It is my rare evening alone without my children. I decide to go to the local Mermaid Cafe for my favorite pseudo-Italian caffeinated beverage and read a new book by my favorite author; one that I have been anticipating for months.
While enjoying this book and sipping my caffeine a random person approaches me to criticize my reading selection and ask if I have read the latest Michael Eric Dyson book. When I state I have no interest in reading Mr. Dyson's book, this person tells me I should put my "drivel" away and “learn something.” That Mr. Dyson will "enlighten me" and his book is "good for me." So I reply:
“You have inaccurately deduced that I am socially and politically antiquated based on my recreational literature selections. Furthermore you have deduced based on my preferred leisure activity that I am academically deficient. It is quite abhorrent of you to assign yourself authority to malign my literature selections, and reassign materials you ascertain more appropriate. Your sentiments are objectionable and unsolicited. Take your leave, sir!”
The person looked at me with a confused expression and said: “huh?”
For those of you who do not want to grab a dictionary I basically used a lot of big words to say: "you are assuming I'm dumb and not "woke" because of what I chose to read for fun. That’s rude, I didn’t ask your opinion, and leave me alone.”
If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Dyson and his work, you may not understand how snarky my reply was. I borrowed Mr. Dyson's persona to reply to this rude stranger in Mermaid Cafe. Mr. Dyson likes big words. He delights, educates, and entertains by using multisyllabic words in his books and speaking engagements. He also talks about race relations and politics alot.
I may not read Mr. Dyson, but unbeknownst to the stranger I know who he is, and I respect his talents and body of work. I’ll even happily recommend his books to others. His topics of expertise is just not something I'll read for fun.
So what does this story have to do with kids?
Some parents are guilty of belittling their children’s reading choices, just like that stranger did to me; yet unlike me, children do not have the authority to contradict their parents and defend their reading preferences.
For example have you heard a parent say?
- That book is too easy for you.
- You read too many comic books; you need to read a “real book.”
- Why are you always reading _____________ series? Can’t you find something else?
- Ugh. (eye roll) That book again.
My professional recommendation: Stop that. Just stop it and let the kid read what they want.
I want your kid to FALL IN LOVE WITH READING. I want your kid to read not because they have to for homework, but because reading becomes vital nourishment to their souls. The only way for a child to fall in love with reading is to be allowed to freely read whatever they want. I am speaking from experience when I tell you that just like adults, children have different preferences about what they read for fun. Some kids like graphic novels while other kids will enjoy poetry. It doesn't matter. Unlike, food, there is no such thing as a "bad book."
I can provide you with so many professional papers written by experts explaining how reading for fun makes your child smarter, healthier, happier, and a better person. But this blog is already getting too long. So trust me on this one.
Okay fine, don't trust me. You can read a lenghy report titled "Reading For Pleasure -- A Door To Success from the National Library of New Zealand on the subject, or this brief but equally factual report titled Kids and Family Reading Report from Scholastic.
If you don't want to read either report I'll quote two very important facts:
- “89% of kids ages 6-17 agree ‘My favorite books are ones I have picked out myself”
- "A majority of kids pick out the books they read for fun at least most of the time (63%) and 88% say that they are more likely to finish books that they pick out."
So to rephrase: 1. Kids know what they want to read. 2. Kids will finish the books (aka actually read the books) they pick out for themselves.
Reading for pleasure is a big deal. Children benefit greatly academically, emotionally, etc when they fall in love with reading, and read regularly for fun. Besides, I learned my big words from reading “drivel,” not from any of my homework assignments.
Often, the comments some parents make about a kid’s reading choices are demoralizing. If a child loves Goosebumps (or any series) and the parent has a poor opinion of Goosebumps, the child may not read them. However the child may not read anything else either. In turn the child learns to view reading as an uninteresting chore, something they are forced to do, and an activity they never find any pleasure in, even when they reach adulthood.
Before you panic, understand a love of reading does not measure intelligence or potential. The children who do not love reading will succeed in school, grow up and have good jobs, raise beautiful families, and have wonderful friendships and memories. But they won’t read for fun as children or adults, and will lose the benefits that come with reading for fun and making it a lifelong habit.
So let your kids develop a love of reading and allow them read what they want without judgment. If your 10-year-old prefers Goosebumps to The Crossover just go with it. The more kids read what they like, the more they will read. Take it from a librarian who reads “drivel.” Your kids will be fine.