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I want to tell them what to read

At the bookstore/library, my 8yo gravitates always to the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series": a cute, fun and light set of books that is sure to make her giggle from time to time.  The other day, I put my foot down when she asked me to buy her the first in the series (she already has the other four or five books).  I told her flat-out "no".  We kind of don't have funds to buy another book, and we definitely don't have enough cash for a book (hardcover only!) that I consider to be not-too-substantive.  I pulled out some other suggestions, different topics, new reads.  She refused and wanted only the book she originally picked out.

I recall when my other daughter, then aged 9 or 10, was obsessed with the very "girly" pre-tween Winnie Years Series that started with "Ten" and moved on to "Eleven", "Twelve", "Thirteen" and "Thirteen plus one".  When she started reading the series, she wasn't even ten yet.  Still, she managed to score herself the books, mostly through gifts and her addition of these books on her wish lists.  She used to read them over and over.  I often tried to introduce her to other books, and sometimes she'd read them, but she would always go back to the Winnie Years.

When I was my girls' ages, I was a voracious reader and I loved biographies.  I loved reading and re-reading "The Diary of Anne Frank" and books about Helen Keller.  I was pretty obsessed with Helen Keller, actually, and taught myself Braille and basic sign language and I was working on reading lips.  I also loved the Little House series and I still love reading those books with the kids.

So, anyway, as my 8yo spiraled into a tantrum outside the bookstore last Sunday and continued to wail the whole bike ride home, I wondered: can I control what they read?  Can I insist that they NOT read certain books?  (You don't have to tell me what I already know: the answer is "NO".) Better questions to pose would be: how can I steer my kids to read new books, other genres, different topics?  Is it like introducing vegetables to toddlers: keep offering it and eventually they will like it?


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Let me check out whatever they want from the library (well, from the children's section) and let them buy whatever books they want with their own money.

We don't have this issue so much because we spend so much time getting books from the library. My 9 year old has been putting books on hold online for at least a year or two. He's great at finding interesting books on Amazon and then locating them in the library catalog. Multnomah Library is a treasure--and there's no reason to spend a lot of money on books you might only read once.

But I would not be dismissive of any reading your kids want to do. Reading is reading is reading. My son went through a huge graphic novel phase... it seemed never ending, but it did end. Bring into the house (from a bookstore or a library) books you might want them to read, or offer to read them to your younger daughter in particular.

But, really, try really hard not to communicate to them that any books are bad. I promise their brains won't be damaged by Wimpy Kid books--no books are like junk food. Any enthusiasm for reading should be encouraged.

First off, i think it is totally reasonable to explain to the child that the family circumstances right now means library only, no bookstore. If this is something that changes, we'll let you know.

Then, I might go to the local library myself, first, and talk to the childrens' librarian. Explain what your kiddo has been reading, and what your concerns are. Find out when you can bring kiddo in to meet with librarian and get some suggestions -- librarians are great at the "If you loved this, wait'll you read that" kind of suggestions, and can perhaps engage her over time in a way that she's not yet ready to do with you (part of this is her power struggle/differentiation from you, a perfectly normal stage albeit frustrating for us as parents).

When I was a wee bit older (7th grade?), my mom was terribly concerned, like you, about the quality of what I was reading. She talked to my older brother's English teacher (she taught 10th & AP), who agreed to meet with me periodically, give me book suggestions and talk with me about the books. She got me reading Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, etc. at that time, instead of Stephen King or whoever was writing the pulp of the day But having it come from a neutral party who was invested in hearing what I liked/didn't like -- that was priceless.

I also remember that some of that struggle was also about fitting in with what other kids were reading -- could that also be at work?

I try sometimes to influence my 11-year-old stepson's reading choices, but mostly just encourage him to read anything he's interested in. At the library I've learned that he pretty much won't check out any books that I recommend, so I try to stay silent on that one. Every once in a while I let him pick out a book to buy; the only one I vetoed was a Percy Jackson book because I had just, 20 minutes earlier at the library, recommended the very same (free!) book to him and he had ignored it.
One thing that has helped in general has been reading the same books that he reads, sometimes reading it first and then talking about how great it was. At least we have something to talk about if we've both read the latest Amulet book!
We're also having a reading "competition" this year, where we count up our pages and try to get over 10,000 pages. I was going to give him double credit for the pages he reads, since I thought I was faster, but turns out it's a pretty even match!

Library, Library, Library. Let them check out ANY books they want. My kids have only bought 3 or 4 books in their lives, but they dutifully circle the Scholastic Book Order forms every 2 weeks with the books they want from the library. They sit down with 2 colors of markers - green for buy (green money) and red for get from the library. I dutifully go on line and reserve them all for staggered dates. (I'm going to get my kids doing what the previous poster does and do it themselves - yeehaw!) They have 20 bucks a year to spend on books either from the book order or at the book store. I don't think they've spent the whole amount in the 3 years we've been in public school. (They do typically buy the gimmicky "Includes 3D glasses and action figure" junk.)

And just so I don't get hate mail, I should be clear that at any given time we have 50 plus books out from the library (2 cards) plus we have shelves and shelves of picture books given as presents and chapter books because I used to be a teacher. Both kids are reading at minimum 2 levels above grade level (which is a whole other post about discussing which books aren't appropriate for their maturity level).

L i b r a r y (and yes, I do contribute).

I never had my reading monitored/controlled and would never do that to my kids. I agree about the library. Both of my kids are voracious readers and it would be hard to buy and store that many books. My daughter loves both Jane Eyre and Stephen King and I think there is room for all kinds of reading. She is reading One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest for school and Hunger Games for fun. She's gone through stages of reading awful Gossip Girl type books but I think they helped her through middle school. My son loves Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Bone but he just finished the Hobbit and is starting Lord of the Rings. He liked Harry Potter. We all have different interests and tastes.

Meh--I read tremendous trash as a child and teen (babysitters club and sweet valley high, along with flowers in the attic!), and yet
not only remained a voracious reader, but got my B.A. and M.A. in English lit from an Ivy League. So let 1,000 flowers bloom and let the kid read what she wants, trash-tactic or not.

When she was younger, my daughter's dyslexia initially made learning to read an immense struggle for her. Further increasing her dislike of reading was the infantile subject matter the school offered at her level (imagine having to do something super hard for you AND it was painfully boring).

What changed this was a frankly craptacular series of books, all those heinous Rainbow Fairies books. Yes they were simpy and drippy and stupid---they also held ehr interest AND were written at a level she could digest. Her interest in them helped her to develop ways of coping with her learning disability, as did all the manga she craved when her artistic talents became more apparent.

Although her dyslexia still presents in her writing and math skills (she has trouble with sequencing), within a year, she read at grade level, she now exceeds.

She's 11, but has already left children's books behind. When she recently needed a book for school, the "easiest" adult book in our house was Brave New World. Even after I ordered some books that were a bit easier (The Prisoner of Zenda, The Scarlett Pimpernel and some Horror Mashups), she still insisted on muddling through---reading a far more challenging book than many "normal" 8th graders in her class.

In hosrt on this score---just be happy she wants to read anything. As noted above, it might well read to much better taste in books down the line.

As for buying her the book 1) it is perfectly fine (as it is always, with everything else) to say "no". For whatever reason you might so desire. 2) We sell back a LOT of our books to Powell's and buy gently used ones with the proceeds. Some books can take a loooooong time to read (I like Trollope and he is a slow read), so we enjoy being able to pick them up and put them down.

I was a good reader at a fairly young age but reading wasn't encouraged at my home. My mom didn't want to be responsible for returning library books and she never read with us. As a result I was much older before I developed a taste for anything other than Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary. Around 6th or 7th grade my friend and I got into the Sweet Valley High books but it wasn't really until I had spent a summer in Sweden as an exchange student that I really got into reading. For me it was 11th grade English class where we had to read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. It reminded me of my ancestors (who were from Sweden) and the struggles they may have faced in their quest for a better life in America. After that, I became a reader.

I'm one that you really have to "sell" a book to. If it doesn't grip me in the first chapter I probably won't get into it. I think that it's unfair to expect your kids to be voracious readers just because you are. That's like expecting them to be star soccer players or whatever else. They're not you. They don't have to like the same books. IMO just getting them to read something...anything....is fine. Get them to fall in love with the act of reading w/o pushing them to read things they're not interested in. Get them to read for learning and information...a skateboard magazine....anything. Maybe they'll eventually fall in love with reading other things, and maybe they won't but I can tell you this: the more you push the more they'll pull away.

It's already been covered, but in our house the children are allowed to take out anything from the library. And yes, pretty much anything.

The 3 y/o gravitates toward books on dinos--but he prefers the books from the adult section (I think his criteria for a good book involves physical weight--the heavier the better). We do "read" these books, although usually in a skimming, read the captions type of way.

My 7 y/o will ONLY read books relating to Star Wars. (Once he read a Magic Treehouse book, that was a big win for me.) I do try to encourage this particular child to take ANYTHING from the library, but he will only read the Star Wars books he already owns (which is pretty much all of them). We do buy him the books as gifts for birthdays, Christmas, etc., but we almost never buy any of the children anything on a whim.

My 9 y/o will check out pretty much anything from the library. He goes online and goes "book shopping" and I feel like I schlep a ton of books back and forth for him, but I also feel like he doesn't actually read most of the books. I do continue letting him check out books, though, because one of them may just strike his fancy.

I'm in the "as long as they are reading" camp. Yeah, I wish my middle would read something other than Star Wars, but I can't force him to read something else. Yeah, I wish the little would choose age-appropriate dino books, but he's just so excited that he gets to pick whatever he wants at the library and we say "yes." Yeah, I wish my oldest would finish a book, but then I remember my younger brother never even started a book, so hey, starting is at least something...

One other thought re diversifying genre & content is the possibility of introducing different books on CD, for long car rides. I was struck by how engaged my 5 y.o. daughter was listening to "Magic Treehouse" stories on a drive to Seattle recently-- we discussed some of the plot points together and it was a much more salient experience for her than I expected! (This is a series she is lukewarm about in its typical format.) I wonder how much the "shared" aspect of listening to the stories impacted her enjoyment-- the whole family could discuss, etc.

My son was given one of the "Wimpy Kid" books. I read half of it and was disgusted. I told him I didn't like the writing and thought it was full of words I didn't want to hear him say. But I didn't take it away from him. Fortunately, he wasn't very interested in it. My older son read all the Hunger Games books. I'd read them myself and wasn't thrilled that he was. I didn't stop him, but we did talk about why I wasn't a fan. My kids can take out whatever they want from the library. But if I have an opinion about it, I'm going to share it. And I don't buy books I don't want them to read.

Reading aloud is my way of exposing my kids to genres they might not check out from the library themselves. I've read my boys things they probably wouldn't have read on their own, everything from A Little Princess and The Secret Garden to Anne of Green Gables, The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Treasure Island. They love being read to. They will listen to pretty much anything I pick. And that opens a door in their minds: "Hey, did that author write anything else?"

A bit different over at our house; commenting not to provoke/argue, but just in case other parents are reading this and wondering about other viewpoints.

While we encourage new topics and authors (and stretching) at the library, we absolutely maintain veto rights, and we have some very specific-to-our-family guidelines. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" didn't make it, for example, and once we explained why, TheBoy was OK w/our reasoning. No Harry Potter yet. No Star Wars. Etc.

We're dealing w/an awkward problem: a 1st grader reading at the 5th grade level. Much gets nixed because reading level and age-appropriateness don't jive. I know it'll be easier when he grows up just a bit (since reading level unlikely to change much).

We also have tried librarian recommendations, but they've just not panned out. Weird. We'll keep trying!

And (gulp) we're suckers for buying books, new aqnd used, but do try to limit, for $ and tree reasons. He prefers library now (YAY!!) bec he learned the hard way what it's like to pick a book to buy and dislike it...he's stated emphatically he's not making that mistake again :)

I'm with the others who say let them check out whatever they want from the library, but buying books to add to a permanent collection with family funds is another story. I have also heard that it's good to let them read whatever interests them, even if it's not the genre or type of literature you'd choose... My 7 year old just discovered that all Librarians are nice, :) and they will help you find whatever book you want to find, including the entire Captain Underpants series. Big sigh on Mama's part, but he loves them and I thankfully don't have to read them out loud now that he's such a sufficient independent reader!

The Multnomah County library system is great, and I'd like to put in a plug for the Clackamas County library system. One of the libraries in that system has a great graphic novel collection; it's the only place we could find the Miyazaki movies in graphic novel form when we were looking for them. Also, big bonus: there have been times when we've been 50th in line in Multnomah County, but the book was immediately available or had a much shorter line in Clackamas. We just have them sent to the Milwaukie library, which isn't a bad bike ride away.

To the mom whose daughter liked the Rainbow Fairies series: This series has also sparked a true interest in my first grader. She will read very little else (unless it has to do with a rainbow, fairy, or princess) and over time, I have been able to get her to read more and more of the book TO me, which has been a real challege. We have bought maybe 5 of them as treats (used) and the rest come from the library. We finished the whole series, and now she is starting to ask to take out some of the ones we have already read...yikes! But I have learned to love them along with her, because she is so enthusiastic about them.

I think it is fine for kids to have a shelf full of books to own, as then they can pick and choose instantly any time they want, and always go back to an old favorite without having to reserve and pick up each time. I really enjoy having hand-me-down chapter books and shopping at the local (small) bookstores for used books, and sometimes new. Remember that your favorite authors need a paycheck too, if they are going to continue to write the books we love so much! :)

Like many here, we let my son check out whatever he is interested in from the library. We will buy him some books, but really only ones that he will likely read over and over so science/reference/much loved series books generally. Other books he is free to use his own money to buy. To be honest, the "buy your own books" rule came down when he kept trying to get us to buy Pokemon books. I think he was shocked to discover there was a category of books we were just not going to pay for because we really thought they were crap. I found that once I informed him that we weren't going to buy them, he didn't use his own money to buy them either.

@Debby, plus your daughter is only 6 or 7, so that's impressive reading right there. I agree about the shelf of favorites, too. As a child I read and re-read MANY of my favorites and really cherished them.

Along those lines, a way to move your kid into "better" books is give them really nice editions of stuff you'd like them to read. As I child my two favorite books were The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Both books were also available in simply exquisite hardcover editions illustrated by Tasha Tudor. I had to save birthday money and allowances to get them.

For my daughter, I bought the same editions while I was pregnant and gave them to her when her reading began to show improvement. Because they were beautiful and about girly girls---they inspired her to push herself.

@TwoCeeMom---I'd say any "classic" boys books should be great for your son. Treasure Island, Black Beauty, Mary Poppins, Roald Dahl Books, The Borowers, etc should all keep it pretty clean while providing sufficient challenge. AND create discussion about "olden days" children.

Oh yeah, I still think Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume is one of the funniest things I've ever come across.

My daughter read "Are you there God it's me Margaret" until the cover fell off. Judy Blume's website is a great place to celebrate freedom of the press and to add your voice in opposition to those whom would have books banned.

@ Debby - check out Emily Rodda's Fairie Realm series -- we loved them. Not nearly as saccharine as so many other things fairy, and the protagonist is a little (human) girl who goes into the Fairie Realm to help them solve problems. She's smart!! My 5 year old loved them (we were reading them to her -- and they are so non-saccharine that my husband & I were equally vying to read them - neither of us wanted to lose the plot line!

I'm like Toddlermama (but with some caveats): I was a voracious reader of ANYTHING as a kid. I started with two Betsy series (Betsy, Tacy, Tib and another series about Betsy -- Betsy Snowed In was my favorite), went to Little House, then took a detour through Trixie Belden and Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew and Black Stallion and ... well, just about every series I could find. I read the whole Classics Illustrated series. etc. I too got a BA in English Lit, but not before I'd read a good 100-200 stupid formulaic romances in my teens.

I struggle more today with my kids NOT being voracious readers. I have to really twist my 9-year-old's arm to read. he'll check out books (and some of them are even, umm, "good" literature) and sometimes read what I encourage him to read, and always listen to Harry Potter, but he just doesn't adore books like I did. I keep trying, and he's getting a bit better, but it's such a disappointment to me!

I just hope that modeling will work -- I try to read around the boys as much as possible, and talk about the adult books I'm reading. A few times I've even read passages from whatever I was reading -- say, Anne Lamott's 'bird by bird' or 'Moby Dick' -- to the nine-year-old when he was having trouble falling asleep. funny -- he loved 'bird by bird.'

Bird by Bird is the BEST! But I think I would have to edit "Shitty first draft" to "crappy first draft," crap being the only 4 letter word said in our house! :)

For younger readers Cat Wings is a great series.

Honestly, the only thing I ever censored from a voracious 8 year old reading at a high school level was Clan of the Cave Bear..... where Broud rapes Ayla for 80 pages or so on a daily basis. No way did I want my my 8 year thinking that was normal! She forgave me my one act of clipping the pages together and understood a scant three years later why I did so. Pretty much everything else was fair game.

BTW, even my very fundy, xtian parents didn't censor my reading. Do some parents really do that?

wow! i could have written almost this exact post. i have a son who *only* wants to read the Diary of wimpy kids or Big nate books. i get so tired of the funky sarcastic attitude of the characters in those books, let alone they're just.... like junk-food reading. i have tried so hard to try to steer my son away from those books and get him to read other more interesting things and he just thinks anything else is "boring". i get so frustrated. i also have stopped allowing him to check out those books from the library or letting his grandma buy them for him. i really wish that i could somehow force him to want to expand his horizons. he's 10.

SusanOR if you see this! The Fairy Realm series was a huge hit with my 1st grader, and I only wish Emily Rodda wrote more than 11 books in the series! We are going to move on to My Secret Unicorn books next. We'll see how those go.

I want to give a plug to my friend and fellow SE mom Julie, the owner of Wallace Books in Sellwood. You might have driven by her bright yellow/blue trimmed converted house store on Milwaukie before, but make sure to pull over next time and check it out! It's an amazing place. For all of you who choose to support local businesses, it's also a chance to support a business owner who gives back to the community by supporting her neighborhood school's fundraisers. I know Powell's is local, but it's really nice to look after the "little guy" too and browsing through the store is a really fun experience (loads of used adult and kids books available!). Ok, I'm done with my shameless marketing!

@Debby, we had the My Favorite Unicorn series, as well. BTW, I mentioned upthread about my daughter staying with Brave New World for her class and slogging through--she also did her rather eleborate book report assignment on it.

For this assignment, the kids had to have one quote per chapter (so 18 in her case), with the page number and explain the quote. They also had to identify 20 new vocabulary words (wasn't hard to find in this book), with the quote, page number and definition. So no way to cheat or Cliff's Notes your way through.

She received an A+ and perfect score, with glowing compliments from her teacher with whom she actually clashes. And yeah, school isn't entirely her thing. But she now generally pulls an "A" in reading across the board.

My moral??? If your kid is reading, it's a good thing. Even if it's crap--they might well grow out of it!

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