Quality Matters

January 4, 2012

I strongly believe in honoring our children’s learning and respecting their evolving choices. As my children were growing up, that meant supporting their inclination to read books that I might not have chosen for them. There was a long stretch of Berenstain Bears, with the doddering dad and preachy lessons. We even had a brief spell of Precious Moments books at our house, which are, in my view, the literary equivalent of Hallmark cards. Thankfully we missed the Doras and Sponge Bobs, though admittedly, we had our share of Thomas (that cheeky little engine). At the same time I filled our bookshelves and library basket with as many wonderful, quality books as I could.

I see our children’s choices as part of a learning process about their own subjective taste, as well as the essential development of a critical view of objective quality. As parents we can appreciate our child’s developing tastes while also taking seriously our responsibility to offer and provide upgrades in quality.  It’s difficult to understand our own learning needs much less those of our unique child. I understand why a preteen girl might want a “girly book” about crushes and cupcakes; don’t we occasionally need a fluffy beach read ourselves?  Should we feel guilty for not having mastered The Western Canon?  Of course not, but you don’t have to be a book snob to want a more engaging, thought provoking read when you choose to give your valuable time to a book. So our children ought to be part of a rich environment of quality books.

The bonus, of course, is that when you read a book you wholeheartedly enjoy with your child, that pleasure is communicated to your child in the shared experience. Those are truly the “precious moments.”

I sometimes hear parents say  ” I don’t care what they read as long as they’re reading.” Would we say the same about food or is intellectual nourishment somehow different? Any thoughts on helping children develop their reading tastes?


4 Responses to “Quality Matters”

  1. Sue Cvach Says:

    Expose them to everything possible, without forcing anything on them. Same goes for us parents, and it is a lifelong process imo. Do not despair if they want to read all the Goosebumps series. We all wend our own way through the world. This will not be their last stop in reading and learning and becoming who they are.

  2. Cristina Says:

    I’m so happy you started blogging!

    It’s funny, my approach to food is probably about the same as my approach to books. With food, I’ve tried to allow them the freedom to eat what they want, but always balance it by trying to be a good role model, trying not to keep too much junk in the house, and occasionally sitting down with them to talk about good nutrition.

    It’s the same with reading. I allow them to pick what they want, but I try to also have on hand the good stuff, freely talk about books I am reading, and occasionally have discussions about choosing classics, if only to understand some of the jokes and nods in the books they like.

  3. I really like the comparison you make here to food choices.

    We feel the same here. I have always offered up varied genres of books. We find that books that spur conversation and debate tend to be good ones. It was fun (ironically 😉 when they began to disagree–watching them form their own arguments to back up their opinions was very cool. That’s what it’s about, right? Books opening their world–and minds–to other things. Other points of view.

  4. Jill Simpson Says:

    I have to confess, I don’t subscribe to the “anything as long as they’re reading” idea. To some extent, garbage in/garbage out. Everything certainly doesn’t have to be great literature, but I drew the line at certain things like Captain Underpants. Just as with food, I hate the idea of giving kids the message that what’s good for them and what tastes good and is enjoyable are mutually exclusive categories . . .

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