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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

I don't care what they read, or do I?

October 30, 2007

I don't care what they read as long as they are reading.

There's some food for thought! Is that true? It doesn't matter what they read as long as they're reading?

Last week, Michael Winerip's Parenting column in the New York Times was about making a love of reading happen for his kids, especially as they grow older. The column was poignant and thought provoking. Readers' comments were too.

One reader wrote:

I'm afraid I have never heard a parent say anything more negligent than "I don't care what they read as long as they are reading." How absurd. Really, try substituting the phrase I don't care what my children eat as long as they are eating. I don't care with whom my children become friends as long as they have friends. I don't care what movies my children see as long as they see movies. I don't care what sites they go to on the internet as long as they are computer competent. You get the idea.

At first, I thought I disagreed.

And then we went to Barnes & Noble.

The girls had 15 minutes to browse and choose a book. Molly chose yet ANOTHER Junie B. Jones book. She's probably read 10 or 11 of them; I stopped after 3 or 4, not willing to read any more. It never fails though — each one has some antic that has Molly howling. She can't get enough.

Mom: Junie B. Jones, again?
Molly: Yes!
Mom: What about a Magic Tree House book? Or a Ramona one? Here's a Magic School Bus...
Molly: No! I really want this one.
Mom: Really? Really?
Molly: Yes.
Mom: Alright, Molly. But that's the last Junie B. book we're buying.

It turns out I DO agree with commenter; I do care what they're reading. I think. What about you?


Thanks, Els. We, too, have many, many fairy books around the house. It seems there is a new series (weather, jewel, coming soon...pets!) each month. There's something about "shimmering fairy dust" and "sparkling glitter" that really captures attention!

Actually, I think the parallel with food holds up, especially where there's a deficiency involved. I know some parents whose young kids have had serious underweight/feeding issues. Those parents *don't* actually care what their kid is eating, as long as it has calories. My daughter hasn't had an easy time learning to read; I want her to love reading and love books. Do I find the endless Rainbow Fairies books insipid? Yeah, somewhat. Do I love that she reads them, willingly, repeatedly, on her own? Yeah. A lot.

I remember feeling the same way about certain books and was probably bossier about book choices than some parents would be comfortable with. The other thing we did was talk about the good books as if to say "these books are worth more conversation..." Today, my kids read high- and low-brow stuff. And I'm okay with that :)

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"Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them." —

Arnold Lobel