Sunday, October 22, 2006

Unfortunate Reading

I remember when I couldn't wait for Sunburst, my oldest, to start reading. Einstein and I read to her pretty much from birth. We'd snuggle up in the bed with her and take turns reading aloud from the books on our bedside tables. Einstein would drone on reading the long, passages from The Magic Mountain, I would murmur the timeline of strange tales from Russka, and Sunburst would wobble her newborn little head around, mess her drawers, and drop off to sleep on our chests. It was our grand literacy-from-birth, plan, back in the days when we were a one-child family and had the time to languish in bed all day, and our needs were few. Ogle the baby, read, nurse, change diapers, and read some more...

We both come from a long line of readers, Einstein and I, and when Sunburst started making her first attempts at deciphering text we were giddy with enthusiasm. We couldn't wait to share with her all of our favorite literary adventures. We were excited, all of us, to see her world opening up page by page. At 7 1/2 years, she's now voraciously reading over 100 pages a day, completely captivated by the power of the written word. Reading changes everything. It's amazing...

Except when it isn't.

You see, I entirely forgot there was a downside to reading. Aside from the magazines headlines at the check-out counters (as if the pictures weren't risque enough...) Aside from the local war protestors with their faux-blood spattered signs proclaiming things like "Stop KILLING CHILDREN in Iraq..." Aside from the fact that I will have to start hiding my Christmas lists, even in cursive... I forgot that there are books out there that are just plain drivel. Books that suck.

Today Sunburst went to the library with Einstein and brought home some books that were just plain awful. Usually we're very commited to sifting through her library loot before we reach the check-out counter, but this time two books slipped through the cracks on a very busy Saturday afternoon. They came home with her and those books and I passed like ships in the night when I slipped out of the house to get some very needed "ME" time.

While I was out, she read them. Both.

They are so opposite of the lives we live, of the values we're trying so hard to instill in our children, that they made me sick. For one, they're "schooly" books, reeking of peer pressure and "fashion disasters," cliques, cheerleaders, and ridicule. But they also promote lying, materialism, and disobedience --as in, my parents said no, but I'm going to anyway. They're just absolute, over-the-top crap, hand-picked for her by the children's librarian.

I realize that I can't protect her forever. Slowly but surely she'll be exposed to the excrement that permeates our outside world... it's happening already. And though it pains me, I can't stop it. All I can hope for is to impede the flow.


  1. Anonymous2:02 PM

    There is entirely too much bad fiction available to children, particularly children who do not have parents monitoring their reading. My niece recently told me she was reading the Clique books. She is only 10 years old. I wouldn't let a sixteen year old read these books. They are just awful. It saddens me that my sister does not monitor her reading more closely. I am fairly knowledgeable about children's literature and have so much fun advising children and selecting books for my daughter. That said, I am curious to know what books your daughter read.


  2. Oh, I feel your pains. It is amazing how quickly my oldest daughter began reading and understanding all the words around her. All of a sudden, it seems, she is asking all kinds of questions about what this or that means. Suddenly I must be much more aware of what she sees when she is looking over my shoulder as I read the newspaper or internet. Like you, we also recently had a certain library book slip home with us undetected. I can say the bright side is that it facilitated some good conversation about values. All in all, she decided it wasn't such a great book, either.

  3. Thanks for the comments! You gals help me feel so understood!

    The books we so strongly don't recommend are "Brigid Beware" and "Brigid the Bad." But like you said, Julie, they did facilitate some interesting conversations, though I probably could have reacted a bit more camly than, "You read WHAT?!!" Ah, maybe next time... I'm learning that I always get a second chance to appropriately scale my reactions. ;-)

  4. Anonymous12:08 PM

    Thanks for letting me know what your daughter read. I did not know the titles. After a little investigation I know why. The books are out of print and seemingly for a good reason. The author is a former children's book editor. I am sure she thought she had the finger on the pulse of a typical 6 year old. The plot of the books remind me of the Junie B Jones books. Wildly popular but very impertinent. I have read one book by this author and was not impressed. You might like "The Cobble Street Cousins" by Cynthia Rylant. The first one is In Aunt Lucy's Kitchen. The story is fun and wholesome and the illustrations are charming. They are early chapter books.

  5. Oh, I just had to comment because over here we are in exactly the same boat. Our life philosophy sounds a lot like yours, we do Waldorf homeschooling with my 7 yo, who also reads voraciously. I'm sure you're in the same boat we are: finding appropriate material to read at their level.

    When stuff like that slips through, I always try to remind myself that the examples we're setting in our lives are going to have a much greater effect than some book they read, even if they "try on" some of the behaviors, it just gives them another opportunity to deepen their understanding of what we're all about.

    Now going back to enjoying your blog.... good luck!


Thank you for taking the time to leave a message. I appreciate your sweet words so much!

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