Can kids ever read TOO much?

Can kids ever read TOO much?

Guest post by Alissa Sklar. Alissa Sklar is the mother of 3 daughters, a freelance writer for Montreal Families Magazine and other publications, and an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

My three daughters are voracious readers.

Now that might be a strange way to start a blog on a site linked to encouraging reluctant readers, but stick with me here. My older girls, twins in grade 5, are so immersed in their novels (fantasy adventures and historical fiction are their favorites) that they began reading through every recess period at school, neglecting their friends and not getting the opportunity to blow off steam through physical exercise. The school guidance counselor actually took the exceptional step (with my permission) of actually banning their books at recess. The school was essentially, remarkably, telling them they read TOO MUCH! (Well, at least at the wrong times)! Kind of a new take on book banning, I guess, and in this case, the only kind of book banning I’d ever support.

Except for the kind where they read books walking down stairs. Also a very bad idea (but that’s another blog post.)

My point (and I do have one) is this: when news of their unusual restriction got out, I got some calls from concerned parents of their classmates. What I had done to promote this wonderful love of reading? What had I done right? And by extension, what had they done wrong?

The only answer I could come up with wasn’t particularly helpful to them. Truth is, I didn’t think there was anything these parents neglected or forgot to do. What’s more, I’m not convinced I did anything particularly different or special. We all sang to our children as infants, introduced them to those particularly tasty board books as babies, read to them at bedtime, took them to libraries, let them see us reading for pleasure. Many of these parents were highly educated professionals, well aware of the importance of reading to their child’s school success. Some were devoted lifelong readers, sorely disappointed that their child doesn’t share the desire to totally immerse themselves in a new world or explore possibilities of learning in non-fiction.

Would their child never experience the wonder of the wardrobe that leads to Narnia? Travel in a magic treehouse with Jack and Annie? Fly on a broomstick with Harry Potter? Get that shiver down their back with the dawning horror that comes at the end of The Lottery? Many look back with fond memories on their childhood hours spent totally immersed in a wealth of fantastic fiction, whether under the covers with a flashlight after lights out or giggling with friends  over the “good parts” in Forever (thanks again for that, Judy Blume!). They express sadness that their kids might never know this sweet escape. Even more, they worried that their kids might not properly learn the literacy skills essential to school success.

The literature on literacy is filled with suggestions, strategies and tools for these parents, but they all kind of boil down to this: you need to find a way to motivate your kids to pick the books up and get through them. You need to work with them to choose the right books, encourage them, and sometimes, reward them.  Because they need these literacy skills to make it in our school systems. And along the way, you kind of hope there might be some magical connection to Charles Wallace, Junie B. Jones or Gregor the Overlander, and the rest will take care of itself.

What are some of the remarkable books you remember from your childhood? Which would you most like your child to discover?

You may also be interested in reading this related post about a voracious reader

About the Author:

Reading Rewards
Reading Rewards is a comprehensive & interactive reading log & reading incentive program that is used worldwide by hundreds of thousands of children, parents, teachers and librarians.

9 Comments

  1. Shannonknowlton April 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    That guidance counselor is ridiculous. Love your blog post. When I was little, I couldn’t get enough Judy Blume or Paula Danziger, and yes, sometimes I read them under a shady tree at recess. : )

    • Michelle Skamene April 27, 2011 at 4:13 pm - Reply

      Judy Blume! Couldn’t get enough of her either, and yes, the ‘good parts’ in Deenie… My parents figured I was reading Judy Blume (of the ‘Are you there God, it’s me Margaret’ sort, or ‘Otherwise known as Sheila the Great’). I kept waiting to get ‘found out’!! 🙂 I suppose the guidance counselor here was concerned about the girls becoming ‘social outcasts’ of sorts, although I agree that book banning was maybe taking it too far… Everything in moderation, right? By the way, found my old copy of Deenie the other day, and had to giggle at the naughty parts….

  2. Joy Scrogum April 27, 2011 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Instead of banning reading at recess, how about asking them to march in place while reading (or some other simple physical activity that can be done while reading without being dangerous)? Maybe there could be book giveaway incentives for kids who complete X amount of physical activity. As for interacting with peers, the school could allow a student book club for those little voracious readers. I think there are more creative ways to approach the issue. As a mom, and a kid who was set apart from other children for a lot of different reasons, I don’t like the idea of cutting kids off from books for any reason. Rather, the books should be used as a gateway to interacting with peers, getting that activity, in or whatever other good habit you’re trying to inspire.

  3. Alissasklar May 5, 2011 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    In response to comments, I should explain the reasoning behind this decision by the school. Although my girls have plenty of friends and are very fit, the guidance counsellor felt quite strongly that recess was a time for physical activity and socializing, and that they’d keep their energy up for an 8-hour day in the classroom if they weren’t burying themselves in more books. Perhaps a misplaced concern in this case, but the reasoning was motivated by kindness and concern. In any case, I’m happy to report that this ban hasn’t in any way tempered their enthusiasm for reading at other times!

  4. Guest August 1, 2011 at 11:55 pm - Reply

    I found this blog today after banning my own daughter from reading at home. My 10 year old is another voracious reader. I was one myself so I never imagined myself doing what I did. But when I found her reading completely naked half an hour later she had shower, I had to do something about it. We live in southern hemisphere so it is middle of the winter right now and she didn’t even turn on a heater in her room or covering herself with a towel. We have set some rules and limitations about reading such as no reading at the table, when she has friends over. etc. I just hope she learns quickly to get things done before reading so that I can lift the ban….

  5. Sully August 7, 2012 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    My son, age 9 grade 4, reads too much.  He will read constantly and ignore all the people around him.  He has an exceptionally high IQ and does not prefer the company of other children or adults much either.  I take his book away as punishment if he doesn’t get things done.  He is a straight A student, but I do wish he would socialize.  

  6. Petar N. Grisogono December 9, 2014 at 9:50 am - Reply

    I live in a Balkan country. I started reading both Latin- and Cyrillic-written books and newspapers when I was 5, and I went to the elementary school when I was 6. The teachers noticed me reading a book (secretly) even when they were teaching letters – and writing them on the blackboard – to the other pupils. They warned my parents that one of the main objective of going to school was to ‘learn how to learn’ and that I would fail to learn that skill – because I already knew whatever they were teaching us (geography, history, etc.). The teachers told my parents I might experience a lot of troubles when I would be going to the secondary school and the university. And that was true – while I was able to improvise my answers to many questions having been put by my teachers in the sec. school, of course I failed miserably trying to use the technique at the university. I took me almost 10 years to graduate! But I was a very, very good mechanical engineer, very successful in my career – probably because, for the next 35 years, I continued to read so many professional textbooks, instruction books, magazines,… and to apply the accumulated knowledge to my every-day duties!

  7. Emily August 5, 2015 at 9:06 am - Reply

    I was a massive reader when I was young. And I did go through a phase when I was 10-13 where I would read pretty much all the time and it would get in the way of me socialising. But I found socialising hard, and was very uncomfortable in myself. So reading was an escape. There was no corrective action – it just passed when I got a bit older and happier.

    The only suggestion I would make for parents who are worried that their kids are reading so much it damages their social skills, is to ask them about the book. Because I would read everywhere, people would always ask me about the book. And I’d explain the plot, whether I liked it or not, and they would talk about similar books they had read, or what they were reading at the moment, or that they’d visited the country in my book – it can be a great conversation starter. I would often get into conversations with people I didn’t know (and come away with really good recommendations).

    • Carole Alalouf August 5, 2015 at 11:00 am - Reply

      That’s a great suggestion, Emily. Thanks for sharing!

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