I recently bought my daughter a new book that I thought, based on reviews that I had seen, she would like. The book was Max & the Midknights by Lincoln Pierce (but could have been anything). She read the book, or part of it, anyway. Then she asked me how much the book had cost. Not sure where she was going with that, I gave her what I figured was the approximate price, $10. At that point she apologized to me because, as she tentatively explained, she didn't really like the book. She felt guilty about this knowing that I had spent money on it.
I was surprised by this guilt, because I am a huge advocate of giving kids choice in their reading. To me it was self-evident that there would be books that I would give her to try that she wouldn't like. But apparently, I had NOT made this evident to my daughter. At least not when the books were paid for.
As you may imagine, I was very quick to tell her that it was totally fine not to like the book, or any book, and that in her home reading she never has to finish a book that she doesn't like. [There will be books she has to finish for school - I can't help that.] I think she was relieved.
Being too lazy to return the book (purchased online), I suggested that we could give the book to a friend who I thought would be more interested, or donate it to a toy and book drive going on at school that week. She decided to hold off on that for now, because she might want to give it another try at some point. Of course I told her that was fine, too. She had recently discovered that she loved a different book that I had bought for her a year earlier that she hadn't liked at first, so this made sense.
Everything that I have read about growing bookworms (and I have read a LOT on this topic) says that the number on thing that keeps kids reading for pleasure is having free choice in what they read. I thought that I was giving my daughter free choice. I have hundreds of children's books in my house, many from publishers and many that I have purchased or received as gifts over the years. I take her to the library every week, too, and let her pick out whatever she likes. I buy her new and used graphic and notebook novels when I learn about them because she loves them and those are areas in which my own collection tends to be weak. I have always tried not to pressure her to read or finish certain books.
Despite all of that, she still felt guilty when she didn't like a book that I had picked out for her. I'm truly not beating myself up over that. But I do think it goes to show that kids really, really need us to tell them that it's ok NOT to like certain books. My message to other parents out there who want their kids to love books is, once again, do anything you can to preserve your child's reading choice. Tell them that you are doing so. Tell them that it's fine for them not to like the books that you liked or picked out, and fine to abandon books (even if they cost money). Seize opportunities, as I did this one, to validate reading choice.
The love of reading is a precious thing, and it can be more fragile than you think. Protect it where you can. At least, that's what I intend to do.
© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage. Links to be books may be affiliate links, for which I receive a small commission.