When my daughter was 8 years old, I bought her a copy of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. It was written in a way that kids her age would like: big fonts and illustrations to boot. She grew bored of it after a couple of chapters, I think. Her teacher told us that she’s a couple of levels ahead of her age group on her reading skills. So after that, I didn’t bother forcing her with “good books”. I let her be.
Nowadays, she’s into manga and anime. Sometimes, I wonder just how violent and graphic these books are. But I’m not about to censure her reading preferences. I learned my lesson after I told her that I won’t allow her to read Looking for Alaska by John Green. She was 12 at the time. She still found a way to read the book, and I’m not about to teach my daughter that she needs to hide things from me.
I don’t know anything about these books because I’ve never been into manga. I think that if she’s learned to marry reading for fun and reading for school in her schedule, we’re off to a good start. I decided to sit back and watch her grow into someone who’s confident with her reading taste.
At the beginning of the school year, my son brought home books with very little excitement. I started to worry. Soon, he stopped reading altogether. I brought him to the bookstore one day and asked him to pick any book he wanted. I was surprised when he picked a book about volcanoes. After a few more trips, I started to realize the reason why he doesn’t like the books his teacher was giving him: he doesn’t like story books. He’d rather read books about sharks, water, and the weather. He’d rather read about facts than fiction.
During the Christmas break, we went to the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. Man, this boy was spewing out facts like a seasoned marine biologist. Who needs a tour guide? He knows what kind of creatures to look for in certain habitats. He knows what they eat. He knows their rituals. He knows why they do the things they do. I was awestruck.
I’ve been lucky enough with my kids’ reading comprehension levels. Both of them are a level or two higher than their grades. I think that if you give them freedom to read, they’ll learn to trust their instincts.