Do you check and approve all the books your children read – before they read them? This is one of those parenting things that I read about people doing, I know it is a good idea but I simply can’t keep up.
How do you choose good books for your family when you can’t read them all?
As a parent you get very excited when little Johnny starts to read and as his skills improve you get proud of the books he is reading and then all of a sudden he is wanting more and more and more…. And you just can’t keep up. Especially since sister Suzy isn’t too far behind. How do you approve all the books your kids read?
I started off with good intentions – just like I monitor movies, I would monitor books. And I could keep up while they were reading picture books but then it simply got out of hand and I realised I needed other strategies to ensure that my children read good books that were in keeping with our values. To be honest, you can’t raise book-worms and this not be an issue.
Look for Book Reviews & Recommendations
There are plenty of movie review websites which makes it a lot easier for us to evaluate a movie, but there isn’t the same type of service for books. And yet, garbage in – garbage out applies to all media, books included. But there are reviews available – we just have to dig deeper.
–Honey for a Child’s Heart and Honey for a Teens Heart both by Gladys M Hunt, are two books that are written with the idea of reviewing books and sorting them into age appropriateness as a tool to help parents with this very task. They have helped me not only review a book, but also proactively choose books for our family library. As with all reviewers you may not agree with what she determines, that is okay, you are using a review to get your ideas sorted – not to follow blindly.
–Homeschool Curriculum Suppliers – if you can find a homeschool curriculum supplier that reflects your heart for your family then it is often a good place to start for buying books that will suit your family. I highly recommend books from the Sonlight catalogue and for the younger children, the books that Five in a Row use. Both these resources list books that are great whether you use their curriculum or not.
–Book stores such as Amazon have book reviews written by real people who have read the book, which can help you gauge your response to a book. You have to read more than one as people always have different perspectives but you can get a feel for a book. Another big plus with Amazon for those who need to buy books unseen online, is that you can have a look inside most books. You can see the table of contents and the first pages. I find this very helpful.
–Friends – talk about books with your friends. I have a handful of friends, whose children are older than mine, or more advanced readers and knowing how they have handled certain titles in their home is very helpful. Once again I may not agree but I can use their comments as a basis for an informed (to some degree) decision.
Another two strategies:
–Teach your kids to discern – ultimately your children need to know what defines a good book and what is wise to keep away from. In my family this is a sliding scale – the older ones are able to read content that I would not let my younger ones read and yet there still needs to be a standard – a line drawn. We can make all the rules about choosing a good book we like but it comes down to what is in our child’s heart – does he understand the wisdom of your choices, does he want to fill his heart, mind, emotions, passions with good things? Does he trust you for direction? These issues are nearly more important than the book choices – gain your child’s heart and he will make wise choices with you.
–Encourage Non Fiction reading – How clearly I remember groaning whenever we went to the library – the books at my young readers level were blah – they included toilet humour, rebellion against parents, sibling discord (to put it mildly) and general attitude, not to mention that story lines were pretty basic. At this stage I encouraged Joshua to read non-fiction. This had a few benefits – he increased his general knowledge and love of learning, I could flip through the book quickly to see any worldview clashes to address and it was generally without the above issues! We also encouraged biographies though I do remember having to put some guidelines around what biographies he read as some had adult content.
Choose what Books you do Read Strategically
Of course, reading the book yourself is always going to be the best course of action, but if you have more than one child you are likely to find this an impossibility. But I do try to read some of the books that my children are either going to read for their studies, or are interested to read personally.
–Books that will cause relational conflict because my kids want to read them, and I don’t want them to. When I think there is potential relational conflict over permission to read a book, I want to know my own reasons for saying ‘no’ instead of going on reviews that I read online.
–Books that are going to challenge my children’s thinking. These books can be either a negative or positive thing as our children process and develop a belief system. When I take the time to read these books I am prepared to discuss things with my kids either helping them to process the message of the book and come to a place where they know what they believe.
Reading Touches the Heart
When I take time to read books I am prepared for good heart to heart conversations with my kids. This is far more significant than the giving approval to read a book.
Are you prepared to talk about the things your kids are learning and processing? You may need to do some homework!
Reading can easily be something that your children do without your input – it is a quiet activity and we can be lulled into a sense of security. We need to talk to our kids about what they are reading; not only the plot, but the values of the characters in the story, the beliefs and purpose of the author in writing their story. We need to ask our children what they believe about the issues the book touches on, and how the words are affecting their beliefs. This goes for fiction and non-fiction. Worldview issues are a plenty to discuss regardless of what you are reading.
When we surround our young kids with quality literature, with reading material that makes them think, feel, and experience the world and it’s people then they start to set that as their standard for reading material. It has been interesting watching my children grow up and come to this realisation themselves. There came a time when they started to see the difference between the books I choose or recommended and the books their friends choose or books that are in the library. They started to see quality in story line, in character development, in word choice, in hidden agendas and values. This is what we are guiding them towards when we direct their book choices when they are young.
Setting the Standard for Good Books
This became a bit of a code word: Are you thinking THRPLE?
It would be equally valid to have such a reminder in our personal library wall, on bookmarks or on the back of our library cards. Books affect our thinking (our heart) and we need to guard our heart. As our children are growing up it is our job to guard their hearts and teach them the value and skills needed to guard their heart for themselves.
*the acronym doesn’t match the scripture word for word, but it makes it memorable.
Over to you:
How do you get over this parenting conundrum? How do you choose good books for your kids?
(Love to hear your tips in the comments)