Friday, September 24, 2010

Let Kids Choose What They Read

Children learn to read—and hopefully develop a love of reading—at their own pace. As parents we feel a responsibility to help with and sometimes speed this process.

As a young child, my oldest daughter was not a big reader. Perhaps that’s because when she was in kindergarten, I would sometimes fall asleep while she read her nightly reading homework to me. She’d jab me with her elbow occasionally to keep me from falling into a deep REM sleep and, looking at me with those big blue eyes, ask if I was listening. Yes, honey, I was just resting my eyes. (Who gets the “Bad Mom Award”? Um . . . that would be me.)

Despite my parenting flaws, her reluctance to read throughout elementary school was difficult for me to understand. I have been a reader for as long as I can remember, and I devoured books in grade school. In an attempt to get her more interested in reading, I suggested books to her that I enjoyed as a kid. As much as I may have wanted her to read the chronicles of Laura Ingalls Wilder—or The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald (see previous post)— because I loved them as a child, she was not interested.

What I failed to grasp then is that kids have to find what is interesting to them. As new readers, children need to find books that spark their interests. They need to find books with topics and writing styles that speak to them. They need to choose their own books.

So, the next time you feel compelled to recommend a book, just take a step back and let them browse the bookshelf. As a parent you have a right to censor material that you find age inappropriate or offensive. (You really want to read about a farting dog? Well, okay.) It may be difficult at first, but letting them make their own choices will help them develop their relationship with reading.

My daughter is a teenager now and she loves to read. Her choices (books with vampires, witches, zombies, or monsters) may be different from what I would choose for her, but at least she’s reading and enjoying it. The more they enjoy it, the more they will do it!

Now, I have some reading to finish. I won’t post over the weekends—that’s family time! Enjoy yours, and don’t forget to visit next week!

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