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The right books for strong readers

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Appropriate reading material

Woody's reading has really taken off in the last year and a half. He was a good reader before, but now he absolutely devours books. Since he's required to have a pleasure reading book at school at all times (for downtime), he typically has with him a book so thick it doesn't fit in his desk.

Boy ReadingYou're thinking, "What's the problem?" While not a bad problem to have, I am having difficulty making sure my son has reading material that is appropriate for both his emotional development level and his reading ability. It's harder than you think!

when ability and grade level diverge

I remember having something of this problem as an elementary school student. The books available in my school library for my grade level and in my classrooms were so easy that I was done with them in a very short amount of time. I wanted to read harder and longer books, and this led me to themes that I was not ready for, emotionally speaking. It led to some confusing moments while reading - and often embarrassing questions of my mother later.

Now with Woody - and to a certain extent with Alfs - I'm the mother preparing herself for interesting questions. There is no way I can keep up with reading every book they want to read in advance of their opening the front cover. Some books are in genres I was never interested in to begin with! I was never much for science fiction and thrillers, and those seem to be what my boys are carting around the most.

Communication and input

Communication about my concerns becomes more and more important - with their teachers, with the curriculum supervisors at their schools for guidance toward appropriate books, and with the boys themselves. I'm spending more time on parent review websites, hoping to have a least a heads up for what themes they might encounter in these books. I'm talking to other parents, hearing what they have to say about books and their kids' response to them. I do read their books when I have time (and it's great to have conversations with them about characters and plot lines) and share that knowledge with other parents. I wish I were a speed reader so I could read everything! The current strategy is imperfect at best, but it's the best I can do right now.

Even within the books I decide are okay, what is okay for Woody now might not have been okay for Alfs at the same age and may not be okay for Sunshine when it's her turn. Or it might. Every kid is different, and my lens on the books under consideration has to take that into consideration.

Overall, though, I am plain thrilled with the way my kids enjoy books. It's something I hoped for when they were each born. If this is the consequence of that enjoyment, I'll take it.

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