A lot of reading is happening around our house these days! Sometimes it looks like this:
And sometimes it’s just the long hour and a half of quiet in the afternoons while the little boys nap.
Buggle is getting through books at the rate of one 200ish page book every couple of days. Mouse isn’t quite as fast a reader and she doesn’t like to be still and read for as long as he does, but she is still reading several chapter books a week, plus any number of picture books. Both of them will read to the little boys and Mouse is also very interested in going through the hymnals singing all the songs she knows.
Of course this means that I need to keep them supplied with good, appropriate reading material. That’s not so easy.
My inclination is to think “Oh they can read anything up to about a seventh grade level.” and technically that’s true. They have very little trouble with the mechanics of reading beyond needing help with the occasional word. Finding materials that are good for their emotional and spiritual maturity level is a little harder.
For one thing our local libraries have been going through their collections for years and weeding out books. There are many reasons for this and some at least of those reasons I agree with. There’s a great deal of older (pre-1950 say) children’s literature that is twaddle at best and some of it can be very racist, belittling and patronizing and I don’t want those kinds of influences in the children’s reading materials. The problem is that the books that have been replacing older materials are no better. Many of them are also twaddle, and quite a few ask children to deal with things that they don’t really have the maturity to deal with.
For instance: older books will rarely mention specific information about puberty and the onset of menarches. Current books (especially those written for girls) are often built around those bodily changes and can be quite graphic. Interestingly they don’t often teach girls to value their bodies but instead reinforce issues of weight, looks etc. and I don’t want my sons or my daughter being influenced by them.
In general our current body of children’s literature asks children to grow up too quickly. Instead of being a safe haven from problems in their world, current literature (in the name of realism) brings the troubles of childhood into the realm of their imaginations. Thus we have books about, divorce, abuse, boy/girl relationships at ever earlier ages, body image, and parents and children who cannot get along. Children do deal with these things every day, but by allowing them to be the focus of their imaginative life as well as their reality, we make them inescapable and we normalize the kinds of behaviors and relationships that lead to those unhappy situations.
So what do I do? The children need books to read, and I want them to learn discernment in their reading.
First of all, I pick their books at the library, for the most part. I definitely pick all the fiction and give non-fiction (yes, even science and engineering) a good look before they can read it.
Secondly I rely pretty heavily on Honey for a Child’s Heart, Books Children Love and similar lists for suggestions about what they can read.
Thirdly we discuss what they read. Not as part of school, but just casually. What did you like? What did you learn? How do you think so-and-so could have handled things differently? No preaching, no guidance per se, just modeling for them the concept that reading goes beyond absorbing the words. I hoping this will result in discernment as they grow and that by walking with them in their reading (and yes I read every book right now) they will learn to exercise and even indulge their love of knowledge and a “good story” with wisdom.
Finally I buy a lot of good used books, or trade for them on Paperback Swap. Most of my spending at the HEAv convention this year will be on reading material and I am forever rearranging the bookshelves to make room for more books. Some of what I buy will be fiction and some good non-fiction, some will be for reading aloud and some for them to pursue on their own. Little by little we are building a library that will serve to educate their minds and stimulate their imaginations as we work to help them develop into the people they have been called to be.