My wife and I were brainstorming tonight about what to do with our son. He’s a bit behind in his reading and we were trying to figure out what books would be good for him to read. I have a good number of books that I love and think he would be able to grasp but they’re far beyond his “grade level” and therefore would require work on his part to get through. While there are a number of children’s books out there that he’d surely enjoy, we were trying to figure out what would really GRAB him and make him enjoy reading. And then I thought back to my youth. It was one of those memories tucked away that I never think about but was pleasant to recall. “Choose Your Own Adventure.”
I didn’t really enjoy reading as a child, it was a chore to me like most school related functions were back then. My feelings didn’t last too long however. I remember the thing that brought me around were those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. Man, those things were the best! This was pre-Nintendo so I hadn’t yet been corrupted by the sweet sounds and lights of electronic entertainment. Thinking back, those books were probably the next best thing to video games (if not better?). Sure, there was lots of reading, but the ability to not only live in but actually direct the story of another person was fantastic! To a young fresh and limitless imagination, I was in those pages living what was happening… I loved it. By the time I reached junior high I had already read the Lord of the Rings books and was a tad too mature for the young CYOA books but then I found the role-playing ones. Now, I’m not sure any of you had the pleasure of reading these books because I don’t recall them being very popular with my peers, but basically they were CYOA books where you would choose from a list of equipment what you would take on your journey. Some of them actually had fights in them too where you would roll dice to see if you hit your enemy. I hadn’t even heard of Dungeons and Dragons yet but this was most assuredly my initiation into the realm of pen and paper role playing games. While I was guilty of skipping ahead at times or saving pages, there were many times that I would simply start over when I failed to savor the details of another world. It was an excellent concept that got children to read (and re-read) literature without getting caught up in the bore of reading. While I do love video games, I fear that the variety of electronic media/entertainment out there is killing the more old fashioned/intellectual forms of entertainment for children (yes, yes, Harry Potter was awesome but how often is a children’s book that great written?).
My wife and I talked, we looked through our book collection, and I have made of my mind. I’m going to get my son a CYOA book, someway, somehow. And if he doesn’t like it, then I’ll read it. Hell, I’ll probably read it either way. And if you ever happen upon one in your travels, I highly recommend picking it up.