Jeff Kinney, author of the bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, think it’s important for parents and teachers to encourage kids to read whatever they are interested in. “One of the things I said to my own children is that I will never say no to getting them a book,” he tells The Guardian.
Neil Gaiman, a graphic novelist and bestselling author, says in another interview with The Guardian, “Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading. Stop them reading what they enjoy or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like — you’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool, and worse, unpleasant.”
But what if your child picks a title that’s not age-appropriate or a book that deals with sensitive topics?
Don’t censor a book — answer your child’s questions
For two Pinay children’s book authors, Bonnie Doroy-Enriquez, 37, and Iza Maria Reyes, 25, you do not control or stop what your kids want to read. But you have to be available to answer any questions they might have about the stories they are exploring.
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Instead of filtering books, Iza, who has a 4-year-old daughter named Lumi, says she makes sure she is present to help Lumi process whatever she’s reading. “For example, she chose to buy Ang Bonggang Bonggang Batang Beki by Rhandee Garlitos. When we read it, she was very curious as to why the boy likes pink. We ended up talking about how it is okay for boys to like pink, and for girls to like blue,” Iza explains to SmartParenting.com.ph. “Now, she is into cars and robots. When people ask her why, she just says [it’s] because she likes it.”
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Iza acknowledges there might be instances when parents have to consider age-appropriateness, but overall, she advises parents to give their kids the freedom to choose what they like to read. “We just have to be responsible enough to process content with them after,” she says.
Bonnie, who self-published her book, What Girls Can Do, says it is a parent’s role to empower their kids about what’s happening to the world around them. “Kids seem to be getting smarter and smarter these days, or maybe it’s just us adults underestimating them less,” she shares.
Her book, which tackles gender equality, sends an important message that you want your children to understand. “One of gender equality’s biggest enemies is a lack of simple education and awareness. I’d like to believe that there are very few of us who genuinely believe that women are inferior to men, but sometimes our prejudices operate on a subconscious level — shaped by the cultural norms we were exposed to growing up,” Bonnie explains.
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“Books on gender equality simply remind kids that they always have a choice. To question the default, so they can figure out the answers themselves without the need to conform to labels that may not fit who they want to be.”
All the more, then, that parents should be there to guide their children. “Kids already intrinsically know that girls and boys are equal — so it’s a matter of supporting and building on this thought, so that they carry the belief in them even when they become adults,” Bonnie says.
Books are either a reflection of reality or a challenge to your reality. They can help answer a child’s toughest questions but may also become the source of those tough questions. That is why it is essential to carry conversations with your child, instead of dictating to them.
“As a mother and a teacher, I am amazed by how children and teenagers process information and share their thoughts on them,” Iza says.
Encourage your child to read and help her choose books that can add to her growth and development. And not just in terms of vocabulary — help your child find books that will let her discover her potential and worth. So what if the book she chooses is a little more mature than her age? Let her navigate through the plot — and be present and available when she needs questions answered.