A page turner for parents who want their child to read

Thank you! Thank you! Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone should be hearing that often from readers of this delightful book. In fact, anyone who has struggled with getting a child to learn to love books will find "Deconstructing Penguins" refreshing and full of new ideas.

The Goldstones, who are parents as well as authors, don't accept the prevalent theories of how to encourage kids to read. They don't believe that unless books are super easy, kids will get discouraged and give up. They do think that what a child reads matters: "Goosebumps" may be entertaining, but it doesn't help develop critical thinking skills.

Still, it's one thing to hold strong opinions about reading and quite another to try them out. The duo wondered if they would succeed when they developed a parent-child book discussion group at their local library. What happened over the next six years will make readers cheer.

The Goldstones started with the popular kids' book "Mr. Popper's Penguins," and asked the group, "What's it all about?" Is it just the tale of a house painter who trains penguins and has adventures with them? Or is the author sending another message beneath the surface?

The group read books as diverse as "The Phantom Tollbooth" and "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." They discussed whether the ends justify the means, the importance of hanging onto a dream, gender stereotypes (what if the heroine doesn't want to marry the prince), and more.

No one was bored. In fact, as children became too old for the club, they demanded that another group be formed.

Just a middle-class experiment that wouldn't work elsewhere? Possibly. But the Goldstones' idea deserves wide consideration.

Judy Lowe is the Monitor's Living editor and a former preschool teacher.

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