Accepting Your Child’s Reading Choices

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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.

 

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Comments

Accepting Your Child’s Reading Choices — 10 Comments

  1. In 6th grade, my oldest son had a teacher who was overly critical of his reading choices. She complained to him not only about the book he was reading (a biography of Steve Jobs) but how long it was taking him to read it. It got to the point where I had to confront the teacher about it. “Is he reading when he should be paying attention to other lessons?” No. “Is his reading disrupting the class?” No. “Is his reading of this book interfering with the reading he is required to do for the class?” No. The teacher even admitted to me that she did allow free reading and that the children were all encouraged to choose their own books, without the aid of a suggested reading list, for free reading time in class, and that she did not tell any of the other students what they could or could not read. It was, as my son reported to me, only the reading choice of my son that she had a problem with. I asked her why and she said, “Because I don’t understand technology! Besides, what is the point of reading about a dead man?” Yes, she actually said that to me! I told her using that logic, my son also should not be studying pre-algebra (as I don’t understand combining letters and numbers) or history (as most of the people in the history books are also dead.) She did not like that at all! “Bottom line,” I told her, “his father and I have approved his reading book. So long as he is not slipping Playboy between the pages or reading at times that disrupt learning, there is no reason for him to not be reading that book.”

    It was so disheartening that a teacher was giving him such a hard time. I don’t understand his fascination with technological subjects or sci-fi and fantasy stories. But my son is READING. To me, that is the important part. So long as he is not reading things that are inappropriate for his age, I have no problems with his reading materials.

    Lynn

    • That’s too bad, Lynn. We spend so much time encouraging reading that to give a child such a hard time over his totally appropriate selection could turn him off reading for a while.

      Praying things go well for the remainder of the school year.

  2. A great post, Cheryl. I agree with you.

    I think we are kindred spirits ~ I loved the Anne of Green Gables Series & the Little House books too. Oh, & it was reading Rilla of Ingleside that I learnt more about WW1 & became interested in the differences between that & WW2 ~ which over here in UK is taught heavily in schools, particularly the Battle of Britain.

    I’m also not a great lover of fantasy either. However, I did love Peter Pan (I think that had a lot to do with the fact that it had a Wendy in it!) The Chronicles of Narnia & John Houghton’s Oswain Tales. My mum really does not like fantasy, but she would read the stories to us. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realised how much she disliked that type of fiction!

    • Thanks Wendy. Kindred spirits we are. Rilla of Ingleside was a tough book to read considering some of the content, but the ending made it worth it.

      My nephew just worked on The World Wars that aired on History Channel over Memorial Day weekend. That series connected the major players and the roles they played in WWI and WWII. I found it fascinating.

  3. Great post, especially on this subject because I just love picture books. As my grandchildren grow, I’ll be looking more into Chapter Books.

  4. Great advice, the saying choose your battles comes to mind.
    With little boys, parents are often unwilling to count comic books as reading. My advice is if there are words on a page it counts, lol.

    • Corine, I am a big pick your battles person. With a strong-willed child in the house, I would spend all my time arguing otherwise. I read a lot of comics growing up. They definitely count. :) Thanks for the comments.

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