Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Free Choice?

When I make a trip to the library with my kids, I let them pick out a few books on their own, and then I pick out a few I think they might like (or some of my old favorites that I hope they might like).  It is easy to allow them to choose their own children's picture books because while some of those books might not be my favorite, in general they don't depict anything too offensive or objectionable.  Chapter books, however, are another story.  When Ben and I first started reading them together a few months ago, I made all the choices.  I have gravitated toward my favorite childhood authors like Roald Dahl and E. B. White.  A couple month ago, Ben chose a Flat Stanley book - I was excited to learn about Flat Stanley, and I appreciated Ben's participation in choosing what we would read in the evenings.

But then...a couple weeks ago at the library, Ben brought me two paperback chapter books that he wanted to check out:  Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom and The Dark Knight: Batman Undercover.  My first (unspoken) reaction was to suggest that he pick something else, that maybe these books had themes I did not particularly approve of.  But, when I looked at his excited face, I knew I could not go the route of teaching him that reading is awesome - as long as you let other people tell you what to read.  I want him to investigate and explore on his own, and to have the confidence that he can choose what he wants (of course, there is always a line with this, but I didn't think this was the line).  So, we borrowed the books.

And then we read them...and let me just say that these stories are (in my opinion) terrible.  But, Ben loved them.  I think he liked the excitement of reading something that he kind of knew he wasn't quite ready for.  The plot was a little complicated, but the villains we SO COOL.  And there was FIGHTING in the books.  Needless to say, the stories engendered a lot of discussion.

I still don't know if I'm going down the right path.  He learns a lot at school from the older kids about superheroes and weapon play and all that - I don't think the books are the biggest corrupting force in his life.  I also know that maybe I don't need to contribute to it by reading these books to him.  But for now, I'll keep slipping my choices in there and give him the freedom to choose the others.  I hope, in time, his interests will change, but his love of reading will stay with him.

Here are a few articles I've found on line on the topic:
Parents 'must let their children choose what to read'
Want your kids to read?  Let them choose their own books
How to Motivate Students By Letting Them Choose Books

No comments: