I can’t tell you how many times I have read books I don’t like. A thousand? Maybe. So why do I keep doing it? Because my kids’ taste in books doesn’t always line up with mine. It’s not just books. I don’t like boxed mac and cheese and frankly don’t find fart jokes very funny either. Because I’m not a kid. I don’t fill my kids’ days with books I don’t like, but I don’t ban them or complain and belittle them either. I hear a lot of complaining about potty humor and character books from parents, and while I won’t tell you how to raise your kids, I can explain and share how I do.
When my child sees a book at Costco or Barnes and Noble and runs up to me with glee, the last thing I want to do is make a stink face and say ” No no we aren’t buying that, go find a real book.” I may be saying that in my head, but I keep it in because they are excited about a book! Reading is a non-negotiable, kids have to learn to read, our role as parents is to make reading a fun daily activity. Reading about their favorite characters ( or potty humor) makes it fun. When we belittle their choices we aren’t building their confidence; we are stripping it down. Confidence is a big part of reading and kids need it to learn, I don’t want to jeopardize that by making my kids feel like something is wrong or shameful about the books they like. I may be able to read literature but is that what I read for fun? Sometimes, but I also read magazines, YA novels, and TMZ. Not exactly the perfect reading choices, but I’m reading and loving it.
So characters and potty humor all day?
No way. I’m still the mama, and I still buy the books. Just like boxed mac and cheese and fart jokes, I have good reasons for not loving some books. Sure I am not a huge Pokemon or princess fan ( although Merida is rad), but my bigger issue is how poorly most character books are written. The plot is usually overly simplistic, and the books feel thrown together. Potty humor might be fun but too much of it, and my kids’ lose all ability to have a polite conversation. It’s all about balance.While I allow these books and do my best not to roll my eyes while reading them, I make sure to read many wonderful books with my kids as well. Books that boost their vocabulary, books that make them connect ideas inside the book to their life, and books that help teach them values I want them to learn.
Reading should be fun, and kids should have some autonomy about what they read. According to Scholastic’s Report On Reading, 91% of kids reported that their favorites books are ones they picked out themselves. I wouldn’t choose a Disney Princess or a Pokemon book as a favorite but both my kids have at different times, and I was OK with that because they had a favorite book that made them love reading.
You can’t teach your child to love reading; you can only help foster it. If it takes princesses and fart jokes to help me make my kids fall in love with reading, so be it.
That’s why I let my kids read books I don’t like.
I go so tired of The Cars books and also The Rainbow Fairy series but I agree. There is no such thing as a bad book!
The only time I’ve said “no” to a book was when the selection was overpriced and significantly below their reading level. Often there was a social factor attached to reading the “right” book or series that all the cool kids at school were reading. often these were kids reading below grade level to meet a book quota and win a prize.
Why read junk when there’s Ursula Le Guin, Madeleine l’Engle, Lynne Reid Banks, Roald Dahl, and so many others? As Roald Dahl said, “A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.”
I have a deal with my daughter–I will read “those” books to her once, and then she’s on her own. I am more than happy to see her sitting down with a Disney or Spot book and reading to herself!
It is true that children have different tastes in books and do not always agree with their parents, siblings or friends. The main issue is as long as they want to read that is what is important. Most children and adults as well will continue to enjoy reading other types of books evenually.
Christina @There's Just One Mommy says
Mine have chosen many a book that wouldn’t be my choice, but that’s part of becoming a reader — they need the freedom to try new books and learn to make good choices. And, sometimes a book we as parents wouldn’t choose suddenly inspires them to read other books. My brother used to hate reading as a child, but he would read comic books. Those comic books eventually branched out into a wide variety, and now he is a huge reader.
I guess im a weird parent then, I absolutely love Pokemon and dragons and Harry Potter. Since she shares my love I’m more than happy to read them to her! 🙂 She loves it when I use different voices for each character.
Allison McDonald says
Not weird at all – I adore Harry Potter too but I wish I liked Pokemon, it would make conversations with my son much more interesting.
I went with my daughter to the library last week after some time we hadn’t been. Up till now I would show her a few books and she would pick from them. This time, she didn’t want any of the books I tried showing her but rather wanted to choose her own book. On one hand it was a book I really wasn’t keen on her reading [well actually, me reading to her] but on the other hand it is supposed to be something of her choice and she is now old enough to make that choice and taking a book from the library should be about her and not me..
Allison McDonald says
Exaclty. Studies show how important this is for children. Good for you, I read a book I would much rather not tonight too, but she loved it and begs to read.
Hi, I’m from Argentina. I’m a publisher and have a little crochet puppet’s brand.
I also let my kid read books I don’t like. But after a time she prefers books my husband or I bought. Because she loves princesses and fairys, and Disney stuff. But also loves a good story.
This is wonderful! I know my own mother bit her tongue many times when I selected books as a child. I had a terribly hard time with reading growing up and if it wasn’t for my mother allowing me to read “garbage” I don’t think I would have come so far and to actually enjoy reading as an adult. This sounds like parenting done right, putting your child’s development before your own preference!
Betty Farnsworth says
When my children and grandchildren were young, up to age 8 or 9, it was my policy that they could check out 3 books of their choice and I picked out 3 for them at the library. If I hadn’t they would have never read the Pigeon Books, “Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus” . Once they read them they find more of the similar books. Otherwise they would only pick out books with bright colorful covers.
Valerie Lynn says
Our home library is brimming with books that I picked out or bought over the years, although I will buy a whole series of books (Magic Tree House for example) when they read one from school and tell me how much they love it…but for the most part I research books based on grade level and then order a variety of topics/choices I hope they will read and enjoy. I also do tot school at home so each theme for the toddler has some books for the older girls (who are 8 and 9) to read as well, everything from books about Canada and the USA, to non fiction animal books, to pirate, princesses, dinosaurs and of course every holiday!
I do try to acquire books that meet their interests…i pay attention to their screen time netflix choices, the conversations they have with their friends at school and tell me about, the pictures they draw for school work and the books they bring home from class. My oldest daughter borrowed a Nancy Drew Clue Crew book and read it in an hour…for summer break as a surprise I bought her the first 30 books in the series she was so happy. I do the same for my middle girl…and the toddler loves touch and feel books so I have been slowly buying a few more to add to our quiet bag collection of books!
We keep all the books on a bookshelf in my bedroom, the books are high enough the toddler can’t get into them, but not so high the 8 and 9 year old need my help to get to them.
They also get 2-3 books a week from the school library and they know they can pick anything the want magazines, chapter books, or even just a small picture book.
Lately my oldest daughter (who is really into reading) has been into learning about Norse Gods and Egyptian Gods and Greek Gods so we ordered some coffee table books about them, can’t wait for them to arrive!
My kids are all into myth and fantasy, which is great, as so are my husband and I! I have some hard boundaries, and I will explain to my kids sometimes that this isn’t a good book for them because…. (it’s badly written, it has messages that aren’t for us etc). I have children aged 16yrs down to 22 months, so I have put an age boundary on a few books also. I only have one reluctant reader, so I do buy her books that aren’t to my taste, but have no problem with her reading. She’d actually much rather curl up with a good maths book!
Audrey Urban says
Boy can I relate to this! What is it about those character books that make them so irritating as adults? I remember when Step Into Reading books had an actual story to them and didn’t feel disjointed. I’ll allow them, but mostly because I let them read them on their own.
Allison McDonald says
Yeah I have a hard time reading them – it was very freeing when she could read princess books on her own.