When our 1st grader discovered reading, we were delighted.
With my insatiable love of literature (when I was in 4th grade I was tested as reading at a sophomore college level), we were not surprised when the first grader jumped, within the month, from Green Eggs And Ham to Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone, and by summer's close had read over 50 books (over 50 was what I counted), including the entire Harry Potter series.
I can't believe it but as of today I think I have become That Mom who bans her child from the library.
Oh, believe me, as someone always curious and learning and in a technical ever-evolving field: I know access to knowledge is imperative!
But imperative also is emotional growth; ethical strengthening is just as key.
By fall, entering second grade, our child quickly earned over 100 "Advanced Reading Points," thus earning the right in school to attend the Advanced Reader Party. Mid-semester, he became regularly featured on the school tv reading announcements as a reward for his high number of points. By Christmas, he earned over 300 points, at which point they stopped giving him prizes. I think last week he said he was now in the 380s. He tested, well, the teacher said the tests only go up to 6th grade and he was beyond that.
Through all this, Handsome Husband and I discussed the balance of an insatiable appetite for literature with healthy hours of outdoor play... but even more, we, from the beginning, were concerned about age-appropriate content. I *love* Harry Potter. But are the later works appropriate for a then-seven year old? He wasn't even in second grade!
Overwhelmingly, there was a theme: characters were on Two Sides, fighting to the death, were years older and embracing their angst and inner fury.
Suddenly, we had a Raging Fourteen Year Old in a seven year old's body.
This weekend was the last straw. It doesn't matter what that last straw was; now it seems rather silly, but it was just clear the child needs a break from themes he is not mature enough to digest yet.
I'm not saying he can't read mature or controversial content. (Hello, Huckleberry Finn
...) And this child knows intimately the cycle of life and death growing up with farms. But it's just time to take a break from all the characters with real evil at their core.
So, in the meantime, he's banned. We have walls and walls and walls of great award-winning books waiting to be read. And for a little while, those books will be ones with no purely evil characters, no torture, no slow realistic deaths, no angst. Adventure, certainly. Hardships? Assuredly. Bad guys? Most likely. But evil? None.
Yes, this is the second generation that has been banned from the library.
I was banned by my teachers because once I checked out a book, I would disappear into its world and not hear the classroom instructions echoing from the Real World afar.
Maybe that ability to fall into the text and live it so vividly leads me to understand how my child is tasting the real emotions, which, in these books are not all healthy or good. Until his soul matures a bit more...
If I look at an apple and see rot, I avoid it. Why not the same in literature?
Would you hand your child decaying food? Or do you show them healthy grains and habits? Would you allow your child in the company of those whose morals you question? Then why in a book? They all influence the minds and bodies they touch.
Call me a prude, but in the meantime I'll spend more time taking him to absorb museums full of art, to learn camp songs and camaraderie at 4-H Camp, to while away more afternoons shooting bb's with his mom, and even: to read.
But to read stories of empathy, adversity, and overcoming odds with the help of positive friends.