I work at a bookstore and so frequently I hear parents telling their children to put something back because it will be boring, looks bad, won’t be interesting, or isn’t appropriate. It bothers me tremendously.
A few weeks back I had a young lady in the store who was 16, well more than old enough to start making her own decisions about what she does and doesn’t want to read. Her choices for books were the Alexander Hamilton biography, Carrie, and Halloween (yes the serial killer, horror book). Accompanying her were one brother who was slightly older, her mother, and her father. Dad and brother looked uncomfortable from the time they walked in, but Mom accompanied her to the desk to ask for help. When I gave her the Hamilton book her mom said “You don’t want that! It is too long and will be so boring!” to which the girl replied “Yes I do! I don’t care how long it is. I want to learn more!” I meanwhile stood by uncomfortable and angry.
When we went to look for the Carrie and Halloween copies, her brother and father were three aisles away and giving her a hard time over the stacks about her reading habits.
“Why are we here?”
“Why do you always have to read so much?”
“You don’t want that book, it will be so boring!”
“You are so weird!”
At this point I was furious. Mom went off to talk to the guys and left her and I alone in the aisle. I immediately stopped looking for the book and stood her up straight and tall and told her “Never, ever, ever let anyone tell you what you do and don’t want to read. You read anything you want and DO NOT let anyone shame you for your choices. Reading is valuable and that is a wonderfully written book.” She perked up immediately, gave me a huge hug, and told me that was exactly what she needed to hear.
It broke my heart.
This happened a few weeks back and I have thought about it almost every day since. I was never censored as a child when it came to reading. It made me an incredibly diverse reader. There is certainly a place for age appropriateness and making sure your children are reading things that are not going to be too much for them. But why would you ever try to tell a child not to read a history book? She just wilted the longer they razzed her and it is that kind of influence that can ruin a reader.