Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The young readers' dilemma

Sometimes it really hits me just how many and varied are the responsibilities of parenting. There's stuff like the values we model, and then there's other stuff like making sure they get to all their teeth when they brush. It's a big gig.

It's a gig that gives me infinite joy, (oh, and sleepless nights occasionally too) but I don't take the responsibility lightly. I'm conscientious, that's just how I'm wired.

And I'm also a librarian. 

So, imagine this:
I go to my daughter's parent/teacher interview, and am told that my child is doing just fine (good), but....there's one thing....(uh oh)

she could do with extending her reading.

As I walk past the empty playground after the meeting I erupt; "bwah hahahaha". Because the irony certainly isn't lost on me. 

But, I'm so glad for that parent/teacher meeting.  It got me to thinking. Both my older children have been hooked on reading book series - churned out, formulaic and safe. Up until now, I mostly just let them be, reassuring myself that 'atleast they were reading', and afraid that if I interfered I might upset them in their embryonic phase of 'becoming readers'.

But after a nudge from the teacher, I began to think about what the kids have been missing out on by playing it safe. Although I do think that reading of any kind is valuable, and I don't want to get to a stage when I am judging a book good or bad,  I was reminded of the value in encouraging children to read books with depth, books that stretch them, that allow them to really see life through another's eyes, to develop empathy, and inhabit someone else's  world, sharing their experience of challenges faced and overcome.  I know that this much is true: thanks to an incredible home library, and no TV, I read a lot of amazing books when I was young, and by experiencing hardship, difference and other people's worlds vicariously, I  created a strong foundation of experience to draw on in the face of life's real challenges big and small.

So, by the time I arrived home that night after the meeting, I had a plan. To set both of them a challenge; a "five book challenge", each list containing books that I knew would take them out of their comfort zones, that would challenge their thinking, but also that would hopefully inspire them to keep on reaching for books that 'stretched' them. 

And, I've been amazed! Like me, sometimes they just need a nudge.


  1. How great that you have the info available to hand them a list! Although I agree with the teacher in some ways I certainly see where you were coming from... children/teens etc reading is a HUGE thing. It is amazing how many DON'T read. Even I like to pick a series and immerse myself in only that for a while. We all need a little nudge sometimes to get out of our comfort zones :)

  2. What a great idea to set them a challenge! I love how you responded to disappointing news- great parenting!

  3. Great idea. My two are firmly entrenched in the Goosbumps Horrorland and Gerinimo Stilton series. A wee challenge could be a good thing for them too.


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