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 occassionally 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?