Thursday, December 27, 2012

Right Time, Right Book?

The NY Times is having a discussion over the right time for which books i.e. should a 6-year old read Harry Potter?  There are a series of short essays from various people on the subject. 

As a former children's bookseller, I would err on the side of waiting for certain books.  You can read almost any book to any child at any time but many themes are possibly too big for some kids as presented in some books.

They could read them at 6 and then again at 12 and get something different.  That would be okay (and to be expected) except that if the theme worries the child or causes upset at a younger age, was that worth it? 

Those books will always be there; it's not like they go away.  

7 comments:

Catherine said...

I don't believe in holding books back from kids unless the individual child has proven to find a specific book or topic too disturbing. I've not yet met a kid who didn't stop reading something that they found too icky or scary or otherwise not-fun, all on their own. Learning and growth comes from being exposed to things that are uncomfortable, or hearing new things, or having notions challenged. Never too young to start that.

My science head child, first struggled with reading. Then, after a year of private tutoring because SPD deemed he wasn't far enough behind to get in-school help, he could hardly set books down long enough to sleep. Problem is, the "science" related fiction books available for grade schoolers are terribly dumbed down, so he read the field guides, encyclopedias, reference books - but that didn't count for reading fiction. After devouring the Animorphs series - three a week on average - I turned him loose on adult science fiction books. Were there topics in there pretty advanced? Yup. Some he asked about, some he googled, others I'm pretty sure he missed entirely the first time through. His vocabulary was off the charts good. The now Engineering student doesn't appear harmed by early exposure to a wide array of topics and concepts.

Melville said...

I don't think anyone should read Bovery before they are forty. Then everyone should.

Anonymous said...

Our oldest child's teacher suggested that the protagnist should be no more than 2 years older than the child reading the book so we waited until our child was 9 before having him read Harry Potter. In general it was a good rule of thumb and we found plenty of good books for our budding engineer to read, though his teacher did not care whether they were fiction or non-fiction as long as they were reading.

HP

Lisa said...

I agree with the article. I'm so sorry I urged my son to read Lord of the Rings at age 11. If I had waited only a few years he would have gotten so much more from the story. It didn't harm him, but I doubt he will re-read the books, so he will never experience them as I did when I was about 14.

I've never withheld a book from my kids, but after the LOTR experience I've recommended against reading certain choices, and so far my kids have listened.

emeraldkity said...

The first book my youngest read was Harry Potter ( she was 8 & has dyslexia) She read LOTR when she was 11. Then she read The Silmarillion.
Then she read Unfinished Tales & the History of Middle Earth.
Then she read them again.
;)
I didn't push them on her, but she was fascinated with the writing. In my experience kids will stop reading if they arent getting anything out of it.
I had a harder time finding appropriate books for her sister who had taught herself to read when she was three & picked up Island of the Blue Dolphins when she was six ( after reading the Little House series when she was five).
At least they had more appropriate books available to them than I did. I remember reading The Tin Drum, Valley of the Dolls, & The Story of O, when I was in elementary school. ( my parents had eclectic taste & my grade school didnt have much of a library)

seattle citizen said...

If they can pick up War and Peace they can read it.

Jan said...

Lisa: that is a fascinating perspective. I read The Hobbit to my oldest, starting when he was 6 (he was a pretty advanced reader, but not enough to read them himself). He loved it so much that we kept going -- into LOTR -- starting when he was 7. It took two years (and I kept thinking he would lose patience during the long march through the Shire, or the slog across Moria at the end -- because I had gotten bored with those). Nope. He loved the entire 4 book set, and promptly started in re-reading them as soon as we finished (I had him wait until about 13 or 14 to read the Silmarillion). He STILL rereads them every few years. So I guess it all depends. If you have a child who is inclined to not reread books they have already read, I totally agree with having them wait (I have one of those too). If you have "rereaders," then I think you can let them at anything they are up for.

On Harry Potter, my kids enjoyed the early books at 7 or 8. I would not have gone past book 3 with them, though, until they were 12 or 13, as I think they would have been bored with the "teen" themes of the later books when they were younger.