So this post will literally speak to parents who have very bookish children but everyone can pick something from this. Before you exit this page because you feel your child isn’t a reader and this does not concern you, you really don’t want to do that. If your child isn’t a reader, well let him/her come join our Readers’ Club and watch the transformation yourself! Ok, back to the main gist!
As a teacher who teaches books, I have had conversations with parents who have had issues with what their kids read. Some of the opinions of these parents make me laugh sometimes because it is largely due to ignorance or in many cases serious concern for what the child is feeding his/her mind. Let me say here that I do understand what parents feel because as a reader myself, I know that there is immense power in books.
As a teacher and coach, I always advise that parents read with their children. Read what they read and afterwards have real conversations with them. Listen to their thoughts and correct wrong impressions or ideologies. Some books are actually dangerous for the minds of children and it is important parents pay close attention to this.
However, your child might have picked the book out of love for a certain genre of books (I will be doing a series to help you understand various genres of books and topicalities that they address). In Treasured Thoughts Readers’ Club, I discovered that the older kids between 10-12 love fantasy a lot. When I bring other genres, they do not greet it with so much excitement as they do fantasy or adventure. I do realise that parents are concerned about this particular genre. Some parents have actually called Harry Potter a forbidden book in their households (another story for another day). So what I do is to sieve fantasy titles and ensure that they are safe enough for the children and comfortable enough for parents. I love fantasy for children because it helps stretch the imagination of the reader and they carry a lot of messages that can help build character. However, some of them are really wild and for children, young adolescents, it may be inappropriate.
A parent once asked me if she should let her young teenager start reading romance. I told her and I am telling you now, that parents should research romance titles because some her healthy and some, not so much. I have read beautiful love stories with no impropriety in them. These young teens need to understand romance because they will grow up one day and would need advice on romance. Books may have all the advice they need, if you as a parent pays attention to the book they are reading and advise accordingly.
In situations when your child is so engrossed in a book, please make sure you read that book also. Do not appear too condescending towards the child because he reads only a particular genre or type of book that doesn’t suit your taste. Rather, introduce the child to other genres generally and be open to other books that you think he/she might be interested in.
Parents need to be open minded most times about books because children like to explore all kinds of books. However, you as a parent has the right to take away a book you feel is injurious to the mind. I understand this is very subjective because a parent’s attitude to a particular book can be influenced by religion, personal beliefs, culture and background. But when I mean injurious, I mean books that have harmful messages/themes or content that should not be in the hands of children. E.g explicit violence.
I personally feel that parents talk down on many books because they may be a bit ignorant about such genres. In such cases, I help them understand what a book genre is expected to discuss. In Nigeria, many parents do not think Harry Potter is a good story but don’t mind their children reading traditional folktales that are saddled with flying tortoises and spirit beings! This is why I say that criteria for parental approval is very subjective. So let me help with a short checklist that can help you in deciding when a book isn’t what your child should be reading.
- How is language used? Are there words that are too big for the child to understand or are such languages vile for a young mind?
- Is the ideology behind the book contradicting human ideals and will lead to bad decision making for the child?
- If the book is an illustrated text, how clean are the drawings? Are they too explicit in depicting violence or even sex?
- Is the title dangerous for the child? Does it instigate or evoke feelings that a child should not feel?
With these you should be able to ascertain what is safe and not safe. Constantly check what they read and be involved too. I hope this helps you! Feel free to ask questions in the comment section below. I will do my best to answer in the best way possible.