In more recent years, children’s books have begun to discuss and reflect the issues of our times, including bullying, racism, and other issues. I think this is all great, it exposes young people to people and situations they haven’t yet encountered and/or provides them characters that they can actually connect to. However, it can also cause you to step up your parenting game to ensure that they are not learning any misunderstandings or that you’re available to answer any questions they may have. This is especially true if your children are advanced readers. Recently, I have had instances with both of my children that gave me reason to write this post.
My son loves graphic novels, and although it used to bug me at first, I have come around to the idea that as long as he’s in a book, we’re good. (Read about my trials here.) A while ago during a trip to the bookstore, he picked out Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Shell. I had heard of it, and heard good things about it, but hadn’t read it for myself. My son was enthralled with this book for a good 2 days, telling me about cool things he saw throughout the book. When I was finally able to get my own hands on it, I realized that it was about more than kids creating communities with cardboard boxes. In reality, although all the stories are connected, there are multiple story lines that include some heavy topics, including gender identity and divorce. My issue became that I didn’t know if my son, who generally pays more attention to the illustrations than the words, grasped those things. So, knowing my child, I knew that we couldn’t rehash or reread the entire story again, however, we did have some conversation about a couple of the characters just to see if he had any questions about the story, which he did not. I don’t regret him reading the book at all, but I wish I would’ve been able to preview the book with him before he started reading it.
My daughter recently turned 10, and her reading preferences are starting to advance faster than her actual age. Recently, she checked out the audio version of The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore. This novel is about a 12 year old boy dealing with the aftermath of the death of his brother in a gang-related shooting. It’s been on my TBR list for a while, and although I would’ve preferred to read it first, I’m not in the habit of denying my kids books they want to read. I could tell that she really got it into the audiobook, because she would play it in the evenings, not just before bedtime. Honestly, I didn’t think she would stick with it, but she wanted to make sure she heard all of the story. I kept the option open for her to talk about the book if she wanted, but she didn’t seem to need that.
I say all this to say that as you are #RaisingReaders, be sure to at least try to know what your child is reading, just in case their books are covering topics that may lead to other discussions.