I work at a bookstore and so frequently I hear parents telling their children to put something back because it will be boring, looks bad, won’t be interesting, or isn’t appropriate. It bothers me tremendously.
A few weeks back I had a young lady in the store who was 16, well more than old enough to start making her own decisions about what she does and doesn’t want to read. Her choices for books were the Alexander Hamilton biography, Carrie, and Halloween (yes the serial killer, horror book). Accompanying her were one brother who was slightly older, her mother, and her father. Dad and brother looked uncomfortable from the time they walked in, but Mom accompanied her to the desk to ask for help. When I gave her the Hamilton book her mom said “You don’t want that! It is too long and will be so boring!” to which the girl replied “Yes I do! I don’t care how long it is. I want to learn more!” I meanwhile stood by uncomfortable and angry.
When we went to look for the Carrie and Halloween copies, her brother and father were three aisles away and giving her a hard time over the stacks about her reading habits.
“Why are we here?”
“Why do you always have to read so much?”
“You don’t want that book, it will be so boring!”
“You are so weird!”
At this point I was furious. Mom went off to talk to the guys and left her and I alone in the aisle. I immediately stopped looking for the book and stood her up straight and tall and told her “Never, ever, ever let anyone tell you what you do and don’t want to read. You read anything you want and DO NOT let anyone shame you for your choices. Reading is valuable and that is a wonderfully written book.” She perked up immediately, gave me a huge hug, and told me that was exactly what she needed to hear.
It broke my heart.
This happened a few weeks back and I have thought about it almost every day since. I was never censored as a child when it came to reading. It made me an incredibly diverse reader. There is certainly a place for age appropriateness and making sure your children are reading things that are not going to be too much for them. But why would you ever try to tell a child not to read a history book? She just wilted the longer they razzed her and it is that kind of influence that can ruin a reader.
10 thoughts on “Let the Children Read”
I have two kids and I don’t censor books, or tell them they can’t read something because it’s too long. My oldest read at an 8th grade level when he was 7. My toddler asks me to read him books about The Wright brothers, as well as Where’s Waldo. Ha ha! If you let kids enjoy themselves, they’ll grow up to love reading.
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This is such a wonderful blog post, I used to work in a bookshop too and this same thing annoyed me to no end. I’m so glad you were able to help!
On behalf of my fellow readers, thank you for standing up and saying that to her. A lot of people would have stepped back, not wanting to involve themselves but it is too important to do that. That girl now feels comfortable and confident reading the books that she wanted to read. Most importantly, she isn’t judging herself for her choices! There is a time when censorship is a relevant issue such as between age and content. Telling a teenager not to read a book because it will be ‘boring’ is terrible and would have me slowly simmering away if I had heard that conversation too.
Good on you for stepping in!
That family needs to learn the difference between ‘I don’t want it’ and ‘you don’t want it.’ She wasn’t forcing anyone else to read a biography of Hamilton lol.
I’m so glad you said that to her. Those words are going to ring in her ears for years to come, I’d bet.
Ugh, this annoys me. I strongly believe that if you’re the age to read something, you should be able to read something. (A 8 year old should not read Twilight, but other stuff is ok.)
One time I went book shopping with my dad he saw me in the young adult/teen section and told me I should be reading other books since I was just out of college at that time. I think I just gave him an offended look/ glare (since I bought my books for a long time anyway) and continued browsing in the next aisle. He never said anything about me still reading young adult since then. He knows I have this blog too since he followed me at one point. But yeah, I don’t think people should really stop someone from reading unless that book is really not appropriate for them.
It’s a shame when parents think they’re helping but the way they do it is actually more harmful to their child’s reading habits!
Wow. this is so incredibly sad! I would be so angry too—I’m glad you encouraged her!
As a teacher I often hear other teachers complain about choices such as Wimpy Kid and Besst Quest etc. Me…. if a child has a book in their hands and s smile on their face I’m happy.
It’s so cool that you said that to her. I agree completely (although maybe I’d draw a line at, say, a nine year old picking up Carrie for other reasons…) I wasn’t controlled in my reading either, so I read a lot of Stephen King as a young teen. Don’t regret it. It was what I needed at the time!