Some time ago, I was complaining to Lyn about a man who gave me an evil glare because Little An had gone into a coughing fit just behind him. Even after I had apologised, the man continued to give me a dirty look. My complaints must have lasted a long time as J suddenly exclaimed, "Mama, you need to learn to let go of the past!" When I confessed to Lyn after some time that I was still affected by the man's glare, J said, "Mama, looks like the past has not let go of you!" J's words totally changed my mood (for the better) and I asked him where he had learnt those words of wisdom. He said they were from a book I had bought for him.
I also remember how J declared out of the blue that he was afraid of heights. He had never ever been afraid of heights. In fact, he requested to be brought to Forest Adventure when he was in kindergarten and did the kids' course with no companion. Then, I realised that Geronimo Stilton was the culprit! The rodent which J had been reading voraciously about had a slew of phobias, including the fear of heights.
While it is important to cultivate a love for reading, knowing how to choose the right reads is equally, if not more important. Besides the examples that I mentioned relating to J, a friend shared that The Diary of a Wimpy Kid might have affected her child's behaviour negatively. Thus, I think we need to select good books for our children when they are young and when they are older, teach them to be discerning when they are reading.
I have never really thought through how to select a good book till lately. For my personal reading pleasure, I used to read by authors. In primary school, my favourite authors were Enid Blyton and Carolyn Keene. I devoured Malory Towers and St Clare's books and acquired all the books in these sets again as an adult. The older me now has a shelf full of Murder She Wrote and Agatha Christie books. When I was introduced to Francine Rivers, I read every book she wrote, then waited impatiently for her to produce a new novel. I think I have more than a thousand books in my library, but just how did I go about selecting them and which books benefitted me the most?
Besides some wise parenting books and encouraging Christian books, I would say I felt most uplifted when I read Francine Rivers' books. The protaganists were always inspiring and they grew when faced with difficult circumstances. I found myself entangled in the plots and would usually read till I neglected sleep. That a book has at least one inspiring character and a captivating plot will therefore be one of the criteria I will use to measure the goodness of a book.
The mystery genre has also captivated me. I like being kept in suspense as the mysteries unfold and try to solve them before the investigators do. I am almost always wrong where Agatha Christie is concerned. Hercule Poirot never fails to amaze me with his calculated predictions. To this end, I have tried to introduce mystery stories meant for children to J. We had fun figuring out a couple of mysteries encountered by the Boxcar Children although J has never read any of those mysteries on his own. Which brings me to my next point.
So far, not all my recommendations to J have been met with interest, even though he is a bookworm. He reads like me and goes by authors or series! He owns more than fifty Geronimo Stilton books (!) and has read all the books in the Captain Awesome and Galaxy Zack series in Primary 1. He is currently absorbed in the Storey Treehouse series and is persuading me to order The 65-Storey Treehouse from Book Depository. I have been on the lookout for books that might align with his interest, and yet not compromising with richness of content.
One of my most successful recommendations to J is the Marvellous Maths (MM) series. I guess the books in this series can be classified as non-fiction, but they are written in a light-hearted way. J tells me that some of his classmates borrow his MM books now and then, so it seems they are a hit with other children too. From reading MM books, J has been asking questions like "Why is 2 to the power of zero equal to 1?" and "Why is 1 not a prime number?".
From discussing information that J has read, we found that even non-fiction books could have fallacies and we need to always be vigilant and questioning when we read and not accept every point of view readily.
Based on my experiences with reading and with J, I have decided on the following criteria for book selections:
1) The protaganist(s) is/are inspiring;
2) The plot is captivating;
3) The content appeals to the reader's interest;
4) The language used is wholesome.
I would also encourage J to be discerning as he reads and his moral compass would be the Bible.
How about you? How do you select books for your children to read?