The Appropriate Book for Your Child
Updated: Jul 12, 2018
When my oldest daughter was in the third grade, she was reading at an eleventh grade level.
Oh, I'm not even trying to play off that opening line off as some sort of humblebrag. I openly admit I was incredibly proud of her literary skills then and still am today, as she is about to graduate in just a few weeks. (These days, she reads and writes a lot of script adaptations and theatre reviews, by the way.) I'm just sharing a fact that lends to the experience of choosing RIGHT books for your children.
I remember thinking I could choose some Magic Tree House books that took her less than an hour to read and were both repetitive and predictable for her at that age; OR . . . I could pick the popular books closer to her reading level that were recently out. You know, something like Twilight! OH DEAR GOD! If you wonder why the Twilight series wouldn't be appropriate for a third grader, you haven't read it. (Maybe don't. They lost me long before the time that the main character's hot ex-boyfriend was promised to her....young daughter....for life. It's not less sick than it sounds. Spoilers! Don't care.)
Oh, the pendulum does swing so!
The thing is, it's not just reading level that determines the right book for your son or daughter. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when choosing the most appropriate book for your child:
Reading Level - Does your child have to pause more than three times on a page for pronunciation or vocabulary comprehension? (Too hard.) Conversely, does he or she read the words so quickly that zero time is given to comprehension; is the child whipping through a picture book in moments or a chapter book in an hour without being able to tell you what it was about because he or she merely saw the words? (Probably too easy.)
Subject Matter - Is the material being addressed in the book something that you would be comfortable discussing with your child? (Or maybe something you should be comfortable discussing?) If the book contains hard-but-real facts of life such as death, illness, war, moving, not fitting in or friendship, divorce, the loss of a pet, special physical or emotional needs, or other difficult subjects, be prepared, as a parent, to answer the questions that may follow such content. (And make sure your child can comprehend the answers to those questions. Book smart rarely equals life smart . . .they are different!)
Maturity Level - This is sort of a sister to "subject matter," but it pertains to those things that are not just difficult for children, but also for us as adults. Criminal activity, violence, abuse, war, sexuality (and the oh-so-many side topics to this one), historical (and current) evils of the world, and other topics. You need to determine when your child is prepared to start digging into these hard-hitting topics.
Values Taught - You don't want the first time your child hears about people, cultures, and beliefs that are different from your own, or that reflect your own, to be from somebody else. Politics, religion, money . . . you know, the big controversial topics you're best to skip at Thanksgiving? Those ones. Is your child seeing the values you want him or her to live out in the books he or she reads? And, for those books that are showing something different than your value set, are you including discussion? Give them the tools they need to take hold of the values you instill and to know why they matter.
Growth Gained - If we were only meant to read for the purpose of growing our vocabularies, then you can just give your children the how-to manuals of your home's electronic devices. Instead, think about what growth your child might get from a book. Is he or she being educated in history, the arts, science, or social customs? Is he or she motivated or inspired? Will your child be challenged to think more deeply about something than he or she has in the past? Will he or she be grown spiritually, emotionally, mentally, or even physically? Is the child entertained? (Oh yes . . . that's allowed, too! For, if there is not an engaged enjoyment, the other gains will be lost.)
Read it, anyway!
The hard reality is that, at some point, your child will start reading things that you may not have chosen for him or her, either because he or she slipped one by you or because . . . against your best judgment . . . your child's school has determined that he or she needs to read about, say, a graphically written violent rape in, oh, I don't know, middle school. (Yep - it happens.) Do your best to read his or her selection ahead of her. Sometimes (albeit, rarely) if you feel a specific scene from a book is not something your child can handle, a conversation with a teacher allows an exception. Eventually, you probably won't be able to keep up. Hopefully, though, this doesn't happen before you have given your son or daughter a good foundation.
This week, I'm proud to be a part of FEW International Publications' latest release, "Ladder Of Hearts," by Bestselling Author, Wendy Leppert. Her beautiful story is a picture book to be shared between parents and children. On its surface, it uses verse and repetition to walk through relatable family events accompanied by the gentle illustrations of up-and-coming illustrator, Jillian Langenecker.
However, the book also opens up the opportunity to discuss topics such as aging, life stages, the importance of family, loss, and faith. I kind of see it as a "Love You, Forever" for today. It's a book I not only would have seen as appropriate when my children shared its reading level, it's one that offers gained growth across generations that share its pages. I know I'll be adding it to my shelves when it releases on Friday at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1717351875 (before Friday, this link takes you to the adorable puppies of Amazon)! Feel free to learn a little more about the book in this trailer:
Happy . . . and appropriate . . . reading to you and yours!
Yours in writing,