I have raised a reader. How good am I?

Would you like some coffee with your newspaper?

This is one reason why I am not ready to cancel my newspaper delivery and start reading the news solely on line. That, plus mornings would not be the same without paper and coffee cups spread out all over the dining room table. You know what I’m talking about.

Even when my children were infants, I carved out a little time each day to read for myself. Often it was with a baby in my lap, or in stolen moments during nap times when the laundry could wait. I always thought that seeing me reading would encourage my girls to read too, just as it did for me when I was young and watching my Mom read (hi Mom!). It must have worked because Niamh reads books voraciously, and now she has started with the newspaper too.  So far she likes the comics, Dear Abby, Sudoku, and the City section too. Sometimes I want to cover up the front page of the newspaper so she won’t see whatever awfulness is happening in the world, and though I try to resist that urge, I often do end up hiding it because it is often just too graphic. She is ten, in the fourth grade, wise beyond her years, but still my baby.

I suppose I needn’t bother. A few months ago Niamh asked me to get a book for her. The Hunger Games. All of the grade five girls in her grade four/five split class were reading it and she wanted to read it too. Er.

I have always vowed never to censor my children’s reading, but I have always wanted to know what books they were reading. I bought The Hunger Games and then I read it first. I was surprised that girls her age were devouring it, as the writing seemed fairly advanced for that age group, plus all the violence and all. I didn’t love the book, and the premise of people fighting to their deaths was distasteful to me, but I gave it to Niamh after I was finished reading it. I told her that I didn’t think that she was quite ready for it yet, but that she could read it if she wanted to and we could talk about it whenever she wanted. I fully expected her to pick up the book and then put it down again; I truly didn’t think she would read it just yet. The book sat in her room for a while. She read other books while it sat there, but then, when she did finally pick it up one day, she was completely hooked – as long as she didn’t read it right before going to sleep – that was disturbing to her.  She finished reading it last weekend, and she cannot wait to get the next book in the series.

I’m just crossing my fingers that she doesn’t ask about Fifty Shades anytime soon.

Anyhow, I thought I would share with you Niamh’s top ten book recommendations for some summer reading if you have girls the same age, especially if they are interested in history. You may want to screen them first.

Niamh’s Top Ten Book List

1. Mama’s Going to Buy You a Mockingbird by Jean Little (and anything else by Jean Little)

2. The Malory Towers and St. Clare’s series by Enid Blyton

3. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

4. Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker

5. Dear Canada: A Desperate Road to Freedom by Karleen Bradford

6. Dear Canada: If I Die Before I Wake by Jean Little

7. If I Just Had Two Wings by Virginia Frances Schwartz

8. The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

9. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

10. Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

About Finola

I am an Ottawa area Mom, writer-want-to-be and coffee legend in the making.
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15 Responses to Reader

  1. Malory Towers and The Twins at St Clairs….my, oh my. I loved those books and still have my tattered old copies in a box somewhere.

    • Finola says:

      I loved them too Denise!

      • Sarah Brooks says:

        I loved “Malory Towers” and “The Twins at St Clare’s” too!

        I had all the same reactions as you re: “The Hunger Games” and Josie wanting to read it. She romped through Book 1, then struggled a bit with Book 2 but finished it (I meanwhile caught up and overtook – we book-shared for a while). Thankfully Josie hasn’t asked to read Book 3, which I found to be unrelentingly harrowing to the very end (save for the epilogue, which really can not make up for a whole book’s worth of misery).

  2. Pauline says:

    It’s great that you have a family of readers! I’m in the middle of a bunch of different books, non-fiction (Biology and art instruction) and fiction (Neil Gaiman and Garth Ennis.)

    • Finola says:

      That’s a nice mix you have going on Pauline. What type of biology books are you reading? I have many textbooks in my basement from years ago.

  3. Alison Beach Moeller says:

    Finola, I think our kids would get along 🙂
    My oldest is also a big reader (Hugo Cabaret, and the Lightning Thief series are dear favorites). We also continue to get the news paper delivered at least on the weekends, as we love that the girls both delve into it with joy. They start with the comics, but my 9 yo Grade 4 daughter has started picking up other parts of the paper as well to find interesting stories.

    We have also struggled with the Hunger Games in this house. My 9yo is DESPERATE to read them, and we have so far said no. Partially because she has stacks of books that she’s busily ploughing through already(ie the Mysterious Benedict Society series), but also because I’m nervous about the disturbing themes in the Hunger Games. She’s a clever girl, and she won’t read those books as just action adventure books, oblivious to the disturbing situations. I’m not really comfortable with censoring her reading, but there it is. She’s let it drop for now… If it comes up again, I might have to give in rather than make a huge issue of it, but I would take the approach you’ve taken – to read it with her and talk about it along the way. By the way, I heard the second book is even more disturbing, so just because she was OK with the first, make sure you’ve read the second before giving her the green light!

    • Finola says:

      That’s a good tip about the second book – thanks. I was just going to let her go ahead with it, but now I will read it first. I can’t imagine not letting her read it now that she has started the series, but I will at least make sure I know what’s in it.

      Too bad we don’t live closer to each other. I think we would all get along really well.

  4. Sid says:

    Oh, I can’t wait to have a kid old enough to read the weekend newspaper! I cancelled our weekend Globe 2 years ago when it became apparent that my child was more interesting in eating rather than reading the wonders of the Style section.

    It’s a tough thing about deciding whether a book is age-appropriate or not. The one great thing about books is that they’re not reality. Unlike the often horrific cover stories in newspapers, there’s a layer of mental protection/insultation when anyone reads a violent or scary novel. Some of my favourite books when I was younger were ones that I probably shouldn’t have been reading (e.g., Grapes of Wrath when I was 12). They expanded my world and challenged my thinking but never traumatized me. I suspect that in the long run, it’s better to let kids read what they want and be prepared to talk to them about it afterwards than it is to try to restrict what they read.

    • Finola says:

      I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I think you’re right that children know the difference between fiction and reality, and that this will affect their perspective on what they are reading. I also think that at different ages people will take very different things from a book. I know that I read the Diary of Anne Frank on two entirely different levels from when I was ten to when I was in my 30s with two children of my own.

  5. Sasha says:

    That’s so great. And that picture could totally be you. Love it.
    I don’t know what I’ll do when my girls start wanting to read something I think might be beyond their years. You’ve handled it beautifully, I may take a page from your book. So to speak.
    And I’ll probably take another page, too: we read to the girls, lots and lots, but while they can find an endless stream of library books on my bedside table, they don’t actually SEE me read. I think I may change that.

    • Finola says:

      It is probably inevitable that they will see you reading as they get a bit older and need less attention from you. I can’t say that my girls saw me reading a LOT when they were tiny, but now they do.

  6. Eileen says:

    Newspapers and coffee cups spread out all over the dining room table! How well I remember Saturday mornings when you and Paul lived here. The G&M and The Citizen shared among us while we had breakfast and talked about the news. I still miss those weekend mornings. I’m not at all surprised at the sophistication of Niamh’s reading list. I knew from day one that she was a genius. And her little sister is following close behind.

  7. Cath in Ottawa says:

    What a great list! Mallory Towers and underground to Canada were huge hits for me too.

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