On Reading: Letting Go

by Jennifer



                               

A couple of months ago, I left the following comment after reading Jen Robinson’s review The Pigman by Paul Zindel.

This is SO timely for me, Jen, because as I’ve written a lot lately, Amanda (10 — 5th grade) is really crossing that threshold and reading a lot of YA stuff now — Hunger Games, Uglies, etc. I have my reservations, but I want her to continue to love reading.

The reason this was such a good reminder for me is that I read that novel, and others like it, and it didn’t make me want to go into strange men’s homes and drink while underage. It just opened the door to understanding more about people and their circumstances and the world around me.

I was taken back to my middle school years by Jen Robinson’s review of The Pigman by Paul Zindel. I don’t even think I was shocked or titillated by that book when I read it in middle school. I might have been, but I don’t remember having that reaction (Judy Blumes Forever, which I encountered way too young as we passed it around in about 6th grade, is a different story).

The issue at hand right in my home right now is Twilight. “Everyone” in the fifth grade is reading it (except of course several of her closest friends who I directly asked about).

Being educated (and continuing to explore kids’ lit on my own) is my offensive and defensive strategy of monitoring Amanda’s reading. Because I had read lots of reviews on Twilight (including Lisa’s as linked here), I took an offensive position — bringing it up before it came home in her backpack. However, I can also play defense by suggesting alternatives*.

Twilight aside, I am letting go. I used to tell her that she shouldn’t even read books that feature protagonists who are over about thirteen years old/junior high age. But now she’s reading some books that are outside that range.

For example, we just both read Wings (linked to my review) together, but separately. There’s probably some content in there that I would have wanted her to avoid, but she finished it before I did. I actually ended up using it as an example of why I thought Twilight was inappropriate for her age. I told her, “You know how Wings had maybe 4 or 5 sentences about yearning for love? Well, from what I understand, that’s what the whole Twilight series is!”

Characters “yearning and burning for love” has actually become a bit of a joke between us, but it’s been a valuable tool in giving us a vocabulary to use to talk about that theme. I also think that because we have discussed it I am helping her establish criteria for evaluating a book’s content (and it’s my hope, to help her avoid content that is too emotionally mature for her).

The bottom line, as I commented on Jen’s post, is that I DO want her to read. I want her to love reading. I know that a sure way for her to lose interest in reading is to become bored with it. She’s an advanced reader and she logs a lot of time reading each week, so I want her to be able to explore new themes and new styles.

She still just “wants to know what all the fuss is about” concerning Twilight, and I’m still going with my gut and saying no right now.

I don’t mind being a mean mom. I have to do what I believe is best for her, but I have to earn her trust and give her the opportunity to earn mine as well. It’s a fine line, and I hope I’m walking on the right side of it.

*RESOURCES:

I keep a toe in the kidlitosphere mostly through the awesome gate of Jen Robinson’s Book Page. She not only reviews a lot of middle grade and young adult fiction, but does great round-ups linking to other reviews and discussions within the blogosphere.

The Kids’ Picks carnival held here the third Tuesday of each month is also a great resource. I love discovering new books and authors that other tweens and teens (or their parents) have enjoyed.

This line of thought opened the floodgates for me. You can read some of the thoughts I had to edit out of this post for length at my blog Snapshot.

Email Author    |    Website About Jennifer

Jennifer lives in Houston with her family. In addition to reading, she enjoys travel, Bible study, food, and fun. She blogs about some of these things -- when her nose isn't in a book -- at Snapshot.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lisa notes... May 24, 2009 at 10:49 am

Jennifer,
I relate to what you’re saying. I’ve said “no” to Twilight as well. My daughter has been fine with that, thankfully.

There are SO many wonderful books out there still waiting to be read–no need to resort to the questionable ones. The pile of wonderfully-written and morally-acceptable books is very high.

Thanks,
Lisa

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2 Deanna May 24, 2009 at 10:56 am

I agree with you Jennifer. It is hard to direct and dictate which books our 10, 11, 12 year olds girls (etc) are to read. It is hard because when you do have a child who is an avid reader they start to want to read beyond the elementary school age level. YA books are big. I think they are bigger now than in the past but who knows…I may feel that way because I am “in” the loop now. Anyways, I find (as I think you already know) that if I read the book first (best situation) or even with the child (not aloud but side by side so to speak) is the best way to help eliminate potential problems. Twilight, I agree is a bit too old for a 10yo. I even think it is too old for my 11.5yo. My biggest problem is that my 11yo is my third child, she is 2 years younger than her sister. Her sister reads alot of YA. Her sister will be 14 soon and YA (for the most part) is fine and approriate and brings us to a lot of converstations. How does a parent prevent a 11yo from reading books that her soon to be 14yo reads? I have decided to take the approach of reading the books (as best as I can) and then talking to her about them. Preventing her reading stops her from reading…doubled-edge sword here – you know.
Anyways, sorry about the lengthy comment. I could go on and on…
Your post is interestig and important. Thanks.

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3 Lisa notes... May 24, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Deanna,
There’s hope! :-) I have a 19-yr-old who is also an avid reader. When she was younger, I would pre-read as many of her books as I could before passing them along to her.

So now that my 14-year-old is going through the books, that work is behind me because I know which books are good.

Of course there are always brand new books. Sigh. A mother’s work is never done. ;-)

Lisa

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4 Jenny May 24, 2009 at 4:26 pm

I think I’ve heard of this book but I’ve never read it or even seen it. xD Iuno if it’s something I’d read though. I’m picky about what I read.

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5 Dawn May 24, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Mean parents unite!!! I’ve heard that mantra from my son before, along with the ‘but so-and-so’s mom let’s him watch…’ It’s our job, right? :)

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6 Karen May 27, 2009 at 10:33 am

My 12 year old & I have had the same talks over Twilight. I read it, decided she could too and then guess what? She read one chapter and decided she wasn’t interested. Sometimes things just work out, don’t they. k

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7 Katrina May 28, 2009 at 3:50 pm

I already commented at your blog on this topic, but I love this post too. I’ve decided I’ll probably have to eventually switch to reading kid-lit/YA exclusively, just to stay one step ahead of my son. :) Even though right now, his reading doesn’t give me concern… I know the day is coming.

I’m all for being a mean mom as we protect our kids. :) But I also think it’s great that you guys have a bit of a joke about yearning and burning. I think that’s a terrific approach (even if it just evolved naturally) — it lets you talk about a serious issue while keeping the conversation a little light-hearted.

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8 Jen Robinson May 28, 2009 at 7:16 pm

I’m a bit slow in responding (just got back from vacation), but I’m happy to have helped inspire such thoughtful discussion, Jennifer. Like Katrina, I think that the “yearning, burning” joke is inspired. I have other friends who struggle just with finding books for their voracious reader 10-year-olds, because the girls don’t want to read about love and dating, but they want to read those big, thick books. I completely agree with you that reading the books yourself, as and when you can, is the best solution. Having teachers who do that is a huge help, too.

Katrina said (happily): “I’ve decided I’ll probably have to eventually switch to reading kid-lit/YA exclusively, just to stay one step ahead of my son.” Fortunately, those are some of the best books available. So it all works out.

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