Criticism from my older son

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Registered: 01-21-2013
Criticism from my older son
Mon, 01-28-2013 - 10:11pm

Before I start, whoever recommended "The Read Aloud Handbook" to me, thank you, thank you, I read it last night (was up all night).  DS5 and I read a couple pages out of his facts book every night, then what I call enjoyment reading.  We are currently reading a book called "School of Fear". At his school which consists of kindy and first grade, I bought it at a Scholastic book fair, not even thinking about age or grade level, I just read the back and thought it sounded funny.  It is a pretty comical story, these 4 kids with different phobias go to this fear school to try to overcome their fears, the headmistress of the school is a real dingbat, but I am fairly certain she is going to cure them in some dingbatty way.  The vocabulary is very advanced and after reading the first couple of chapters, I went to Amazon and saw that it was for fifth grade and up.

My older son, 15 and very bright/smart but not gifted like the 5 y.o. was sitting at our table, eating and listening to me read to younger son.  After we read our usual 2 chapters and had a short discussion like always, 5 y.o. trotted off happily to bed.  Older son then came into the living room and asked me why in the world I would read such an advanced book to younger son.  Older ds claims that reading him advanced vocabulary will confuse him.  He even said that one of the words in the book, 'repugnant' was one of his vocabulary words 2 weeks ago (he is a sophomore).  I told him, that I appreciated his concerns, but that we were enjoying the book and as long as he was being read to and exposed to reading, I didn't see any harm in the level of the book.  DS 5 will interrupt me occasionally to ask what something means, or sometimes I will pause and explain something, but I honestly don't agree with older ds that it is harming him.  What say all of you?

Blessings, Michelle

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Tue, 01-29-2013 - 1:16am

You are right.

I read "advanced" books to my kids from the beginning (starting with Beatrix Potter when they were very small).  All of my kids were "late" readers so I continued reading "advanced" books to them, books that other kids who were not late readers might be reading to themselves.  Or maybe not.

The other day I mentioned that dd15 is obviously bright, but not obviously gifted...I was somewhat astonished today when she set dd19 straight on elective c-sections, midwives/doulas and doctors, the roles of oxytocin and pitocin in maternal bonding, the use of epidurals, policies in independent birthing centers vs. those embedded in hospitals, and the like. The only thing this kid reads voluntarily is recipes.  And her math book.  And she can of course order things on the internet, and find movies on Netflix.  But she obviously has no trouble researching things that interest her...


iVillage Member
Registered: 05-02-2004
Tue, 01-29-2013 - 10:24am
Yup, you are right. And your son will pick up vocabulary based on the context, which is very valuable.
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-17-2004
Tue, 01-29-2013 - 10:47am

You are right.  Even the teachers at school recommend we read above reading level to our children.  It exposes them to plot lines, imagination, vocabulary, sentence structure, language flow (written and sound as you read out loud), etc.  When they are reading, they are not exposed to the same level of complexity and they are focused on the reading/ comprehension pieces - later they can focus on other things on their own.  By you reading, you allow them to focus on the language pieces.  We've been recommended to continue reading to DS until middle school or he won't allow it anymore.  Since it seems to age out at some point, we put in family read time now so it's just part of being in our family.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Tue, 01-29-2013 - 10:53am

I would guess that there are feelings more than logic behind your older ds's objections. He may be noticing that you have very high expectations for his younger brother and are being a different sort of parent, perhaps the sort of parent that he thinks he might have enjoyed when he was young. He may be a bit jealous of his younger brother and the attention he is getting. I don't think it's necessarily anything you're doing wrong, just the result of that push-pull of adolescence, some nostalgia for early childhood, and some natural sibling jealousy. 

At any rate I wouldn't let his criticism about the vocabulary and level of the stories influence what you're reading. Difficult vocabulary is difficult because it's unusual. If it's part of your child's experience, "repugnant" is no more obscure than "awesome."


in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-1998
Tue, 01-29-2013 - 11:35am

I agree with Miranda. Your older son's reaction is probably coming from a place of feeling rather than logic or true disagreement with what you are doing. He may miss time you spent together in that way (but at the same time, not want to be caught dead having a serious conversation with you.) He may feel that you value traits his little brother has over his own. Doesn't mean you actually do, just that teenage perspective often takes the negative. I'd continue reading with your little boy but maybe find some sort of project with your eldest too. If we are right, he may appreciate it. If he was just being a critical teen for the sake of it, well, the time spent with him won't hurt.

If you look at classic children's books, they are chock full of vocab that was read to children in a time where everyone had much larger vocabs than we use in modern day. It's true, kids may not get everything from a higher level novel... not because they aren't smart but because they are inexperienced with the world. That doesn't take value away from the activity though. If you and your little DS are enjoying reading together, by all means continue. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999
Tue, 01-29-2013 - 2:39pm

Haha, well this sounds very familiar to me.   My eldest, 7 years older than her littlest sister, has criticized me for all sorts of parenting behaviors along the way.  While your older son's critique may indeed be rooted in sibling rivalry or nostalgia for childhood or wistfulness, there's also the possibility that your older son is being protective of the younger one.   My oldest is very, very maternal towards her sister and especially when youngest dd was younger, imposed her own youthful view of what was best for her.  There were times when she'd shake her head sadly at me, claiming that I was spoiling her sister, that I gave in too easily, and that I needed to toughen my responses to her.   Youngest dd tends to ask a lot of questions when we read or explain anything to her.   This is quite different from the way oldest dd thinks and behaves.  I can easily see that older sister would have criticized me for reading overly difficult books to younger sister, failing to see that youngest dd was enjoying the experience. 

What is the relationship between the two boys?  Does the older boy ever read to the younger one?

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2005
Fri, 02-01-2013 - 12:34pm

I agree with Miranda. I also think that subject matter content in terms of the emotional maturity to handle it is more important than the vocabularly level.  I'd read my young child a book with some words he might not know, etc. but not one that deals with mature subjects that he's not ready to grapple with yet.  All Quiet on the Western Front can wait.

Gwen<A href="http://s218.photobucket

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-07-2004
Sun, 02-17-2013 - 7:27pm


I hope you don't mind me jumping in. I (re) introduced myself in the roll call. :)

I agree that the reading is a good thing to do, but the older son may have some confusing feelings about his younger sibling being read material with a word (or words) that were in his own vocabulary materials. It may be as simple as pointing out that you are reading for pleasure, and not worrying about 100% comprehension of all the words, whereas his vocabulary materials are designed to ensure comprehension. As mentioned before me, it might also be worth covering any worries he may have for his brother's comfort, to let him know that high vocabulary content had been a traditional part of children's stories until recent publications.