Would you like to know something that irritates me? I mean, really irritates me? As in, sticks a needle into my arm and digs under my skin-irritates me? It’s something parents say about their children’s literary choices.
“Well, as long as they’re reading.”
*clasps hands together and draws in a deep breath* Aaahhhhh. Okay. Now.
Seriously, what are they thinking? What is that even supposed to mean? ‘As long as they’re reading?’ So your child can pick up and read any book, regardless of the content? Your ten-year-old can read a book full of graphic sex but it’s all right as long as they’re READING? Your eleven-year-old can read a book full of foul language so long as they’re digesting literary content!? As someone who grew up an avid reader and is STILL an avid reader as well as writer, this…this makes me angry.
Do these parents not know what what their child is reading is something that they will digest? Something that will become part of them? If your child is not old enough to discern right from wrong or know what’s okay and what’s not, if they don’t have the spiritual training to know when to put the book down, or how to tell the difference between the hero and the villain, then you are not doing them a favor. These parents think they’re promoting literacy! And yay, their child is reading!
Yes. Reading is a good thing. But reading ANYTHING? This can be incredibly harmful. My parents were very careful about what I read until I was old enough to discern things for myself. I grew up in Narnia, I championed alongside Greek heroes and knew ‘the rest of the story.’ I learned good and evil. I learned how to make right choices, and I learned that wrong choices had consequences. Stories like this are harder and harder to find, and junk is everywhere. And I know that what your impressionable young child reads will become part of who they are.
When I was young, I was given good literature. Thanks to that, as I grew older, I was able to be discerning. Sadly, though, that’s a rare instance. Nowadays, kids in school are given mandatory books to read that I would never let my child read, at least until they were old enough to understand and question and learn. I know this because I’ve had friends in public school tell me how much they hated having to read these books.
I was once told that books are amoral, like a table. I disagree; pretty strongly, in fact. No book is written without a theme behind it, without a worldview or belief that someone wants to become part of you. There is no such thing as ‘just a book.’ No. Such. Thing.
I look forward to having kids, and one of the things I look forward to the most is reading to them. I’m going to teach them how to think and read and learn the way my parents thought me. I’m going to raise them with tales of heroes and villains, right choices and wrong choices and old-fashioned values. They’re going to have real stories, so that when they get older and I let them free to read whatever they choose, they will choose well. They will know a good book from a bad book.
And one day, maybe they’ll teach their kids to read the same way.