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Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.
Summer book swap
What do you do when a child wants to read a book that's too sophisticated or you feel is plain inappropriate for them?
That's the dilemma a friend of mine confronted when her six-year-old son wanted to read a book that he could easily decode but that is probably most appropriate for upper elementary to middle school children. So she called me. (She knew her son — like most kids — would probably listen to a neutral but trusted third party more than he'd listen to his own mom.)
It was my pleasure to have a chance to talk to 6-year-old Rafe and his mom. Rafe asked about the book he wanted to read; apparently he'd heard some of his older friends talking about it. I told Rafe that I think there are some books that kids should wait to read; that the book would still be available when he was a bit older.
We talked about other books that he might like; Rafe had some suggestions for me, too. From this conversation, we're going to start a book swap. I'll give him some books that I think he'd like and I'd like his opinion on and he said he'd share some book that he's liked with me.
I love getting feedback from young readers about books. It keeps me honest — often children see things in books that I don't. Sharing books and ideas with children helps adults find out what appeals and builds a bond of shared experiences. Plus it's fun.
I do think that it's incumbent on parents of young children to know what's between the covers of the books their children read and what they see on screens (either in movies or on television) — not to censor it but to guide them, maybe to build on the ideas presented.
It gets tougher to keep up with longer books that children grow into; but there are people in every community whose business it is to know children's books. They're only as far away as the public library — a key resource all year but especially during the summer.
In any case, I've got a small pile of my books for Rafe and can't wait to give them to his mom to share with him. I hope he likes Melonhead (Yearling), and Mr. Popper's Penguins (Little Brown) and a few others. I don't know for sure — but look forward to finding out soon.