Wednesday, January 02, 2008


I'm picky about books. If I start one and it's not grabbing me within the first chapter or two, I don't bother to finish it. There are too many other good books out there for me to waste time on a dud.

I'm also somewhat picky about the books my children read. I don't censor them, but if see that Graceful is in a Nancy Drew rut, I make sure there are other good books available for her to choose from so that she can branch out a bit. And, when I take the girls to the library, I limit how many books they get from a series. Especially the Babysitters' Club. Blech.

There are some books I haven't allowed my children to read because I know they're not ready for them. Just because my third grader reads at a middle school level doesn't mean she's ready for middle school content.

Until recently, I have not allowed Graceful to read the Harry Potter books -- even though many of her classmates are working their way through the series with much enthusiasm and speed. My reasons for this ban were twofold: 1) I wanted Graceful to be mature enough to be able to handle the violence and the intense emotional upheaval and 2) I wanted her to be old enough to really and truly appreciate the literary magic.

Graceful started the first Harry Potter book yesterday and she is utterly enthralled, absolutely hooked already. I'm happy, because I know she's ready for this experience and will enjoy it thoroughly.

That said, once she finishes the first book, she will not be allowed to move on immediately to the second book. I know, that makes me cruel and unjust, but I believe that she'll better appreciate the books if she spaces them out a bit and has time to reflect on each one for a month or two. Or more. I probably will let her read #2 later in the winter and #3 this summer. Then, a longer break until #4, followed by a longer break for #5. And so on. She doesn't know this yet and is going to be unhappy when she finds out. But, I truly think this is the best way for her to approach this particular series.

How about you? What do you think?

Updated to add: Graceful finished the book this morning and is now re-reading bits and pieces. I'm now thinking I'll let her read the second book in a few weeks -- enough time to digest the first, but not so much that she goes crazy with anticipation. She also hasn't seen the movies, but I'm no hurry to expose her to those.


Alice said...

I think this makes so much sense.

Too many just rush through the first book trying to get to the next one, not even enjoying the first. Spread them out, this will annoy her now... but she'll understand later. (As with so many things from childhood).

countrymouse said...

Yes, yes, yes! I completely agree that time for reflection with any treasured thing is a must! My older son had a Great Books instructor in high school who called this thoughtful period "Hmmmmmmm . . . " : )

Speaking of cruel mothers, I won't let my youngest watch the film versions of Chronicles of Narnia (as well as others) because I want the magical version of the story that's in his head to be left intact. I don't want someone else's vision to be ingrained.

traci anne said...

I also say spread them out - my mom would have done the same thing if HP had been around when I was younger! My mom let me read pretty much anything because I was on a high school reading level at a very early age - she screened for content (I mean, someone had to take me to the bookstore and library!), but for the most part, it was a free-for-all. Hence my encyclopedic knowledge of The Babysitters' Club books, which, looking back (and at some of the BSC-dedicated blogs out there), were just slightly ridiculous! :)

daysgoby said...

I agree, however, I think much of the magic of the Harry Potter series was its ability to immerse the reader in a magical world, with no chinks of the real world slotting through, and by chopping it up she may miss some of that experience.

For example, the Chronicles of Narnia were all set at different times and told very different stories and could actually be taken as stand-alone stories and not a series at all, while the Potter books were much more entwined.

jenny said...

My boy started reading them within the last year and he's done them back to back (he's on the fifth now).

But.He doesn't LOVE reading. He reads because that's how they kill free time in class and because it's the only way he earn an extra half an hour at bedtime. These books are the first I've caught him reading outside of those two I'm letting him go to town.

Lacey Bean said...

I liked waiting for each next book to come out, so making her wait the same way might be good too.

Especially since the later books get more violent and scary.


Badness Jones said...

Well we're still working on 'jolly phonics', so I don't know how I'll approach this when the time comes...but I was an early reader, and I was talking to a girlfriend recently who was as well, and we both remember reading "Are you there God, it's me, Margaret" at age 8 or 9...too early. Right now I think I would let the Princess choose her own reading material, and just be around to discuss the themes with her, but I've changed my mind on so many parenting issues as they've come up, I just don't know....I read some of the first Harry Potter book to a friend's little boy I was watching, and had to go out and buy a copy for myself the next day...and I read the rest as they came out, so I didn't have a choice about waiting for the next one....tell Graceful just to be grateful her wait won't be as long!

The Guider said...

Hmm, I can see the logic in what you're planning. But from experience, K loves the Potter books and she was always keen to move on to the next one. She's gone back to them too, I'm fairly sure she's read at each one at least twice. The joy she gets from them is far outweighed by the fact she maybe didn't take in everything at the first reading. So, I'd let her move on when she asks. When I was 10 (as Graceful would be by the end of the 3rd) my mum might have directed my reading, as you are doing at the library, but she certainly didn't stop me reading a book she was happy with if I wanted it. And I read a lot of nonsense, like Sweet Valley High, but ended up with an English Lit (and Political Economy) degree so she was happy.

Melissa said...

Hmmmm....I read James Michener's Centennial and Hawaii in 4th grade, yet my mother banned me from reading the Sweet Valley High series when I was in junior high. She got it all wrong, IMHO, her censorship led me to other books that are clearly waaaay inappropriate for a girl to read. That said, I also read and reread my way through several series, Betsy-Tacy and Anne of Green Gables among them. I say let the child rip through book 2 at will, she'll likely go back and reread both 1 and 2. But she's not my child and you know her waaaaay better, obviously.
Great post discussion:)

TX Poppet said...

Personally, I hated the Harry Potter books. I felt like Roald Dahl did it first and did it better. I underestimated the power of adolescent soap operas. Boy child tore through the entire series (courtesy of Grandma). Of course this is the same Grandma who said of my adolescent reading obsessions that she didn't care if I read porn so long as I read. For me? I gotta sneak in the good stuff in between the garbaahge or I suspect my children will grow up missing out.

erin said...

I thought part of the fun with the HP books was waiting for the next one to come out - and then as it got closer to the last book, re-reading them before getting the newest one. It's a shame they're all already out - you could have taken Graceful to a midnight magic party to pick up the newest book. It was cool to see so many kids SO excited about a new book - instead of a movie or video game or Hannah Montana or whatever.

I've seen a lot of kids reading the HP books who I thought were way too young for them - especially the last three or four of the series. Obviously every kid is different, but my sister's friend read them to her 6 yr old. As if there were a lack of age-appropriate reading material for that age.

Comets89 said...

The holding off of the Potter books does make sense. Here is an idea which I did every time a new book came out. I would reread the preceding books so I would remember. It really helped in my enjoyment and by reading the second time around I read information I had missed.

Aims said...

I think that's a great idea to space them out - I'll often read a whole lot of the Jilly Cooper series one after the other until I get bonked-out - and lose all interest. A good break is great.
Re: reading stuff too early is difficult. I know I certainly picked up a whole lot of stuff I shouldn't have when I was very young, just through natural curiosity. I don't think it affected me badly, although if Mum knew I had read Jaws at the age of 9 which had some pretty raunchy bits in it (I had no idea what half of it meant) I'm sure she would have taken it off me. Judy Blume books were another... you started with Iggie's House and Superfudge and somehow got to Forever 6 months later...growing up fast.