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Part 2: Potatoes or Chips?

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

Are you comfortable with your child alone with a stranger?

We all know that reading books is important. Library reading contests abound. Schools have posters everywhere that promote reading. However, it puzzles me as to why we are not more concerned about what is being read. “Well, at least they’re reading,” is such a common phrase. However, I would say that it would be better for some reading to not take place rather than to have a child read literature that is misleading and sometimes entirely inappropriate for their level of maturity.

Returning to my food analogy, eating is necessary, however the nutritional value of the food determines our level of health, energy level, emotional well being, and clarity of thought. We are, essentially, what we eat. The cliché is true.

Reading is an essential skill; the books we read determine our devotion to upholding virtues, prioritization of our values, subtleties of our personality, and the health of our relationships. We absorb what we read. If a child is consistently reading literature where the child is the victor and the adult is portrayed as the fool (as in so many movies these days), one can hardly be surprised when the child challenges the authority of their parents and other caring adults. If a married woman consistently reads passionate romance novels, is it a surprise that she may find her marriage and home life mundane and routine and eventually abandon her family? I have seen both. What we read truly does shape who we become.

So, how do we choose a good book? First, we must delineate between issues and virtues. I have found that many contemporary books have an agenda. We must remember that when our child is reading a book, they are internalizing the ideas and perspectives of the author. We would never think of allowing our child to sit in a room with a stranger, with no information about the person’s background and no parameters on the issues being discussed. Allowing a child to read a book is our way of saying, “Yes, I trust this author to teach you something of value.”

When choosing books, we want to choose stories that keep our values. Be careful of choosing a book based on its reputation, unless you fully trust the source of the recommendation. We have been given books by the kindest people that did not fit the standard of our family library. My children have read books in school that were not allowed in ourome. (When I called the principal to as why that particular book was being read, I was told that it was popular, therefore a great pick for that group of students.) There are books, and then there are books.

So, how do you choose a good book? First, accept the fact that you are going to have to read or at the very least, peruse, the book before you can make a determination. Look for characters that have depth—characters that have real dilemmas and grow through the experience. Look for books by trusted authors- authors whose work you have grown to love and appreciate. And if you are short on time, check out or purchase copies of children’s literature anthologies and reserve or purchase books listed therein. Anthologies list books with short plot summaries and are invaluable guides to choosing the best literature for your child. If you are going to spend the time reading, these guides will help you know that you are reading out of the best books. And, after all, we would not want to give our children anything but the best!

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

Charles W. Eliot

Recommended Anthologies:

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