Reading Dilemma – Seven Tips For Choosing Children’s Books

When Kierra was a little girl, she loved the Juni B. Jones acim. For her birthday, she requested Juni B. For Christmas, she wanted Juni B. We got them for her. She collected all of the Juni B. books. I was thrilled that my granddaughter wanted to read.

Then I read a Juni B. book and wasn’t so thrilled. Juni B. uses dreadful grammar, talks back, calls people stupid, and acts out. Hardly a great role model.

I became obnoxiously self-righteous about Juni B. I wasn’t alone. Some folks tried to get Juni B. banned and got so much publicity that a nationally-known newspaper ran a pros and con feature article on this fictional kid. Oh, please, lighten up, Grandma. The Juni B. books are charming, hilarious and brilliantly capture the spirit of a five-year-old-eventually she does turn six. Not every book needs to be great literature.

If you don’t care for a book a teacher has assigned, ask the teacher how they’re using the book. What’s the point? What do they wish children to learn? What’s the context of an event, of “bad” language, violence, or sexual content? Read the whole book yourself. Don’t listen to what someone else says about the book or about one questionable paragraph.

Or ask politely that your child be excused from reading the book in question. Your child’s teacher may have permission slips you can sign. Better yet, spend some time discussing the book with your child. Talking about why the book may not represent the values of your family. Find out what your child’s learned from the book. How they’ve interpreted it. It’s quite likely your child will see a book differently than you do.

So far, we have no evidence that suggests reading “bad” books create “bad” children. Unlike the research that suggests violent video games may, in fact, cause some children to become more aggressive. No research indicating that books about “gay” penguins turn children into homosexuals. That comic books make kids too lazy to read “real” books.

The publicity challenged books receive only causes more people, including older children and teens, to read the book. Certainly defeats the purpose.

Banned books aren’t even “forbidden fruit” anymore. One teen remarked that the banned books he read were lame. If he wanted porn, he didn’t have to read a banned book, just go to the internet or listen to his music.

For better or worse, today’s teens are considerably more sophisticated and worldly than we often realize. And very young children less likely to make metaphorical, subjective interpretations of books than we might.

Use these parenting tips to help your kids read:

  • Let kids choose the books they want to read. Books don’t have to be up to your literary standards. Research has shown that kids who read comics, books with bad grammar, and other “trash,” eventually become more discriminating readers and read frequently.
  • Consider not simply your child’s reading level but their maturity. You may have a 6th grader who reads at a high school level but isn’t mature enough to be reading books at that level. Another precocious pre-teen might be mature enough.
  • Avoid protecting children. Don’t say “no” to age-appropriate books about war, crime, child neglect, children who get into trouble, even sexuality. Again, talk to your kids about what they’re reading. Why they chose the book. What they’ve learned. What they think about the book.
  • Encourage fun books, silly books, books that make everybody laugh. Read them aloud.
  • Help resistant readers find books with characters like them who do things they do. Talk like they talk. Books in present time, not the classics.
  • Keep up with children’s literature. check out your local bookstore.
  • Help choose the book at the library if your child seems lost in what book to pick. Suggest books based on their interests, not what you read as a child or think they should read.

Just get them reading.

And you can also claim your fun Brain Quiz-a-Week. It’s FREE. Test your knowledge. What do your kids know? Have a contest.

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