Age-appropriate reading: When ability and maturity diverge

Feb 4, 2008 at 10:54 p.m. ET

I have noticed, as Woody has become a more confident and competent reader, that what he wants to read and what he can read are not necessarily what is right for him to read. I figure when an eight-year-old requests books from the Young Adult section at the library, some more careful scrutiny is in order.

I don't have time to pre-read all the books he reads, much as I might like to. I barely have time for my own pleasure reading. I've successfully chosen some books for him and unsuccessfully dissuaded him from others, relying on recommendations and commentary from friends and reviews from strangers on Amazon.com. It doesn't help that Woody is fairly picky in his reading. He likes some fantasy novels, but not others. Occasionally he likes biographies and historical books, but less and less frequently. Adventure novels are a direction we might be about to take. There are some series of books that don't challenge him in the least, but he still likes the stories. He goes through three of those in an afternoon. And, as with many other elements of parenting, once I think I've got something figured out, it changes.My husband has been wonderful about reading to the boys over the years as part of their bedtime routine, and as such Woody (and Alfs) have listened to some fabulous stories and many classics. They have even tackled Moby Dick! At times my husband has conveniently skipped over bits as he's read, so even though they know the stories, they have not necessarily heard the complete, complex themes. As parents, we want to introduce the more complex themes with great care, and make sure we can talk about the issues with the boys in ways that are reassuring and, if not comforting, then comfortable.So it's one of my ongoing and sometimes thankless tasks: finding the books that are going to challenge my reader children, not bore them, with themes they will enjoy and from which they will learn, and not become overwhelmed. It's a careful — sometimes precarious — balance.Read more:

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