I have many blog posts about individual books, and groups of them, that I want to actually type up, but getting the time to get it all down sometimes poses challenges. That said, this wonderful article was in the Washington Post and deserves to be read by many many people, especially those concerned about what their kids read.
So tonight when I was scrolling through Facebook while putting my younger one to bed (she plays with my hair for 5 minutes), I found this outstanding article. It struck me because I have had conversations with other moms about letting kids read books that “upset them” or show things we might not want our “sheltered” kids to face yet. What I’ve always said is let them read the book.
Kids read books and understand them on different levels than we do. I mean, even when my older daughter was reading Harry Potter there was the whole fact that book 7 upset her at times that didn’t phase me, but the part that left me bawling was no big deal to her. We have read a wide variety of books and they have made her a more well-rounded reader and a more well-rounded person, even when they aren’t exactly my favorite books, or hers.
Kids learn TONS from books. They learn that the world around us is both wonderful and cruel, but they do it in a safe environment. They learn how to treat people and how not to treat people. They learn that there are good people in the world and truly horrible ones. I mean, no one would ever want to have parents like Matilda Wormwood’s, but kids innately understand that they are a caricature and move on.
I will admit that when J was much younger and reading things on a level that was truly unusual for say a 4 year old, I did a touch of censoring. I fully admit that I had a truly visceral reaction to Junie B Jones, which I ranted about so long ago it is on a different blog, but that did have to do with not wanting my 4 year old calling things stupid.
We protect our kids as much as we can, but it is also our job to teach them to be empathetic of others and aware that sometimes life sucks. A book might make them cry, it might make them question things, but the glorious thing is that they still come to us so we can be there to help them make sense of it all.
When we were reading Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics (which I still need to write about here), a big focus was on banning books. One person who has had many of her books on the “banned book list” was Judy Blume and she put it perfectly when interviewed by the Telegraph in 2014:
Parents worry “much too much” about what their children are reading, said the author Judy Blume. She argued that they will simply “self-censor” by getting bored of anything they do not understand.
So let your kids read. Let them read things that you think are perfect for them and let them read things that you can’t stand. I can only imagine what my parents thought when I was reading Sweet Valley High Books back in 6th grade, you know, after I begged my mother to allow me to read the Clan of the Cave Bear. Let them read for fun and not for their lexile level. Because the more you read, the more you grow.