RANT: Just because they CAN read anything DOESN’T MEAN they SHOULD read EVERYTHING and Re: The Golden Compass

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Some authority figures see our very young kids reading sophisticated stuff like War and Peace and just assume that because certain kids are so intelligent, they can read anything. Well, yes, they CAN read anything. But they don’t want to!

For example, when my daughter was 9, her teacher wanted her to read Lord of the Flies. Sheesh.

And a while back, a librarian suggested that dear daughter read Gathering Blue, because, the librarian felt, it was \”better\” than the Giver. Well, first of all, there are precious few books that are better than The Giver. And, unfortunately, my daughter did read Gathering Blue. Yeah, and, what’s so bad about losing a month’s sleep over a book?

Another teacher recommended \”How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent\” — (the teacher’s favorite book), to my daughter. Dear daughter had finished just a chapter or two of it before she brought the book to me and said something like, \”I think there’s stuff in here that is between adults and I don’t understand it, but I think I shouldn’t be reading it.\” For sure. It is a wonderful book, but totally, totally, totally inappropriate for a 10 yr. old.

While it’s probably true that my daughter CAN read anything, I would prefer that she NOT read everything. And, more importantly, that is her preference as well.

In fact, my daughter is (now) in the habit of bringing books to me that have been recommended to her. (She started doing this on her own; my philosophy is that she is allowed to read anything she wants to.) She has made it clear to me that she wants and needs me to screen out books that are too disturbing — too violent and/or too adult.

I have many, many issues with the Golden Compass. I feel strongly that it’s inappropriate for most 7 year old children.

In fact, I have conveyed to my 11 yr old and my husband that I think it is not a book that my daughter ought to read right at this stage. (My husband sometimes has a hard time with the concept of \”inappropriate for young girls\” too and I sometimes think he finds it amusing to read books with her that I’ve specifically suggested he not.)

Lately, my daughter is much less sensitive than she used to be, but images and ideas that she finds highly disturbing tend to \”stick in her head\”. I am just about positive that she would find many images and ideas that would definitely disturb her in Pullman’s books. Click here for my full-on anti-Pullman rant.

— Emily, stepping down from my soapbox. I feel so much better now! Thanks for listening…

2 Responses to “RANT: Just because they CAN read anything DOESN’T MEAN they SHOULD read EVERYTHING and Re: The Golden Compass”

  1. Laura W. says:

    I have the Philip Pullman series on audio – or rather, I did. I disliked it so much that I gave it away. When I found my self nearly getting sick while listening to the third book I decided that, even though the CD set was VERY expensive, that did NOT mean I absolutely had to finish it. I found the first book tolerable, but the third book was abhorrent for me.

    And I agree about “can” and “should” reading. One time, when I was teaching gifted 2nd/3rd graders, the book Dogsong (Paulsen) was suggested to me. It was certainly within the reading level of my students, but after we had started the book, I had time to read ahead and decided it was entirely inappropriate for their maturity. I stopped reading it in that class. The kids were not happy, but I told them that they could take the book home (with a note from me) and if their parents decided to let them read it, then they could finish it there. No one did and they soon forgot it.

    I have tried to never again read a book that I haven’t previously read with kids. As a sub, that isn’t always possible, but I have refused to read aloud books that I am uncomfortable with. I usually bring an appropriate book with me, for that occasion.

  2. emily says:

    Sounds like you and I agree both about a lot of books and about how/when we suggest/read books to kids. There are very few authors that I trust implicitly. (One being Diana Wynne Jones…)

    I nearly always try to read the book ahead before I suggest it to my daughter. Course she often finds books on her own that I haven’t read. But she knows that she is very sensitive, so often asks me about a book before she reads it. Unless it’s recommended by someone whose taste she knows she respects.