Let Kids Read What They Want!

Do your kids enjoy books that you are not a huge fan of? Is there a particular character that you can’t stand,  but that your child adores? Do your kids enjoy reading on the Kindle or IPad, while you prefer they read paper books? You may think I am crazy for saying it, but I believe you should let them read what they want!

But Vicki, that’s crazy! There are things out there that I don’t want my kid reading! 

I totally get it and I definitely agree. Of course there are some exceptions! There is a lot out there that I don’t want my daughter reading. However, I believe that loosening the reins a little bit will benefit her in the long run.

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Being Selective

When it comes to reading with my daughter, the quality of books that we read is something that I think about a lot. Coming from an education background, I consider every story I read with her from the standpoint of a teacher as well as a mom. This sometimes leads me to be a little tough on some of the books that we come across.

Like most kids her age, she is also very interested in screens of all kinds. While I was very hesitant to allow her any screen time at first, she now knows how to use several of the devices in our home, and enjoys playing with her own games and books on the Kindle. All of these things made me come to a realization that the most important thing to me is that she enjoys reading, no matter what form that takes.

Surround Them with Quality Texts

One of the easiest steps you can take to encourage your children to read quality texts is to fill your home with them! Make sure that they have books, magazines or newspapers all around them. Introduce them to new characters or authors and talk to them about why they enjoy certain stories. Let them see you reading as well! If you don’t want them reading things on a screen all the time, then make sure you read things other than your phone or IPad in front of them. Kids pick up on everything, and seeing their parents enjoying books is a great start to getting them interested in books.

Since my daughter is young, it is a little easier for me to have a say in the books and texts that are around her. I’m not saying that you can or should control all of the reading that your children will do (please don’t send me hate mail!), but filling your home with quality books is a lot more likely to encourage them to read them than expecting them to stumble upon them on their own.

Don’t Fight Over Every Book

My sister is an avid reader. I’m not even sure “avid” is the right word. She reads more than anyone I know, and at speeds that I can’t even comprehend. When we were younger, I remember her rereading certain books over and over again. For a while, she insisted on reading a series over and over again that was below her reading level. My parents would encourage her to try other books, but they didn’t stop her from reading her favorites over again as well. Having studied reading in school, I now know all of the benefits that kids can gain from rereading the same texts, and I can definitely see how my sister’s immense reading skills can be traced back in some part to those days.

We had a family cabin that we traveled to every summer. There was a stack of old comic books there which became our favorite thing to read while vacationing. It became a tradition for us to pick out new Archie comic books every year, along with our travel books, before we left for our trip. While these comic books didn’t have the same educational value as some of the books that we may have been reading instead, my parents didn’t tell us we couldn’t read them, or stop us from enjoying them.

My parents realized that the joy we got from reading those comics was more important than forcing us to read something else. We still read other things while we were on vacation, and when we came home we went right back to reading books. By them allowing us to read those comics, they showed us the joy of reading for pleasure.

Look at the Whole Picture

Now I am by no means bashing comic books. I think there can be educational value found in all kinds of reading materials. Comic books teach plot and character development, and several comics that I have read have multilayered characters with values that I want my daughter to have as well. Like any other text, there are some that are better quality than others. This is where the first point comes back into play again. If your child enjoys comic books and it gets them reading, try steering them towards the ones that you find to be higher quality.

Two of my daughter’s favorite books to read are tiny board books that only have one word per page. She frequently asks me to read them to her (which can get a little frustrating when I have a whole collection of compelling children’s books!). After a while, I stopped worrying about the other books we could be reading and gave in to repeating the same 5 words every time she asked me to read it again. She now “reads” it to herself and her stuffed animals, pointing to the pictures and repeating the text on the page. She has developed a confidence in her “reading”, even though she isn’t technically reading the words yet!

The Harry Potter Effect

When J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was first released, I remember there being a lot of parents who didn’t want their kids reading them. My sister was in middle school at the time, and the school used the controversy to teach kids about banned books and persuasive writing. There were lots of schools and parents who were hesitant to let kids read them due to their subject matter.

As the years went on and more books were released, I started working towards my degree in education with a focus on literacy. From my vantage point, the feeling that I had about the Harry Potter effect was that kids were reading! In a time when computers and video game systems and other electronics were starting to take over the entertainment world, kids were setting those aside to devour these books! Even adults I knew who didn’t enjoy reading were able to get lost in this world that she had created.

The series took over the literary world and encouraged people to read again. Now when the “next big thing” hits bookshelves and I hear people talking about banning books or not allowing their children to read them, I think about the effect that J.K. Rowling’s books have had. Think of all of the kids who wouldn’t have discovered their love of reading if they hadn’t had the opportunity to travel to Hogwarts. There are lots of ways that you can allow your children to read these popular books while still using the opportunity to teach them.

 

Pre-read Reading Materials

Giving children the feeling that they have some control is much more likely to get you the results you want than arguing with them. My mother has always insisted that giving kids control can make all the difference, and I can see it even in my 2 year old. If your child finds a new book or series that they would like to read, try skimming it or pre-reading it before you jump to conclusions about it. Instead of banning something (which makes it more interesting to them), talk to them about why they want to read it, why you don’t like it, etc. Ask them what it is about the book that interests them. If the material is really objectionable, try finding something similar that you can both agree on.

Banning kids from reading things has never worked! My friend’s mom didn’t want her reading Harry Potter, so she hid them in her room so she couldn’t find them. By forbidding her from reading them, she made them even more compelling. By talking to kids about your issues with the book and opening a dialogue with them about it, there is a better chance that you can reach a compromise that you can both be happy with.

 

Read with Them

As kids get older, you may not spend your nights reading aloud together anymore, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy books together! Reading the same book as your kids not only allows you to continue sharing your love of reading, but also allows you to open a dialogue about the situations in the book and maybe learn more about your kids. If your child is really excited to read a new book, but you are a little hesitant about the topic or situations depicted, reading it together can allow them a little more freedom and independence while still giving you a chance to teach and parent. Accentuate the parts of the book or the values of the characters that you agree with. Remind them why the negative actions the characters take is wrong.

Learning Together

The world isn’t perfect. Your kids will be faced with situations, people and decisions that you will not like. They need to learn to make decisions and judgments on their own. By allowing them to make decisions about something as simple as the books they read, you are showing them that you trust their judgement. By talking to them about the negative characters or actions they come across in the books they read, you can feel confident that they understand your values and feelings about similar people and situations, leading you to feel more confident about them stepping out into the world and facing those decisions on their own.

 

 

78 Comments

  • Rachel@Tidy&Teal

    August 28, 2017 at 7:53 am Reply

    I have always been a reader since I was very young. I always read the most books every year of my class and I loved it! However, one thing that ALWAYS bugged me was the assigned reading lists that schools have. I honestly think that the books that school are making kids read are seriously hindering or tampering down kids’ want to read. I know that in classes for group discussion, the whole class should be reading the same book but I think the way we handle reading in school should definitely be changed. Thanks for posting!

    • Vicki

      August 28, 2017 at 12:32 pm Reply

      I agree! It’s interesting that so many of the books we had to read in school held little interest to me, but now I tend to gravitate towards them! I am grateful that a teacher I had in elementary school gave us choices in our book groups so we were able to have some say in what we were reading. I definitely think reading instruction needs to change!

  • Emily @ The Southern Belle Blogs

    August 28, 2017 at 8:25 am Reply

    I was a huge reader when I was younger – still am actually. My mom was always reluctant to buy me a toy but if I asked for a book, I got it!

    • Vicki

      August 28, 2017 at 12:32 pm Reply

      Haha, we often chose books over toys as well! I remember getting them as rewards for good report cards.

  • jehava

    August 28, 2017 at 9:57 am Reply

    Great advice here! We love reading at our house and my kids have a whole mini library! I love it!

    • Vicki

      August 28, 2017 at 12:33 pm Reply

      Thank you! That is awesome that they have a library already! I definitely enjoy surrounding my daughter with books for us to share!

  • Stephanie Kowatch

    August 28, 2017 at 11:26 am Reply

    Very cool ideas and walk through about the importance of kids reading! I love the idea of being involved with them as they read so we can share in their reading adventures and teach them from what they read as well.

    • Vicki

      August 28, 2017 at 12:39 pm Reply

      Thank you! I think engaging with your kids while they read is a great way to start a conversation and encourage them to love reading.

  • Ashley

    August 28, 2017 at 11:59 am Reply

    Love this! My daughter is only 6 months and already has a huge collection of books. We read them to her while she looks and touches.

    • Vicki

      August 28, 2017 at 12:40 pm Reply

      That is a fantastic way to get started with a love of reading!

  • Kristina Gorr

    August 28, 2017 at 12:03 pm Reply

    This is a really great article. My son loves reading and sometimes I fight with him over reading the SAME book or two over and over. But he loves them and gets so much for them. Time to loosen the reins! I’ll be sharing this from my blog too. Thanks for sharing!

    • Vicki

      August 28, 2017 at 12:58 pm Reply

      Thank you so much! It can definitely be frustrating rereading the same ones over and over again, but sometimes it’s worth dealing with it just to see their joy over reading!

  • Belle

    August 28, 2017 at 1:12 pm Reply

    These are such great ideas! I agree with everything especially the Harry Potter effect! I re-discovered my love of reading because of this series! Still one of my favorite series!

    Belle | One Awesome Momma

    • Vicki

      August 28, 2017 at 1:46 pm Reply

      Mine too! I cannot wait to introduce them to my daughter someday!

  • Catie

    August 28, 2017 at 1:32 pm Reply

    I agree with all of your tips! My kids all have a real love of reading, and I think it’s started with us reading to them. We don’t have much off limits; if it’s in the house, they can read it. If it’s in the school library, we’re okay with it, too!

    • Vicki

      August 28, 2017 at 1:47 pm Reply

      That is such a great way to encourage them to keep reading and exploring!

  • Gayle | EverSimple Mom

    August 28, 2017 at 5:20 pm Reply

    I could not agree more with this article. I can remember being in elementary school and being told I couldn’t read certain books (like the Goosebumps series or Christopher Pike books) for school reports. I was an avid reader and LOVED reading but I hated being forced to read only literature of a certain “quality” chosen by the teacher. I don’t even remember those books… only the ones I loved and I am still a book lover and avid reader.

    • Vicki

      August 28, 2017 at 7:58 pm Reply

      I’m very grateful I had one teacher who tried to include everyone and actually read one of the Goosebumps books as our class read aloud. They weren’t everyone’s favorite genre, but I appreciate that she tried to get everyone in the class excited for reading!

  • dixya @food, pleasure, and health

    August 28, 2017 at 6:16 pm Reply

    i dont have kids but i think instilling good reading habits and presenting materials to them is such a good start.

    • Vicki

      August 28, 2017 at 7:58 pm Reply

      Thank you!

  • Emily

    August 28, 2017 at 7:44 pm Reply

    My daughter does the same thing with the board books for babies…and she just turned 4! I like that we can mix it up, though. I read her chapter books at night, but she uses the board books to read to her little brothers and loves looking at the pictures!

    • Vicki

      August 28, 2017 at 8:00 pm Reply

      That is a great way to encourage her reading!

  • Lane & Holly @ With Two Spoons

    August 28, 2017 at 9:48 pm Reply

    I remember reading my mom’s Danielle Steel books with a flashlight in my bed late at night (in junior high). I think I turned out just fine! I also agree that high school reading lists are turning off potential readers. After suffering through high school English, my husband didn’t read again until his mid-30s when I showed them there were authors that were actually entertaining!

    • Vicki

      August 28, 2017 at 10:11 pm Reply

      I think for kids who don’t already have an interest in reading, required reading lists can definitely be detrimental!

  • Erin Hollis

    August 28, 2017 at 11:09 pm Reply

    These are great tips! I have found that these really work in grooming great readers! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Vicki

      August 29, 2017 at 1:23 pm Reply

      Thanks! I want my daughter to grow up loving reading, no matter how that happens.

  • Yvette

    August 29, 2017 at 4:23 am Reply

    I have always been a bookworm, since school i always read books. I am happy to say my son loves reading too!

    • Vicki

      August 29, 2017 at 1:24 pm Reply

      That’s fantastic! I love sharing my love of reading with my daughter.

  • Dani

    August 29, 2017 at 8:57 am Reply

    Coming from an educational background I cannot agree more with what you say here. Having lots of books available, reading aloud daily, modelling Reading and yes letting them choose what to read are excellent ways to promote literacy and language development. My son is two years old and our favorite activity is our weekly visit to the library. I am impressed with how interested he is in books in general.

    • Vicki

      August 29, 2017 at 1:28 pm Reply

      That’s awesome! I love how much interest my two year old already shows in books and reading as well! It really does help to start them young.

  • Lauren | also known as mama

    August 29, 2017 at 9:08 am Reply

    I love this. One of my favorite mom things is watching my son pick out his own books. It’s amazing to watch him in the library or bookstore, filled with endless options, and somehow he finds the perfect choice for him every time. It’s truly magical.

    • Vicki

      August 29, 2017 at 1:28 pm Reply

      That’s awesome! I love watching my daughter look through books and make decisions on what she would like to read, or have me read to her. It’s so much fun to see her enjoying them!

  • Taylor Reese

    August 29, 2017 at 10:00 am Reply

    GREAT GREAT advice!!!

  • Kim@Team-Cartwright

    August 29, 2017 at 12:57 pm Reply

    I love this. As an adult, I love to reread books and yes entire series. And I love to read things that are ‘below my reading level.’ (Hello love of YA novels.) It is so important to encourage reading. I also agree that banning books makes them more appealing. As my kids get older I can’t wait to read what they are reading along with them. Reading gives us a great chance to explore topics we might not otherwise think of or experience.

    • Vicki

      August 29, 2017 at 1:29 pm Reply

      I agree! I love reading books “below my reading level” too! I feel like YA books just keep getting better and better!

  • Jamie F

    August 29, 2017 at 1:46 pm Reply

    I agree with everything you said especially screening the books that come into the house or reading with the kiddos vs banning material. If you’re selective in what you buy, and then just let them read what they want, they will learn to love reading vs feeling obligated or like reading is a chore. I run a book club once a month and that’s our only “forced” reading right now and they love that because it’s an activity we all do together. Plus, I let the kids make suggestions! Great post- lots of great advice!

    • Vicki

      August 29, 2017 at 8:32 pm Reply

      Thank you! Book clubs are great for allowing kids to experience other stories or genres they may not have otherwise checked out!

  • Cassie

    August 29, 2017 at 3:14 pm Reply

    I love the idea of reading the same book as your child as they get older. The chance to still bond with them while you get to see what they are reading is great. And of course, the teaching aspect is always good. Thanks.

    • Vicki

      August 29, 2017 at 8:33 pm Reply

      Absolutely! I love the idea of still sharing that love of reading, but allowing it to mature as your child matures.

  • Leila

    August 29, 2017 at 3:47 pm Reply

    Such a great post! We love reading at our house and my daughter have a whole mini library!

    • Vicki

      August 29, 2017 at 8:33 pm Reply

      Thank you! That is awesome that she has such a selection already!

  • the sophia diaries

    August 29, 2017 at 4:17 pm Reply

    I totally agree with this!! I feel like kids should read what they like, and that’s how they will come to understand the importance of reading and learning about new stories <3

    • Vicki

      August 29, 2017 at 8:33 pm Reply

      Thank you!

  • Jordyn Galan

    August 29, 2017 at 5:51 pm Reply

    Great advice! My son is two but I still let him pick his story every night

    • Vicki

      August 29, 2017 at 8:34 pm Reply

      Thank you! I let my daughter pick, even though for the last month that means the same Dora the Explorer book EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!

  • Naya @ Lactivist in Louboutins

    August 29, 2017 at 10:20 pm Reply

    This is great advice! My 6 year old loves to read, but prefers Pokemon books and Star Wars books. I’m happy he’s reading. I know he’ll be reading for school in the next year or so, I’m glad he’s enjoying reading for pleasure.

    • Vicki

      August 30, 2017 at 12:41 pm Reply

      That’s great! It’s so helpful for them to enjoy reading before they start it in school!

  • Stephanie

    August 30, 2017 at 6:18 am Reply

    Great advice! I try to have my son pick a different book every night and I absolutely love your tips.

    • Vicki

      August 30, 2017 at 12:42 pm Reply

      Thank you! That is a great way to encourage him to find books he enjoys!

  • Prachi

    August 30, 2017 at 6:48 am Reply

    My twins love to read, they are just 2.5 right now but they already have a decent collection.. I agree sometimes what we feel is not suitable might be enjoyed by them..

    • Vicki

      August 30, 2017 at 12:43 pm Reply

      That is awesome that they love to read already!

  • Latasha| Arts and Budgets

    August 30, 2017 at 7:28 am Reply

    Great post! My son is about to turn ONE next month and I just started really reading to him. He really loves it.

    • Vicki

      August 30, 2017 at 12:44 pm Reply

      That is awesome! Starting early is a great way to raise a reader!

  • Jane

    August 30, 2017 at 12:08 pm Reply

    I love this, my mom always let me and my siblings choose what we wanted to read (within reason of course). Which led to a painful Anime phase my brother went through, but we all survived it and he reads many other things now. lol.

    • Vicki

      August 30, 2017 at 12:44 pm Reply

      Haha, that is excellent that she allowed you to choose and stuck with it!

  • Natalie

    August 30, 2017 at 12:51 pm Reply

    These are excellent points. My oldest son is only 19 months, but I’ll try to remember these when he’s older! Right now he barely sits still for me to read to him haha.

    • Vicki

      August 30, 2017 at 5:42 pm Reply

      Thanks! We definitely went through that stage too! I spent a lot of days finishing books out loud to myself while she wandered around the room!

  • Rebecca McCullough

    August 30, 2017 at 3:14 pm Reply

    Great advice! My two year-old loves reading (well, being read to) and we have a big home library for him. We have also gotten into the habit of taking him to the public library once a week and letting him pick out whatever books he wants. He’s definitely more engaged in reading when he gets to control what’s being read.

    • Vicki

      August 30, 2017 at 5:43 pm Reply

      That is awesome! Starting those traditions early is a great way to raise a kid who loves reading!

  • Jhumki Nag

    August 30, 2017 at 8:35 pm Reply

    This is so true. Children should be left to make their choice. Loved reading it.

    • Vicki

      August 30, 2017 at 8:37 pm Reply

      Thank you!

  • Rachel

    August 30, 2017 at 9:11 pm Reply

    My kids buy into reading longer when I make it family reading time. They like the break from the business of life and we all just lie on my bed and read together.

    • Vicki

      August 30, 2017 at 9:48 pm Reply

      That sounds awesome! What a great way to settle down from the day together!

  • Amanda Maxwell

    August 30, 2017 at 10:41 pm Reply

    Focusing on the big picture is so important. I refuse to read Peppa Pig to my son at bedtime…. maybe tomorrow I will allow him to pick anything, literally, he wants. Thanks!

    • Vicki

      August 31, 2017 at 12:20 pm Reply

      I hope he picks something you can both enjoy!

  • Priscilla Barton

    August 31, 2017 at 1:00 am Reply

    great point about harry p effect. i was skeptical about those books too

    • Vicki

      August 31, 2017 at 12:22 pm Reply

      I know that a lot of people were worried about them, and I understand that. I was so glad that they got kids reading though!

  • Marina

    September 3, 2017 at 10:04 am Reply

    My little girl A. is onlyb3 years old but she already love books. We have a library with only her books. Since my mother is a teacher I always read many books (still reading) and now we buy as many as we can for A. too.
    Great post dear!

    • Vicki

      September 3, 2017 at 7:49 pm Reply

      Thank you! Reading to them at a young age is the best way to encourage a love of reading!

  • Toni

    September 3, 2017 at 11:17 am Reply

    Some great points raised here. I have always loved reading and let my children have freedom to read whatever they choose to. My youngest is only 16 months but she adores the “That’s Not My” books already, starting them young and letting them explore is the best way to go about so many things

    • Vicki

      September 3, 2017 at 7:50 pm Reply

      I agree! My daughter loves the “That’s Not My Fox” book!

  • Meg

    September 3, 2017 at 8:05 pm Reply

    I agree, letting kids take the lead when it comes to reading will help foster that love of books! I’m so thankful that my little ones enjoys books as much as I do.

    • Vicki

      September 3, 2017 at 9:40 pm Reply

      That is awesome! I love watching my daughter follow in my footsteps as a reader as well!

  • Meagan

    September 4, 2017 at 9:17 am Reply

    Giving kids freedom to read can help them explore worlds they may not have known was out there. As a child, I love to read Shakespeare which turned into a love for theatre and art. My daughter loves to read anything that has to do with animals because that is her passion. She has even taught me alot about what she has been reading.

    • Vicki

      September 4, 2017 at 12:51 pm Reply

      That is awesome! How great that you can share that passion with her and she can have the chance to teach you something as well!

  • Lifewithdaughters

    September 6, 2017 at 1:07 pm Reply

    I love books!! We read to our kids every night and buy books a presents for all the kids

    • Vicki

      September 6, 2017 at 1:41 pm Reply

      That’s awesome! Such a great way to raise readers!

  • […] post Let Kids Read What They Want from Vicki at Babies to Bookworms really resonated with me a couple weeks ago when I was once again […]

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