A thought on reading


It’s the last day of school.  I’ve been fielding phone calls all day from irritated mothers whose kids waited until last night to mention that “oh yeah, I can’t get my report card because I have an overdue library book I have to pay for.”  One even came in to scream at me personally.

Then there was the sixth grade mother I just got off the phone with.  Her son had lost three books back in October, to theft if one believes the boy.  (He may be telling the truth, he may not – I have no way of knowing.)  He’s known that we hold the book’s borrower responsible when books go missing, yet he’s spent most of this year denying his responsibility.  So now his mom comes along to tell me how her son is so wonderful (I’m sure he is!) and how he shouldn’t have to be held accountable, and if I continue being a wicked ogre to him, well, she just won’t let him check books out of any library ever again.

This kind of thing always throws me.  Who does the parent truly believe she is punishing?  Because it isn’t me.  Whether or not some child checks another book out of my library does not change my life at all.  His life, however, is now diminished.  He won’t be able to read anything he chooses.  He’ll be limited to reading only what his parents purchase for him.

My parents were considered somewhat progressive when I was growing up, because they never told me what I could or could not read.  They signed permission cards at the town library so that I could get books from the adult rooms.  I fell wildly in love with Poe when I was 9.  I dipped my toe into science fiction with Heinlein at 12.  I attempted to read classics like The Brothers Karamazov and Green Mansions, not that I necessarily understood them.  My parents let me choose for myself what was appropriate for me, but they also made me aware of my own responsibility in what I read and learned.

My life was enhanced by the reading I was allowed to do.  I couldn’t have asked for a more valuable gift than that.


3 comments to A thought on reading

  • Misty,
    That mother needs to grow up. How stupid can she be? Okay, wait. We already know how stupid.

    I too was allowed to read anything I wanted. It started when I was quite young and asked my mother about some passages in Song of Soloman. When I seemed to handle Bibilical erotica okay, she let me have my way with the public library. I think an open mind stimulates writers and others of a creative bent. It certainly never did me any harm.

  • I think that reading is like anything else for kids. As a parent I want my kids to be ready for what they’re reading both emotionally and intellectually. This isn’t to say that Nancy and I keep books out of their hands, but we don guide them through the process of picking out appropriate books. Sometimes this means steering them away from things for which they’re not ready; other times it means pushing them to move beyond the safe, easy choices and challenge themselves a bit. I think that this is another area — and there are so many — where dialog between parent and child can be enormously productive.

  • As a fellow teacher I’ve spent countless hours on phones to parents about Johnny not bringing paper/pens etc to class and behaviour etc etc etc only to be abused as a ‘pushy b*tch’ who expects too much from kids these days. I actually had a parent tell me that teachers should stop having expectations from the eighties and get with the program, kids don’t have to know as much as they used to…..
    well pull me back up from the floor where I landed.
    My children all read, I introduced my step daughters to books at the age of 2. One Duck Stuck by Phillis Root, ten years later the older one is reading McCaffrey, Paolini, Horowitz, you name it. The younger one is starting to get into larger books as well. My 3yr old loves reading and is recognising words, and my 1yr old twins just love ripping books… ah well I’ve got time to convert the later.
    But we don’t watch much tele, we’re too busy with books or writing. Both stepdaughters have started short stories for comps, and when they’re stuck for words they know where the thesaurus/dictionary is and they’re into it without me standing over them hollering.
    Children are molded by their parents, if you have parents who love books and life long learning, the children (9times out of 10) will love it too.
    don’t worry about the abusive show downs, at least you know you’re doing your job right.