Do you guide reading choices?

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Do you guide reading choices?
6
Tue, 06-25-2013 - 2:18pm

This came out of a discussion I was part of elsewhere, but I thought it would be particularly relevant to parents of younger gifted kids. To what extent, if any, do you guide your child's reading choices? 

Do you choose books on your child's behalf? Do you allow your child to choose from amongst a curated selection of books or from amongst a particular section (eg. the children's section but not the teen section at the library)? What do you do, or what would you do, if your child asked to read a book that you felt was inappropriate for their age (eg. what if your 6-year-old picked up "The Hunger Games" or "To Kill a Mockingbird")? 

For parents of older kids: how much did you guide? Did you change your ways as time went along? How do your kids and you feel, looking back at the way you handled it? 

Miranda

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

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Tue, 06-25-2013 - 4:00pm

I'm not a parent of a "gifted" child, technically, but both my kids were smart & good readers.  My son & (who's almost 18 now) particularly liked to read.  I would say that I never really chose the books that he read.  I was happy that he liked to read.  He read, for example, all the Harry Potter books (multiple times), Hunger Games series, Twilight series and many other books.  I just let him read what he wanted.  I think if the book was too "adult" he would probably end up being bored with it or not understand it.  Just as an example, I think a 6 yr old probably wouldn't understand that much of To Kill a Mockingbird, but maybe if the kids was very advanced, I don't know, maybe they would.  My son decided to read that one on his own, maybe in 9th grade--since that was one of my favorite books, I was happy that he picked it.  Oh one thing I do sometimes is also read a book that he is reading for school so we can discuss it.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-1998
Tue, 06-25-2013 - 5:27pm

DD 16 would never take my advice on books... even in the really early years. I had "my say" in how I stocked the bookshelves at home and that was quite effective for awhile. She was always a good self-regulater as well. If a book was going in a direction she wasn't comfortable with, she'd just stop and put it back on the shelf. Once I asked her to wait on a book. She was 9 and interested in "To Kill a Mockingbird." She went behind my back and read a copy from a teenaged theatre friend but had a very mature discussion with me about it later. I let go of trying to regulate what she read after that.

DD 12, has rarely ever read at home. I remember being shocked in 2nd grade when he won an award for reading 200+ books that year.... I swear, outside of the family reads, I couldn't remember ever seeing him with a book. He just plowed through everything in class and a bunch from the school library. That's pretty much how it's stayed.... reads almost exclusively at school and from their library meaning I often have no idea what he's reading. He had to read and test on 18 books for AR in 7th grade and I guess he did it because he kept an "A" all year. Didn't see a single one of them though. Oh, I'll throw in that he won't touch the Hunger Games books because of content even though me eldest gobbled up the first book when she was 10 and loved it. Never would have made that guess myself!

DH and I read a lot. We talk about books regularly. DH and DS still read together sometimes. DD and I even read a play aloud together a couple months ago and that was a treat. I have never felt like I had that much say in their reading choices or habits though.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Thu, 06-27-2013 - 11:50am

I don't remember guiding all that much because DD especially was very good at self-censoring and would abandon a book if the emotional content was too intense for her. DS usually chose non-fiction until he was about 10, and then got into sci-fi and fantasy.

The only time I can remember feeling really bad about not stepping in with some guidance was when DD read the Diary of Anne Frank in 2nd grade. She didn't know it was a true story and that Anne and her sister had died in a concentration camp until she got to the epilogue, at which point she was a wreck. I knew DD was very sensitive to injustice (still is) and should have prepared her in advance when I saw her reading that book.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Sat, 06-29-2013 - 1:15pm

I suppose I guided my kids' reading a bit, but as a result of circumstances, not choice. We have not really had regular library access, so most of what has been available in our home has been the result of book purchases I've made. If my kids asked for something I haven't ever refused, but they didn't really have a ready way to browse through possibilities, so there haven't been many times where they've requested things. I did turn them loose at on-line bookstore sites from time to time and ask them to put items in Wish Lists. Then it was more a question of paring things back to fit in our budget: I think they made those choices. 

I have never said no to anything, but they haven't had many chances to choose things I might feel like saying no to. When they have done so, I've gulped and allowed them to read. I usually casually warned them: "This book was written for older people, and it has a lot of sexual stuff in it. Not sure it's really something you'll enjoy." And I think generally if it was just a bookstore whim, they took my advice, thinking "Oh, okay, it's not what I thought it was." But when they really did want to read a book, complete with mature content, I let them. Eldest dd read Vikram Seth's "An Equal Music" at 11 or 12. Youngest dd read "The Hunger Games" at 7 or 8. I made sure to read the books myself to understand exactly what they were encountering and to be able to support them and discuss it. Sometimes I could persuade them to do the book as a readaloud, which always facilitates more discussion and the chance for parental editorial comments. 

I've found my kids to be pretty good about self-regulating. Middle dd has loved psychological thriller stuff from a fairly young age; eldest found it too intense and bailed on one or two novels before discarding the genre as not really interesting to her during adolescence. If something is too much they discard the book. If they keep reading, they seem to be right in that they can handle it.

Miranda

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

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-26-2013
Sat, 06-29-2013 - 9:34pm

My son made his own reading choices.  He liked books that made him think, books that he could analyze and discuss.  The video games he played would often include references to books that are read in high school and college and he would look them up.   He would read the sparknotes or cliffnotes version of classic books.  He also liked manga even though some of it seemed dark and depressing to me.  He never liked Disney storybook endings even when he was young.   He always read more online news articles and wikipedia than anything else.  The day after his spinal fusion surgery a few weeks ago he was sitting up in a chair reading news articles from his computer and the heavy duty drugs he was taking did not take away all the pain.   Learning interesting things takes his mind off of the pain.

In the past, when we read things together that had sexual content, we skipped it and he read that part by himself later.  He did get embarrassed about some things when he was younger, but not so much now that he is 15.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999
Sun, 06-30-2013 - 10:07am

I didn't guide choices for my oldest or youngest girls, both of whom are and were avid readers and strong-willed personalities.   For one thing I couldn't keep up with them.  For another they had very definite ideas about what they wanted to read, based partly on my reading and partly on what they found at school.  When they were younger, I'd make light suggestions and caution them against certain choices and talk to them about the books as they read them.  I remember I caught some heat for this laid back approach once on a gifted board because my youngest read The Joy Luck Club at a young age.   I also remember though that my oldest dd sobbed after reading an account of an animal bladder used as a toy in Little House on the Prairie, declared herself a vegetarian, and threw the book aside.  She was younger than most when she picked up that book but I'm sure it would have been seen as a harmless and positive choice for a young reader. 

The daughter who needed reading guidance was my middle dd.  For her, reading was work and more of a tiring chore than a source of pleasure.  I looked for books that seemed a good match for her interests without being either too intimidating or too simple and continued to offer these to her over the years.   Sometimes I was even successful and she'd dive into a series.  I wouldn't say that I've transformed her into a reader but she finished her college years with honors in her thesis-- a feat that required many, many hours of reading.