Encouraging Good Book Choices: What Is Your Kid Reading?

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In our house, children’s books come and go at a brisk pace. Brought in by the pound from our son’s school library, they get read and shipped back via his backpack in a matter of days.

He reads a lot. I should be proud.

But what kind of books is he reading? And, given how quickly he gets through them, how much intellectual value does he get out of the process?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not part of the library selection process. And while I think it’s wonderful that my son attends a school where library visits are standard practice, a part of me wonders what criteria is used when a book is suggested to him. I don’t doubt that he ends up with choices that are appropriate in terms of age and reading level. But what do these books offer him beyond the plot?

Child at Library
Credit: dbrekke.

In our culture there is a push to encourage kids to read a lot; kids have to learn to enjoy the process of reading in order to appreciate literature. But I think we often confuse “reading a lot” with being “well read.” Is it quantity or is it quality that matters? To me, it’s the latter. For example, my son and I had read The Little Prince several times together. Then I waited a year and asked him to read it again on his own. A bit later, I asked that he give it another go. Then we talked about it. I will probably ask him for a re-read in a couple of years. Recently, we read and discussed The Phantom Tollbooth. I am convinced he will discover new things in this book when I ask him to read it again, which I will. I feel that slowing down for books like these might be more valuable than whizzing through a five-part mystery series. Reading isn’t necessarily about reading a lot. It’s about reading a lot of good books!

Of course I won’t discourage my children from reading, even when I feel like they might be getting through books too quickly or not choosing the right ones. What I can do, however, is show them that books can be either entertaining or intellectually stimulating. Or, in some cases, they can be both. While my kids are free to read as much “for entertainment” as they would like, each year they will need to read a few select books more attentively. It might mean that I have to read these books ahead of them and place posted notes on the margins (with questions or ideas to think about). Or, it might mean that we will read side by side and have a discussion later -- our very own book club!

Which books are your kids reading? And how do you make sure they read the right ones carefully?

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