Giving Kids #ReadingChoice is the Right Thing. But Sometimes It Hurts.
September 30, 2019
Last week my daughter and I moved two bookshelves, as part of a project to create a reading nook. This required taking all of the books off the shelves. Naturally, I took the opportunity to do some weeding and organizing at the same time. Weeding was necessary because the books were stacked two deep, and the ones in the back were basically lost.
Most of the weeding was pretty easy. I let my daughter decide, only overriding her on a few titles that I wanted to keep. Berenstain Bears? Keep. Little Critter? Donate. Hot Rod Hamster readers? Keep. Superhero picturebacks? Donate. Little Golden Books? Donate most of them, but keep the ones by Bob Staake. Owl Diaries? Keep those, because sometimes you need a quick read. Keep all of the graphic novels. And so on.
Then we came to a stack of Ivy and Bean books. These were books that I had literally been saving for her to read since before she was born. [Thank you Chronicle Books!] I looked at the books. I looked at her. I said: "You're never going to read these, are you?" She said: "Nah." She went on to volunteer that she doesn't think she'll ever read Clementine or Ramona or the Fancy Nancy chapter books. She thinks they are boring. And my heart broke, just a little bit.
She saw that I was sad and said: "Well it's your fault. You bought me graphic novels." This is true, though technically Scholastic and Random House bear some fault, too. She started reading Princess Pink and Lunch Lady, fell in love, and never looked back. She skipped over easy readers and chapter books almost completely, and went from graphic novels to notebook novels to tween romances, with only a few diversions along the way. [And of course she's still reading graphic novels and notebook novels every day.]
I told her: "All I care about is that you are reading books that you enjoy." It is certainly true that I am grateful that she enjoys books, whatever those books are. But ... she doesn't want to read Clementine? I adore Clementine! Elementary school girls are supposed to read Clementine, aren't they? It's not like I'm asking her to read some ancient story with no relevance to modern life. The first Clementine book is (c) 2006. But of course I do want her to read what she wants to read. And I am grateful every day that she's found books to love.
I know that giving kids choice in their reading is the right thing to do. But some days are harder than others.
As I sighed over some other books that we went into the donate stack my daughter reminded me that we were donating them so that other kids could read them. This did help. It turns out that my friend's daughter will be thrilled to take the Ivy and Bean and Nancy Clancy books off our hands. This helped even more. The other books will also go to good homes. I have a friend who works in a library at a less-privileged elementary school.
But I'm keeping Ramona and Clementine. Just in case… If nothing else, I'll re-read them myself.
© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage.