I struggle with how much adults should limit or guide children’s reading choices. On one hand, literacy advocates argue that it is important for kids to choose which books they read. On the other hand, there must be limits to what we allow kids to read. We restrict the messages kids are exposed to from movies, T.V. shows, video games and toys, and I believe that it is important for parents, teachers and librarians to restrict the messages kids are exposed to from books as well.
For example, when my son was in kindergarten, I purchased Big Nate in a Class for Himself by Lincoln Peirce for him. I had heard that the Big Nate books were great — very entertaining, popular with kids and attracting reluctant readers right and left. However, when I read the first couple of pages aloud to my husband, we both agreed that this was not a book we wanted to share with our kindergartener. In Big Nate in a Class for Himself, Big Nate’s teacher Mrs. Godfrey is described in very unflattering terms: “That’s Mrs. Godfrey. She’s like a dog. A big, ugly, nasty dog.” My son still thinks teachers are awesome, and I am not about to [knowingly] hand him books that introduce him to characters who tease their teachers.
It is valuable for adults to guide children’s reading choices for other reasons as well. Adults play an important role in introducing kids to all of the wonderful books that exist. Furthermore, for read-aloud time with young children to be successful, I believe that it is important to choose a certain proportion of good quality books that entertain parents as well as children.
Whether to encourage children to read books they love or to set limits is not an either or decision. Both are important. I know this. Yet, when the kids and I head to the library, I struggle to both support my kids’ book choices and set limits when warranted.
Next, a confession, which leads me to this week’s challenge…
I sometimes limit what my kids read for reasons that I cannot entirely justify.
I avoid checking out books about cars (b/c I do not want to teach my kids that gas guzzling cars are toys), princesses (b/c I do not want to teach my kids that girls should aspire to be beautiful and saved by princes), and dinosaurs (b/c as a child I was slightly annoyed and intimidated by kids who spouted out long dinosaur names). I cringe when I see my son reading fantasy books (Magic Tree House books, Dinosaur Cove books, Beastquest books etc.).
I do not criticize my kids’ reading choices or prohibit them from checking books about any subject out. However, I am not supportive. I do not seek out good books about cars, princesses or dinosaurs. I compulsively rearrange my oldest son’s stacks of books, and his fantasy books end up hidden below more realistic stories about Ramona Quimby and Alvin Ho.
This week, my challenge to myself and to you is to check out a book that your child will truly love. Take a moment to consider whether there is a type of book that your child loves that you have been avoiding checking out for them. Error on the side of supporting your child’s reading choices.
This week, I will be scouring the library shelves for good princess books and fantasy books. What about you?
Summer Reading Challenge:
- Week 1. Talk with your children about the kinds of books they would like to read this summer. Go to the library!
- Week 2. Get your children their own library cards.
- Week 3. Create a reading nook.
- Week 4. Check out a book for each child that you think they will really like.
- Week 5. Assess how frequently your family makes it to the library. Decide whether to establish a library routine or not.
- Week 6. Check out a children’s magazine at the library this week. Consider subscribing to a children’s magazine.