly dismiss a book because the cover or the title does not appeal to us. There might just be entire food pallets out there, just waiting for us to discover them, but we will only know them if we try them first.
I'm not suggesting students should try a little bit of everything - that would be unreasonable - but to try an occasional new taste, or in our case an occasional new genre. That makes sense...doesn't it?