What to Read or Not to Read, That is the Question

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written by Tara Lenga, Strategy Consultant at Exceptional Kids

Note from Melissa: I asked Tara to write this after a fascinating Facebook conversation on the Imagination Soup page about censorship and what books young kids who are advanced readers should or should not be reading . . . Go here for that conversation.

Books for YOUNG Advanced Readers

Should Parents Censor Children's Reading Materials

As parents, we are constantly on top of making healthy food choices, ensuring their shoes still fit, and double-checking their school bags for homework.  Investigating reading material should be given at least equal time.

But, why can’t we just let our voracious readers enjoy whatever they are drawn to?  Why can reading comprehension (Lexile scores) be misleading in making book selections for the advanced reader?  Why should it be important to prescreen when and what young advanced readers check out from the library?  If you have a young but advanced reader in your home, you need to consider the answer to these questions.

When I began my quest for finding books for my semi-compulsive reader I had no idea what a job it would turn out to be.

For the young and advanced reader, many of their “life experiences” begin being built from what they learn about in books.

Taking a 1st grade student who is 7 years old and an advanced reader, their Lexile score could be in the range of a typical middle-school student.  But just because they can comprehend a middle-school book, does not mean that they should read it.

Does your child have the emotional maturity to read the content written intended for a middle-schooler? Topics such as romance, violence, drugs or death?

If you factor in gender and asynchronous development, your 7 year old could have the emotional development of a 5 year old or a 10 year old.  Every child is different. Parents must take serious consideration of any over-excitabilities can be an important first step in finding those fantastically exciting and appropriate reads.

If they are interested in Greek Mythology, great!  But are all the Gods appropriate to learn about at once or can they be introduced in a certain way to build up context and buy a little maturity time?

Interested in the history of battle, neat!  But are the gruesome details what you had in mind for them to learn?

Similarly, in sports, opening the High School football arena to a talented elementary school player is dangerous.  Reflexes have not had as many years to develop and body size is going to matter.  But going in with a coach that can assist with navigating the more advanced plays, and learning how to handle the harsher tackles will make all the difference.

Some of the questions that then become important to ask yourselves are:

What is my child’s emotional level of development?

What are my child’s personal triggers?

What content is or is not appropriate to be read at this young age?

Trust me, I know.

The amount of work it takes to pre-screen books is time we feel we don’t have.  Yet, after years of looking (and time I wished I had back) I have accumulated hundreds of appropriate high-level books for young readers as you can see in my Goodreads profile.  They are out there to be found.

We give our children the keys to our car when they are old enough and have the tools necessary to navigate the roads safely.  The same needs to be done when selecting appropriate reading materials.

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  1. I really like this post. As a teacher I’ve met kids who were able to read at higher levels but weren’t emotionally ready to comprehend the story. Harry Potter and The Hunger Games come to mind. When I have kids of my own I’m going to tell them they can read Harry Potter when they’re old enough to go to Hogwarts (11) and they can read The Hunger Games when they’re old enough to have their name in the reaping (12). The first three Harry Potter books aren’t that dark but for a fast reader book 4 (which gets really dark) might come too soon if they start reading the series at 7 or 8. It might seem strange to some parents but I want my kids to be fully able to understand what these characters are going through. That’s my 2 cents. Thanks for this post!

    1. I’m a mom of two advance readers and would agree with the blogger that it has been a chore to find appropriate books for my kids that will still challenge them. I have recently allowed my daughter (7 and in first grade) to delve into the Potter series, but told her she can’t read past the 2nd book until she is older. The first two and maybe even the third are relatively light hearted and engaging story, but by the end of book three it agreeably turns dark.