Saturday, June 20, 2009

You're only seven once

In which I explain why Tinkerbell has not read Harry Potter even though she is a super-genius.

As if I needed more of a reason than Percy Jackson to love Rick Riordan, he has echoed my thoughts EXACTLY on making sure kids have age-appropriate books to read, not just in terms of reading ability, but also in terms of content. Go read and come back. I'll wait.

Like Riordan, it never impresses me when parents brag about the big, fat, way too old books their super-genius first grader can read. I always wonder what their kid's been missing out on; was he too busy reading all seven books of Harry Potter to read Monkey and Me and taste playdough in preschool? Because that is just sad for him. "Wasn't he scared of, um, he who must not be named?" I ask, shivering. And when they say no, I wonder, "Why not? How much horror has this kid seen to already at 6 be immune to the scariness of an undead, shape-shifting force of pure evil who kills people's parents?!"

I remember Linda Sue Park (I think) talking somewhere about bad books, and how reading bad books takes time -- time that could have been spent reading high quality books. I guess I feel the same way about reading books before you're ready for them -- why do it when there are way too many fabulous books at your own level to ever read them all?

As my mother used to say, you only get one chance to be seven; don't go trying to be eight before your time.


cath c said...

well, and then there's bambi, sleeping beauty, and a myriad of other evil step-/dead/killed parents in disney movies...

excellent advice on reading for age and reading level. build the skills so when you get to the big juicy stuff, you can really enjoy it!

debbie said...

Here here. My daughter wouldn't read Harry Potter until she was about 12 (and then became a huge fan). Lemony Snicket was out too, even though all of her friends were reading him. Some kids may like to be scared, but she wasn't one of them.

Paul Michael Murphy said...

At the local bookstore last night a girl who I would guess was maybe ten purchased a copy of Nicholas Nickleby. In her other hand was one of Lemony Snicket's.

FTR, I have not read Nicholas Nickleby. And I probably won't.

Jacqui said...

cath c, I know. Why does Disney always kill the parents? My kids will be surprised someday when they finally see the first scene of Finding Nemo.

Debbie, Lemony Snicket is interesting to me. Tink is reading it. I was worried it would be scary, but she says the bad guy is SO bad and the writing is so funny, that it doesn't scare her. Go figure.

Paul, is it because you are too young?

C.R. Evers said...

so true. Since my oldest is just now starting to read, I kind of freaked out first about what she SHOULD be reading and if she were up to "par"

Silly me. Once I figured out that she SHOULD just read books that she liked . . . as long as she was reading, who cared!

I stopped stressing and I'm much happier about that. :0)

Diane T said...

I'm of two minds about this. My mom mind is glad that Boy grew up before the Harry Potter series was finished. I thought at 8 the fourth book would be too scary, but he insisted on reading it. It didn't give him nightmares, and he didn't pass by Captain Underpants because he had climbed the hill of an 800-page Harry Potter book. Still, I'm glad he was older by the time the last books came out. And if he were a girl, I'm not sure I'd want him reading the "Twilight" books, even at 15 (I don't like the underlying boyfriend-is-everything message.)

On the other hand, I remember being 11 and determined to read Judy Blume's "Forever," even though my mom had forbidden it. I managed to sneak a copy from a friend and read it under the covers. I giggled over the naughty bits, but most of it went over my head. I don't think it did any lasting damage, and I didn't give up Nancy Drew and turn to Harlequin romances because I had read it.

So I guess I'm saying, if a kid wants to read something, they'll probably find a way to do it, no matter whether parents approve. Better to give permission but read any potential "overage" book first, so you can talk about it with your kids.

Sharon Blankenship said...

Jeez, Jacqui. Does that mean I'll have to forego my summer trash and steamy romances to read age appropriate stuff?
Well, darn!
Someone please tell me the name of an actual grownup book appropriate for my age.

Jacqui said...

Christy, any time you can let go of the "up to par" stress is a good thing!

Sharon, there's a joke there about your age (like the age-appropriate book is written in Old English on parchment), but this is me, refraining from making it. Sort of. :)

Jacqui said...

Diane, I see your point; I did the same thing with Forever. But I do think there's a difference between sneaking "too old" books and parents being proud of how "above level" they are. I also think it makes a difference how much above your head something is; a few years is, in my mind, different than a nine year old reading what's really teen fiction.

cath c said...

now ya'll have gone and got me thinking about what i read as a kid, starting with 'to kill a mockingbird' when i was 8. and how i used to just pull books off my parents' shelves, like musty college level poetry anthologies where i discovered robert frost, dylan thomas, edna st. vincent millay, and art history texts where i discovered italian rennaisance paintings and sculpture... around the same age. the only time my mother ever really stopped me was when i grabbed autobiograpghy of malcom x for a biography book report in 4th grade.

this is a rare moment of kudos to my parents for virtually never paying attention as long as i had a book open across my lap. in this way, i think i became a writer, loving words the way i do.

Marina said...

I agree, Jacqui. No need to rush into older stuff where you'll miss all the subtleties when there's plenty of age-appropriate things to enjoy. I'm currently operating on the theory that kids will self-select age-appropriate reading material, ie if it's too old for them they won't think it sounds interesting and therefore won't read it.

It's working so far for my oldest, though no doubt the next one will come along and blow the theory right out of the water!

For example, we read the first Harry Potter together when she was about 8. She enjoyed it but showed no interest in reading the others, so we left the series alone. Now, at nearly 11, she's ploughing through them like there's no tomorrow, so I guess she feels ready.

Jacqui said...

cath c, my parents were much the same way. I definitely think, though, there were times I could have perhaps used a "nuh-uh girl. not yet."

Marina, every child should have parents as willing to be led by their children as you are!