For people who read a lot about children's reading choices, Janine Wood's article "Please, I Want Some Dickens" in the Christian Science Monitor will sound familiar, as will the structure: get an idea in your head, don't tell anyone, and then bop everyone for not agreeing with your unspoken idea.
Influenced by William Bennett, Jr.,'s guide The Educated Child, Wood wants her preteen son to read some Dickens. But why don't more people read Dickens? She goes to the library and sees mostly titles about "contemporary social issues." Then, it's off to the bookstore, where she finds only Gossip Girls and books about "intergalactic battles," yadda, yadda, yadda. Wood makes disparaging remarks about a bookseller who mentions romance and chick lit to potential buyers. "I felt as though I were at Wal-Mart instead of the bookstore," she writes. And, of course, the bookstore employees don't measure up because they, too, have not read Dickens lately. I guessed they missed William Bennett's memo.
I'm going to go out on a limb here, say, about an inch, and suggest this: the subtext of this kind of piece is always "I'm smarter than you are." Which is too bad, because toward the end of the article, Wood makes some good suggestions for creating more interest in the classics. One resource is the Great Books Foundation. That group offers a Junior Great Books series, which I checked out online. I was tickled to see Daniel Pinkwater's Blue Moose included in the second-grade anthology, along with Beatrix Potter's Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, Howard Pyle's Apple of Contentment, Kipling's How the Camel Got His Hump, and a number of folktales and other works. I have not seen or ordered these Junior Great Books, but they sound fun. Fun is good, and so are new places to find good reading. So, thank you, "Please, I Want Some Dickens," for that.