Saturday, June 14, 2014

Five Terrible Reasons for Your Kids to Read Fiction

I love reading. I love having kids that love reading. I know that reading has a lot of benefits for my kids' well-being (and my own too). But I also know that sometimes we overthink things, and therefore suck some of the fun right out of them! Sometimes we need things to be good and fun simply because they are good and fun. So, in the spirit of letting fun things be fun, here are five terrible reasons for your kids to read fiction:

1. It will teach a life lesson.

In almost any good work of fiction, the reader will walk way having learned something. But if a "good moral" is your primary factor in choosing a book for your child, chances are your kid is going to miss out on quality writing. It may seem like a good idea for your kid to read books that "teach lessons," but authors who write those books too often do so at the expense of a good story. STORY should always come first.

2. It's educational!

There are a lot of educational benefits to reading. But again, reading should be fun. The fact that reading helps your kid learn about WWII or do better overall in school is a bonus, one that perhaps should be kept a secret until they're a little older... So encourage your kids to choose books that interest them, even if there doesn't seem to be anything educational or "valuable" about them. When my son was little, I grudgingly allowed him to read books about Spongebob. He was reading, and he was having fun! That's what really mattered.

3. It's a...punishment?

Okay, so you might get lucky and your kid will end up an avid reader because he spent so much time alone in a corner being forced to read a book. But I believe reading should be a natural, pleasant part of a child's life from the day they're born (and even before!). You don't want your kid to associate reading with something negative.

4. It fills up their free time!

I'm all for kids spending lots of time reading, especially on road trips, rainy days, lazy evenings, or times when Mom simply needs some peace. But there can be too much of a good thing. My two oldest kids are super readers, and there were lots of times when they were younger that I had to force them away from their books and into the outdoors. Adventures on the page are great, but no amount of fiction can replace the value of real life experience.

5. It helps them learn empathy.

It is true that reading about a variety of people and cultures may help your kids learn to appreciate and empathize with people who are different from them. And it is true that they can meet a lot more people in books than they will ever have a chance to meet in person. But even the best, most moving story can be closed and put away. Books keep real people at a distance. For your kids to truly learn empathy, their lives need to be touched by real people, not just well-written, multi-faceted book characters.

My advice? Read with your kids when they're tiny. And when they're bigger, let them make their own reading choices, with minimal interference from you. Don't worry about what lesson they'll learn, or how diverse the book characters are, or whether the books will help them in English class. The more your kids read--and enjoy reading--the better they'll get at it, the more it will enhance their lives, and hopefully, the better their reading choices will be. 

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