In 2 Parts.


The daughter has been reconnecting with a good friend from Portland and the friend is involved in Oregon Battle of the Books. I am supposing this has been the impetus for Natalya’s scouring of mine and Sean’s bookshelves for “Must-Read” material.

“Mom, Can I read Wuthering Heights, you think?”

“…um, you could, I suppose, but would—.”

“Can you pull some books for me that you think I should/could read?”

I’ve culled a few to keep her entertained, but I know I am going to have to make a second pass soon. And while this situation/post could be viewed as bragging; really, it is me being a bit unsure—thinking I should just remove some of the known “not nows” (ala Palahniuk) and let her browse.

I.  What’s the big deal other than explicit content in some that she may or not actually comprehend?

My primary concern is turning her off of an author or work because it is really just so early… Then there is just life experience that creates some of the depth of appreciation for a work…  Rapidly approaching are the days when I can no longer confidently say “maybe that should wait, I’d hate for it to be lost on you…” No longer is the art of distracting her with the laden shelves at the Public Library working. I am holding on to her belief that I only want the best for her.

What do you think?

Any great pieces of Lit. you read at a maturish 10 3/4s or younger that you’d recommend? don’t let the fact that she is a girl limit you.

II.  I do not recall having someone to help guide me in my reading experiences when I was younger.

My dad is a Reader and he read to me and my sister at bedtime–wilderness adventure type books. Dad was an English Major so we’ve read several of the same Classics, but otherwise our reading tastes rarely converge. [To be reasonable: It isn’t as if my dad had a parent who shared his interest or would help him pursue them. What road map did he have?] I remember my (first half) fourth grade teacher reading Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume, etc. I would read anything that looked like those books at the time. I was left to my own devices in the Library when I was older, both school and public, and I didn’t have a teacher set any books at my elbow. I didn’t have any friends that were avid readers to recommend me anything.

Now I have this daughter and I am exceedingly glad that she loves to Read. But I am also without a road map. I have little experience to draw on. Before you go thinking, “ah, L you turned out alright” [which is debatable], I do grieve a loss of that experience of having someone to share my interests and engage me in conversations about them early on. I didn’t have anyone who would help to develop me as a Writer either; though I do have fond memory of my dad editing a paper for me in 9th grade (for a teacher who was encouraging but didn’t seem to know what to do with me).  The aforementioned 4th grade teacher let me write, direct, and star in an environmental drama that year I had her. I wish I’d had another teacher like her.

What it comes down to is my wanting to provide the daughter with every advantage without simultaneously suffocating the interest out of her. I am also repulsed by the idea of trying to relive the opportunities I thought I could have had, even as I wonder at what opportunities might help her become who she envisions herself as–actually, who she is already.

N has been coming home this week with conversations she has been having with one of her 5th grade teachers; they’ve been suggesting books to one another. The other teacher has been reading N’s work-in-progress as it slowly progresses, writing nice notes as they go along. I hope for her that she will always have interested and involved teachers.

Now to figure out what I need to be doing, or not to be doing…which is ever a preoccupation, ever a process.

Did you have a profoundly influential and personally involved person early on? In what way (specifically) were they effective?

And now to figure out how to organize that bookshelf…


*The painting is: The Reader by Jean-Honore Fragonard, c. 1776; oil on canvas.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. ibeeeg says:

    Like you, I do not remember growing up with a reading influence in my life. I loved books, and read often, but I don’t remember an adult actively taking part in my reading choices.

    Your questions are tough. You want to provide her books that she will love, but not rush her along in the reading level. Unfortunately, with readers such as our girls, the choices become tougher for us. For me though, El has two older siblings so she is exposed to stuff she would not have otherwise been. I also hear you on not wanting to ruin a potential love for an author just because she was not quite ready to read said material. Tough. I don’t have any real answer, but go with your gut (possibly).

    As far as classics go, El and I are just starting to read The Swiss Family Robinson, and we are going with a classic edition instead of one that has been edited down towards children. We are going with Bantam, but were leaning toward Penguin. Mark Twain’s stuff…. Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry might be some suggestions for N. Elliana wants to read those this year as well. I would most likely steer Elliana away from Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, and those of that sort for at least another few years. Not that P&P is bad (cannot speak for WH as I have not read that one), but nuances involved within the story may be totally lost on her, and the writing may be a bit too dull for her current reading desire. I want her to read P&P and at the very least appreciate the story if not love it.

    I am curious, so please let me know which books she grabs.

    1. L says:

      i figured you would understand; which is comforting.

      we started Swiss Family Robinson (unabridged, too) and it was nice going, but for whatever reason we stopped.. I know it is on her shelf somewhere so I will move it to a “shared” shelf on the big kids shelves. She read Tom Sawyer and seemed to actually enjoy it, or at least she started it. but I am never sure about Austen and those. There is a series of juvenile fiction called The Mother Daughter Book Club and they start will Little Women, and each book they tackle has a significance in the lives of the girls in the novel…anyway, the latest focuses on Pride & Prejudice.
      I brought home some books from the library yesterday that have caught interest, but I may suggest we try to pick up on Swiss Family Robinson again (she loves the film).

      Thanks for your comments.

      1. ibeeeg says:

        I wonder about the juvenile classic fiction books. Part of me wonders how it is watered down, and once read will my child then want to read the unabridged version later in life? I don’t know that answer. However, a thought just struck. We read Heidi as a family several years back; El was very young. I think El would enjoy the read now, and maybe N will too. We read Heidi via the Whole Story series. I cannot locate Heidi but here is an example of this edition via Little Women.|85894|#curr
        This series includes the complete unabridged text along with very interesting annotations. The illustrations are fabulous, and enrich the reading experience. We own Heidi, Treasure Island, and Frankenstein. I should snag a few more like The Call of the Wild. Anyway, maybe your library has these books.
        Actually, now that I think about it, I should use these books for our family read aloud that is after we finish our current read.

        By the way, we have not watched the Swiss Family Robinson film. Will have to keep that in mind for when we are done with the book.

        1. L says:

          we try to get only the unabridged. We picked up several juvenile classics at Powell’s Books a couple summers ago (black beauty, alice through the looking glass, treasure island, even Julie and the Wolves) and my dad provided Call of the Wild and some Jim Kjelgaard books. We do not have Heidi and that would be an excellent one to try. my favorite of the old juvenile classics is Peter Pan, Natalya’s would be Alice in Wonderland. We have one more book in the Chronicles of Narnia to read..

          wow, this deep breathing and having others’ input is really helping me out.


  2. Great post, L. I grew up making weekly or bi-weekly trips to the library, where my mom would encourage us to read. I’m not really sure how much of it was “filtered,” but I don’t think it was much.

    “My primary concern is turning her off of an author or work because it is really just so early… Then there is just life experience that creates some of the depth of appreciation for a work…” This is something I struggle with, and I suppose why so many people have different reactions to books. Obviously someone who’s never had a relative life experience to a character in a novel isn’t going to relate very well. They may appreciate the novel, but the depth would be lacking. Of course this can’t limit what we read forever. The line is thin.

    I don’t remember too many of the books I read as a youngster. I vaguely recall Tuck Everlasting and Where the Red Fern Grows, and that’s about it. I always liked fun stuff, not serious stuff, at that age, and my favorites were things like Wayside School, The Indian in the Cupboard, My Teacher is an Alien, and that kind of stuff.

    Good luck!

    1. L says:

      I do remember Where the Red Fern Grows, the teacher read it and we all cried, then she made us watch the film and we cried again. had forgotten that one. Wayside School is the only one I hadn’t heard of, though I hadn’t thought about the others. will check them out from the library one at a time and put it on the “borrowed” side of the shelf.–thanks!

      your relating your youth experience helps…maybe we will spend more time browsing. of late it has been drop in and hurry out because we are in a hurry. we used to spend more time looking and sitting around with the shorter ones and reading them.

      thanks, Logan

  3. Oh yes, I think every kid should read Louis Sachar’s Sideways Stories from Wayside School. I loved it, and found it particularly hilarious.

    My mom still makes these trips to the library, though now she does it alone. There’s no doubt that spending a Saturday morning at the library instilled a reader’s heart in me. That, and always seeing my mom (and grandmother) with a book in hand and stacks laying everywhere else. So part of me thinks reading may be in the blood, hereditary, if you will.

    1. ibeeeg says:

      Your comment Logan about your mom going to the library reminds me of my 7 year old. Last week he obtained his first library card; a very proud moment for him. On that first trip I asked the children’s librarian for some help in locating books of his interest (swords, knights, guns…he like non-fiction type books that are loaded with photos and little words). Ever since that first trip, each time that we go back he thinks that he needs to ask that lady for his books even when I tell him otherwise. We have been back twice,and I have now placed holds for him. 🙂

      I looked up Sideways Stories from Wayside School and they look like fun reads that my 11 year old would like, and her friends. 🙂 Thanks.

      L – Good to know about the Juvenile Classics do you read the ones by Dover? I am going to have Elliana peruse the list to see if any are of interest to her.

thoughts? would love to hear them...

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