Kids Reading (Reading Notes)

Natasha has been reading for a long time now, and definitely prefers the series I consider “fluff.”

Light reading that is not particularly meaningful, but harmless.

The fairy books by “Daisy Meadows” are currently the Doritos books of choice for all three of my kids.  And I’m pretty much okay with them as library books.  They’re so generic, formulaic and predictable I don’t feel the need to read them before letting the kids.

Mostly, I’m a selfish reader: I want to read my stuff (the stuff I’m interested in reading for myself).

But I’m also a protective mom, all too aware of gateway books (those books that are unobjectionable themselves, but tie directly into material that I don’t consider appropriate for the child who’s just finished book-1).

Alanna is my textbook example of this. Wonderful story, exciting and well-told. Any girl who’d read #1 would burn through #s 2-4 ASAP. But those all involve premarital sex, and as something light and experimental.

Perhaps I’ll do a post someday on what will make me tolerate sex in a story rather than be done with that book (and maybe the author) altogether.

Like swearing or violence, it has to need to be there. And it doesn’t need to be in middle grade books. Ever.

Anyway, my mom never let me read Doritos books. At least, she leaned really hard on me when I picked up, say, a Sweet Valley High paperback from a garage sale, and while it lived on the lavender shelves in my room, I never read it.

I read loads of Jim Kjelgaard (mostly dog stories), Walter Farley and Margarette Henry (mostly horse stories), and nearly everything Brian Jaques wrote before I left high school.

I read other stuff too (I *hated* A Wrinkle in Time with a fearful passion), and had a Hermione-like reputation in my family for being full of random facts that I would pull out at various applicable and inapplicable times. I read enough non-fiction (including the 1960s encyclopedias my mom brought from home) that they just assumed I’d read it somewhere.

All that to say, I know I’ve read loads of kid books, but that was 25 years ago, and there are loads of books (many of them awesome) that I haven’t read.

So I’ve begun taking a principles approach with Natasha. I’ll skim a book for author philosophy, and let her pick out her own, mostly, and I won’t even insist she read the stuff I read at her age because I want her to discover what she likes.

When I was in 5th or 6th grade, a man said I should read Banner in the Sky.  I tried, he was very special to me, but the book bored me silly. Adventure and survival genres have never been my thing.

So I’ve been letting her pick out her own books, but I have begun insisting that at least half the books she chooses be older than her. And at least one older than me.


What I told Natasha is that every author is stuck in their own time, the way each culture is stuck in their own skin. You are a product of your time, and have to stretch to see more. There are ideas and angles you will not see if you always look from where you sit.

And so I think it is important to cast your reading net broadly.

At the same time, as a modern writer, I think it’s also important to support authors who are putting out good works now.  Two main reasons:

  1. You don’t get stuck in the false (*cough*lazy*cough*) assumption that old is always better. (Really it means someone else has already done the vetting. A fair starting place, but no need to be stuck there.)
  2. There’s really nothing like falling in love with a story, and getting to meet the person who wrote it, or being able to write a thank you note to the giver of a wonderful experience (something I heartily I recommend).

4 thoughts on “Kids Reading (Reading Notes)

  1. …stupid enter key. Anyway, Elizabeth Enright? I read the Four-Story Mistake first. There were four books and I loved them literally to pieces.

    I prefer reading Middle Grade, myself, exactly because there’s no sex. And when there is, I scream bloody murder about it. It doesn’t need to be there. It’s bad enough trying to find ANYTHING in the YA genre that isn’t filth.

    Do they like talking animals? The Bunnicula books were a great hit at our house–the rabbit vampire who sucks the juices out of vegetables. There’s a ton of books and they’re all hilarious, narrated by the family dog.

  2. Just “The Saturdays.” Liked it well enough but wasn’t a read-everything-this-author-wrote kid yet.

    (Little House bored me to pieces, and Anne of Green Gables was okay, since mom read it aloud, but I dunno… just preferred animal stories, I guess.)

    Liked the kid-version of Lorna Doone– should reread it now that I should be able to get through the real thing.

    Maybe being an introvert I just clicked better with the tinier cast of characters that usually comes with an animal-centered story…

    Loved the Bunnucula books– I should point those out next time.

    If you want some YA w/o sex you may enjoy “The Seer and the Sword” and “The Healer’s Keep” by Victoria Hanley, East (or anything else) by Edith Pattou, or Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan. I’ve only read the first two of that series so far, but they were awesome.

    Then there’s the epic Blood of Kings trilogy by Jill Williamson. *Highly* recommended, and you can get the first installment for only $3 on kindle.

    These are the kind of books I want to publish. So, I don’t know if that’s what you like to read, but they’re encouraging to me as something that actually exists.

  3. I remember your lavender shelves.

    My mom’s approach to letting us choose books annoyed me to pieces. She was way more swayed by what her circle deemed appropriate reading than by actual subject material of the books. I once asked her to read a Babysitter’s Club book and tell me why she objected to the series, and she never did it. She lost some respect from me for that, as well as losing a valuable opportunity to engage with me.

    You are doing a great job helping your kids make their own wise decisions about books (and all media) that will serve them well throughout their lives.

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