In which you wonder how I really feel about it.

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.

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23 thoughts on “In which you wonder how I really feel about it.

  1. Here here! *Joins Mirriam in her rant and steps on top of the amoral table to take a stand against ‘just books!* I hadn’t considered it before, but you are certainly right! Argh-y-argh-ar. Ah. I hope some of Those Parents get a chance to read this post someday! 🙂

  2. I couldn’t agree more! I’ve met eleven year olds who’ve read things like the Twilight books, and all I can think is “REALLY?! And your parents LET you?! My mom won’t even let me, and I’m proud of that!” I’ve actually gone on many mental rants much like yours, and I get glares and funny looks when bits slip out. Here’s to raising future children in the way they should go, so when they are old they will not depart from it! And so that they’ll hopefully pass it on.

  3. Very thought-provoking, and true. So many kids I’ve encountered are head-over-heels for books that are immoral, over-the-top gory, or even wrong. Even books that I’ve read with Sonlight (a Christian homeschool curriculum) have had the lines of good and evil blurred.
    My parents were hesitant for me to even read The Hunger Games, although I don’t even like the books now xP

    • Ah; see, even my parents now advocate the messages of the Hunger Games after seeing the movie (I’d read the books beforehand; they hadn’t). Though I DID get sick of the debate. Oh, so sick. 😄

  4. AMEN MIRRIAM!!!!!!!!!!!! Preach it!!!

    Seriously, I agree with every word. Books are not amoral. The ‘as long as they’re reading’ thing drives me CRAZY!!! As in up-the-walls-onto-the-ceiling crazy. Like you, I was raised on a healthy diet of REAL books and I am SO thankful for it. The horror I feel when I hear of some of the books friends and relatives are required to read in school….

    I’m with Rachel. Those parents need to read this post.

    • *laughs* Well, it irritates both of us! I had a healthy literary diet too, and so now even when I read less-than-perfect books I can cut away the bad to get to the good, so to speak. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I hadn’t been raised how I am. 🙂

  5. You hit the nail on the head! The one I always here is “s/he’s reading a book as big as a dictionary!” The bigger it is, the better it is? O_o A year or two ago, I saw a girl, about seven or eight, getting all excited about seeing the Twilight books in the store, and her dad only noticed how long it was – “Well, if you’re sure, honey…”

  6. Ahhhh! This drives me crazy. I also grew up in a world of Narnia and other such books.

    Another thing is I hate when parents don’t encourage reading at all. I have all these friends who grew up playing video games and other junk and never read much. And it really affects who they are now. If a kids grows up watching and reading violent things…obviously they will be different from the kids who grow up reading Narnia. The reason I love to read is my parents invested this in me. Parents need to encourage kids to read…good stuff.

  7. I am grateful my parents – much like yours – guided me through my early reading years. The books I read helped shape my character and I cringe to think what I would be like if I could just read anything.
    I agree with everything you said. Children need guidance. They need to know what a real hero is and tell the difference from a villain. They need good morals to start with, they need to be shown the difference between right and wrong while they are young.

  8. Mirriam,
    Thank you so much for this post! It is definitely something that we all tend to forget, which bring me to this question: Is it okay if I re-post your article on the Rebelution Forum? This is a topic that people need to hear.
    Good luck with NaNo!

    ~Soli Deo Gloria
    Allison

      • Mirriam,
        I will most definitely post the link for it.
        Thank you for writing it!

        ~Allison

        P.S. did you get an e-mail from me earlier? I thought I had sent one, though I ‘probly just forgot -_-

  9. I so love and agree with this post!!!
    I think parents actually need to look at what their children are going to read.
    Reading junk doesn’t count really as reading. It’s a waste of time.
    My Mum always checks the books which I get out from the library and previews them for me. If she thinks they’re appropriate she’ll let me read them. 🙂
    Junk like Harry Potter and Twilight are a waste of time. Huzzah for Narnia and Lord of the Rings!!! 😀

  10. SO. TRUE. Yeah, I never really thought about this. I’m glad you brought it up. Thank you! In English, I was supposed to read Lord of the Flies… Mom was like, “Um, NO. Uh uh.” So I had to read Animal Farm instead. *shudder*

    You’re amazing! ❤ Keep up the great work!

  11. My parents always emphasized that I question the message behind what I read. When I was ten, I thought Dad was being ridiculous and defensive when he told me that ‘everyone and everything you ever read, listen to, or hear about, has an agenda’. That was probably because, at the time, I couldn’t discern agendas, and my parents kept me away from such books that might have bad themes. Now that I’ve gotten older, I understand that ‘agenda’ isn’t just a political word-it’s emotional, spiritual, and world-view affecting. It has assisted me greatly in college to always look at the ulterior motive my textbook might be trying to preach to me. Every book has a message-either good or bad. It’s great that you want to raise your children to recognize this. It will be extremely valuable to them later in life. 🙂

  12. What ho! She’s done it again!

    Thank you for stating it so succinctly and passionately, and of course I quite agree. (What did you expect?) I saw a child the other day reading “Catching Fire,” and though I do not mean to say that is a bad book, having never read it, he did seem rather young to be imbibing it. And then I looked over and realized his mother was reading “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It was a very telling, depressing moment.

    I think now I need to go cry.

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