What do you do when you don’t like what you child is reading?
Does your child consistently reach for titles that you’re not a fan of? Is your child’s library bag filled with selections that are too easy or perhaps too mature? Do you disapprove of some of the content in the books your child selects? Do you wish your child would broaden their scope of literary interests? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, read on!
I long to live in a world where ALL kids are excited about reading. The children’s literature market is wide – and full of choices. There are books from our childhood that we adore, new series, and books based on popular characters and movies. From fiction to non-fiction, easy readers to middle grade chapter books, Little House on the Prairie to Captain Underpants – the market is VAST. So, what do you do when you’re unsure about a title your child selects, or if you just want him/her to change up their choices?
Parents need to decide what is important to them when allowing their child the freedom to choose books. Does a “naughty word” or an instance of name-calling make a book off-limits? What about magic? Relationships? Depictions of bullying?
Content aside, there are other factors to consider when allowing your child to choose books. Are you okay with your elementary child choosing only picture books? Is it like pulling teeth to get your child to select a non-fiction book? No matter the struggle, here are a few suggestions to end book battles.
1. Read the book yourself
Before you put a book on the “no-read” list, read it for yourself. If it is a longer title like a book from the Harry Potter series, read the first few chapters. Get to know the books and characters your children are interested in. Read through the material and then decide if it aligns with your family values.
Reading the books your child reads also provides opportunities for discussion and a chance to connect with your kids.
2. My Choice, Your Choice
If your child chooses books that you’re not thrilled with, either due to content, length, or level, initiate a choice rotation system. Allow your child to choose a book. Once they have finished, pick their next book. You just might expand their horizon or introduce them to a new literary friend.
3.Recognize the Teachable Moments
There have been a few book series that my daughter particularly loves, that I may not be a huge fan of. One series features a little girl who uses poor grammar and frequently disrespects adults. Another series contains characters who don’t exactly personify kindness and character. I let her read both series. Know why? The books provide us with some incredible opportunities for discussion. I’m able to talk to her about how she might handle things, or how she would react to situations. We talk about what she might say to the characters in the book, and whether or not she’d choose to be close friends with them. Some books serve as fantastic catalysts towards discussions about values, ideals, and the way they want to live their life.
If a book your child is interested in is a bit “borderline”, opt to share it together as a read-aloud. For example, I LOVE (love love love) Roald Dahl. However, I’m not super keen on the idea of my four year old calling people twits and their parents idiots, along with some saltier words sprinkled throughout his books. Towards this end, we read several of his stories together, allowing me to skip over or change some of the questionable words. This is a great option if you are trying to avoid a bit of language or perhaps a scary sequence.
5.Do What Works for YOU
If you feel strongly about something, don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Remember that you have the right to parent in the way that works for you. If you feel like a book doesn’t work for your family, it’s okay to opt out of reading it. If you feel comfortable with something, go for it! (Yes, even when people are questioning and judging you!)
Recently a friend posted about how horrified she was with a book selection her child had made. My daughter happened to be reading the same book. We’re both right, because we’re both making a choice that works for us. If you’ve done your research and figured out what fits in with your values and ideals, go with your gut and do what works for you.
Help your child fall in love with books AND make thoughtful choices. Read with them. Read to them. Review what’s on their shelves. Get involved and help your child become a responsible and wise reader.