After the girls were born, I was thrilled with the idea of sharing some of my favorite childhood books with them. I incorrectly assumed that their tastes would be similar to mine, especially since I purchased all their books in those early years.
Once in school, however, my daughters got a taste of choosing their own reading material from the library and at various book fairs. They were more interested in Fancy Nancy, Junie B. Jones, and Bad Kitty than the characters I had grown to love. The gap has widened as the girls have gotten older. Now pre-teens, they are reading dystopian fiction, fantasy (never my favorite), and books with fractured families. They’ve shown no interest in my 1971 Little House series that has been read so many times most of the books are falling apart or my Anne of Green Gables series that I received as a present for my 11th birthday.
Can I learn to be okay with that? What alternatives do I have?
If you’re struggling with the same issue, here are a few things I’ve found helpful.
Set rules about what is appropriate reading material.
While it is important to nurture a child’s individuality, that doesn’t mean children should be reading books that are inappropriate for their age. When my girls began choosing their own reading material, the rule was that if I was unfamiliar with a book, they had to show it to me first. Most times, the content was fine, but there was one occasion where a friend lent my oldest daughter a copy of a book I didn’t feel comfortable with her reading. The book was returned to the friend, making me–at least temporarily in my daughter’s eyes–the worst mom ever. She got over it. At this point, both girls know what I will and won’t allow them to read, so they make appropriate choices.
Talk with your children about the books they are reading.
It’s important to talk to your children about the books they are reading. Not only does it let them know you support their interests, it’s an easy way to encourage them to talk to you. Especially as children get older, they don’t share as much with their parents as they used to. Talking about books is one way you can engage them without controversy. If they know you support them and want to know more about what interests them, you might even find them starting more conversations with you.
Use your children’s reading choices to encourage critical thinking skills.
Who knew that watching Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark would lead to my daughter’s interest in World War II? She enjoys reading books set during this time period. She loved The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. She has read The Diary of Anne Frank and used this book for a school project. She is currently reading The Gates of Zion by Bodie and Brock Thoene. This has led to numerous conversations about the evil of the Nazi regime. It has spurred conversations about current conflicts throughout the world. At the age of 12, our daughter thinks about a lot of things. These books–and even some movies–are helping her to develop critical thinking skills she will always use.
What are some books your child is reading that can do the same? Something as simple as a picture book on Creation can be used for these purposes.
Step out of your comfort zone.
As I’ve already said, I’m not a huge lover of fantasy. I’m really more of a historical fiction or nonfiction kind of person. While my daughter was in elementary school, a teacher gave her a book as a gift. I wasn’t sure if I wanted her reading it, so we decided to read it together. I ended up really loving it. This book helped me realize that just because I’m not a huge fan of a certain genre doesn’t mean a good story won’t draw me in. Don’t be afraid to read a book that your child is reading, even if the genre is new to you.
God created us as unique individuals. Learning to accept your child’s reading choices, provides parents the opportunity to nurture that individuality. With the proper guidance, our children can learn to explore a variety of books that will make them stronger readers and critical thinkers.
But don’t think I’ve given up hope on my Little House and Anne of Green Gables books. I have a second shot once my kids have children of their own.