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Should a six-year-old be permitted to read Robert Caro?
November 1, 2013 8:19 AM   Subscribe

The Perils of Precocity by Thomas Beller.
posted by xowie (59 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Given that six-year-olds are apparently permitted actually to serve in Congress, I don't see why they shouldn't read about their predecessors.
posted by escabeche at 8:26 AM on November 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


Epic humblebrag.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:31 AM on November 1, 2013 [31 favorites]


Eh, I thought it was sweet.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:39 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just keep her away from Ayn Rand.
posted by TedW at 8:43 AM on November 1, 2013


Better that than having to learn about LBJ on the street.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:43 AM on November 1, 2013 [24 favorites]


We've been reading The Power Broker to our 3-year-old to encourage her obvious Machiavellian streak to flower and grow.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:51 AM on November 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Just keep her away from Ayn Rand.

Such a hard choice. Better to learn about it at 6 and be over it sooner or not have the childhood ruined by it at all?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:56 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Epic humblebrag nails it, but my thought on reading the headline was "this is a New York Time Style section piece" and, no, it's the New Yorker, but my instincts were solid about the demographic. Also, A++ concern trolling for anxious parents.
posted by immlass at 9:01 AM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Should a six-year-old be permitted to read The New Yorker?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:16 AM on November 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


On the one hand, this article is ridiculous, and the author named his daughter Evangeline. On the other hand, I have fond memories of reading many, many unsuitable books when I was a small person, just because they were around and I liked reading and nobody was telling me I shouldn't. The time I read Nausea when I was twelve (I was going on a French exchange and thought I should read a French book). Reading Nineteen Eighty-Four when I was ten or eleven and too small to understand that Winston and Julia weren't just really good friends (I read it a few years later and was genuinely startled by certain passages, which I must have simply skimmed over). The Golden Bough, which I read because I liked Greek mythology. All the Plato my family made fun of me over. The time my father tickled me so hard I took the copy of Bertrand Russell's Enquiry into Meaning and Truth I'd been reading and hit him hard on the nose.

Probably the best, however, was the time I was about six or seven and my parents decided that time outs in my bedroom weren't working because I would just sit and play or read quite happily on my own. Instead, they put me into the study. I remember crying quite a lot and then looking around me with a determination to make the experience into a positive one. My mother remembers opening the door to find me still sniffing and cradling a large volume. "I'm very sorry," I apparently said tearfully, "I won't do it again. I've been reading English Social History, Volume One, and when I'm finished I'm going to read English Social History, Volume Two."
posted by Acheman at 9:18 AM on November 1, 2013 [23 favorites]


... which I must have simply skimmed over.

This is why I don't worry much about children reading inappropriate books.
posted by Bruce H. at 9:24 AM on November 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Better this than Buzzfeed, and feebly pawing at endless listicles and thinking GIF's are substantive news sources.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 9:25 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just keep her away from Ayn Rand

Courtesy of the Kung Fu Monkey blog…

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

KFMonkey
posted by C.A.S. at 9:31 AM on November 1, 2013 [19 favorites]


"I'm very sorry," I apparently said tearfully, "I won't do it again. I've been reading English Social History, Volume One, and when I'm finished I'm going to read English Social History, Volume Two."

Wat was that again? "Epic humblebrag"?

Just kidding: I bet a lot of us on MetaFilter read out of our league for years. I got abouthalfway through a book on the Suez Canal crisis sometime during grade school before my boredom and incomprehension overcame my stubbornness (and wish not to be seen as overmastered by any book). When I read the book The Day i Became an Autodidact by Kendall Hailey, I recognized a person I would have liked. But I was still glad I had parents who kept me in school where I could meet that occasional cool teacher who would show me something totally new.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:33 AM on November 1, 2013


the author named his daughter Evangeline

Acheman, and why is this a problem?

Did you pick up that he teaches at Tulane? In New Orleans? Its a stored name in Louisiana culture, and my image of the Band and a very pretty Emmylou Harris signing one of many songs called Evangeline comes immediately to mind.

Evangeline

Frankly, I'm all in favour of this dad's naming
posted by C.A.S. at 9:34 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I read Moby Dick in the third grade because I thought it was a good sea yarn and i was oddly fascinated by whales despite living in Chicago in the 70s. One reason I very much get Wes Anderson's Cousteau references.
posted by C.A.S. at 9:36 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Spoilers: I never actually made it to Volume Two. Although maybe if my parents were stricter, I'd now have a far better grasp of English social history. Ah, the roads not taken.
posted by Acheman at 9:43 AM on November 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fun exercise: find the titular perils.
posted by clavicle at 9:44 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fun exercise: find the titular perils.

Your parents fucking write about you in The New Yorker?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:51 AM on November 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Excellent piece, thanks for posting it.

I realize the comments here on the blue are way, way above the comments on most sites, but I still grit my teeth when I go into a thread on something interesting and see the inevitable bullshit comments like "Epic humblebrag" or "this article is ridiculous, and the author named his daughter Evangeline" (WTF? Evangeline is a great name). These are better than "u suck" only in being wordier and better spelled. Ah well, you take what you need and leave the rest, in the immortal words of The Band. (I know, I know, my favorite Band sucks.)
posted by languagehat at 9:59 AM on November 1, 2013 [18 favorites]


Epic HumbleBand
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:01 AM on November 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


For his next trick, he will maybe explain the actual problem? I think the problem with the comments is there isn't much to comment on. How does this harm?
posted by corb at 10:03 AM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I lay there, wondering what in the world she might make of “Sears, Roebuck.”

And why didn't he ask her what she made of it? Why would you allow a six-year-old to read age-inappropriate material and not discuss it with her?

I'm not against six-year-olds reading age-inappropriate material, but I am against them doing it without parental guidance, which at the very least would include the parent discussing the material with them and asking them what they think about it.

... which I must have simply skimmed over.

This is why I don't worry much about children reading inappropriate books.


This is what my kindergarten teacher told my parents when they said they had started keeping some books out of my hands - "Oh, don't restrict her, that's terrible! She'll skip what she's not ready for." The kindergarten teacher was wrong. I was perfectly capable of reading The Diary of Anne Frank and going into a deep existential crisis over it, because while some six-year-olds can understand the Holocaust on a factual level (as much as anyone can), they're completely emotionally unprepared for it.
posted by pie ninja at 10:08 AM on November 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd read out the children's section in the local library by the time I was nine or ten, and after much discussion between my parents and the librarians was given the run of the adult shelves.

Roald Dahl was a bit of a surprise.
posted by Devonian at 10:17 AM on November 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


OK, I'll bite. I believe the suggested problem is that the author believes his daughter over-consumes media, including books that may or may not be entirely age appropriate, to an extent that might tend to impinge upon her opportunities to learn via experiencing the world first hand. Additionally, I believe that he might be insinuating that as parents, it is incumbent on us to not be so impressed with precocious choices as to forget that it is still our job to insist on a healthy balance. Not saying I agree or disagree, just that these are the points I took from the piece.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:18 AM on November 1, 2013


Guys, I am sorry that my tongue was not more evidently in my cheek re: Evangeline.
posted by Acheman at 10:21 AM on November 1, 2013


There are relatively few age-inappropriate books. There are instead many books that parents and primary school teachers are uncomfortable discussing in any level of detail with children.
posted by belarius at 10:22 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmm. I'm certainly not The New Yorker's target market, but I was expecting this to be much more nuanced and compelling than I thought it was, at least on first blush. I was really hoping it would be an exploration of some actual perils of precocity rather than what read to me to be a meditation on parenting. How did his daughter learn to read so ably at such a young age -- if she was even truly reading at all? Did he ask her about what she thought of the language, or what she found so compelling about the books he was reading?

Initial confusion aside, I would really love to have a discussion about the dark side of being able to read far above your age as a child. It's super intense! And alienating! And fun! There's also something quite haunting about reading and subconsciously internalizing ideas that are too complex for you to understand as a kid, then having them pop back out at you once you've gathered the experience required to actually understand them as an adolescent or adult.

I had absolute free reign at the local library as a kid, being basically unparented for the duration of my formative years, and I read some fantastically age-inappropriate things that plague me to this day. All I ever needed was a dictionary; the ability to suss out phonetics and context were just icing on the cake, but having a handle on the emotional capacity required to weather the blows rained down by tomes about war and famine was (is?) so, so far beyond my ken. Since the library was a good five-mile bike ride away, I couldn't justify returning the books that disturbed me before I was finished with the rest of my latest stack, so I always just kept Scary Books in another room -- cover side down, buried in odds and ends, presumably so they would not open spontaneously and inspire more existential anguish.

The upside is that devouring every single book I could get my hands on, regardless of the content, managed to inculcate in me such a grandiose and spectacular imagination that reading a book still feels like the ultimate creative act: it sparks the creation of an immeasurably vast interior world, a new plane to treasure and explore, a perpetual possession that cannot be taken from me. Reading is fucking awesome.
posted by divined by radio at 10:31 AM on November 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


The epic point-missing in this thread seems to be rooted in some kind of strange genre mistake or failure of basic reading comprehension, as if this piece were trying to be a persuasive argument for anything at all. You know, folks, personal essays are allowed to just tell a story without presenting a universal moral at the end like one of Aesop's fables. I can't detect even the thinnest sliver of a normative claim about what other people should do here; is it just that the FPP's framing as a joke-question is cuing people in that direction and then they're failing to adjust based on reading the actual article?
posted by RogerB at 10:33 AM on November 1, 2013


I mean, it's just kind of funny to see a thread full of people congratulating themselves for being precocious readers that hasn't quite managed to cotton to the point of the single, fairly simple article that's supposedly the occasion for the thread. Maybe that's the peril in the title.
posted by RogerB at 10:37 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


was perfectly capable of reading The Diary of Anne Frank and going into a deep existential crisis over it, because while some six-year-olds can understand the Holocaust on a factual level (as much as anyone can), they're completely emotionally unprepared for it.

Yeah, I will confess that my kid once said, "I'm scared" and when I asked of what, said, "Of how tiny I am, and how big the world is, and how insignificant I am next to it."

I...did not really know what to tell her.
posted by corb at 10:38 AM on November 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


One of my favorite childhood literary memories is being all excited that the library had let me check out A Clockwork Orange, which I'd worked out was somehow Grown Up and Forbidden — and then getting it home and being like "What? These aren't even words! This is no fun at all!"

Actually, that's selling myself a little short. I did figure out what the game was — it helped that I had recently made it through Watership Down, which had a similar constructed-language thing going — but in hindsight I formed bad hypotheses early on about a few crucial words and ended up totally lost.

The one I vividly remember was hitting the phrase "milk-plus mesto" on the first page, parsing it as "milk with mesto," figuring it was the name of a drink — and concluding that "mesto" had to be the name of the thing you added to the milk, i.e. the word for "drugs." Seeing as I knew absolutely nothing about drugs, and had been primed with the idea that this was going to be a Grown Up Book with shitloads of drugs in it, I never abandoned that reading of the word, even though it made huge chunks of the text totally incoherent.

Turns out "mesto" is meant to be Nadsat for "place." Oops. Anyway, I did not get very far before giving up.

posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 10:39 AM on November 1, 2013


First adult book I read was when I was 6, was 2001.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:42 AM on November 1, 2013


Memory from when I was 7 or 8.
Father: This is going to be a long car trip. Might as well talk about sex. Let's try not to make this awkward.
Me: I've already read all the books in the study.
Father: Did you read your mom's psychology text books?
Me: Yes. And I also read the novels and the poetry. And I found the books in your office.
Father: Oops. Don't tell your mom. Do you have any questions?
Me: Yes. About the beach story in the anthology of best Latin American erotica you got at the book fair. There is a hermit crab that moves into the woman's vagina, and gives g-spot orgasms at inconvenient times. I don't think the crab would survive the PH for long and I don't think it could survive on a diet of semen.
Father: That is not a question. And it is fiction. Do you have any more questions?
Me: What is the similarity between refractory period and refractory glass?

Then we stopped for carnitas and went to see how tequila is made.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 10:46 AM on November 1, 2013 [38 favorites]


Also, reading Robert Anton Wilson when you're in sixth grade is a good way to end up with some highly nonstandard beliefs about history and psychology.

Among other things, I learned the words "brownmiller" and "rhenquist" as synonyms for "tit" and "dick" before I had any idea that they were names of famous real-world people. And actually those are still the first meanings I've got stored for those words in my mental lexicon. So, okay, I missed the joke the first time around. But now anything I read about second-wave feminism or American legal history is interspersed with these private little moments of potty humor, which I think is fair compensation.

(Am I bragging? Maybe I'm bragging. I don't think I'm bragging. More like just enjoying the memory of how fucking surreal it was to be somewhat intelligent, utterly clueless, incredibly arrogant and totally gullible all at once. It's a little like reminiscing about all the screwy things you convinced yourself of that one time when you were on mushrooms.)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 10:52 AM on November 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


The best way to deal for a parent to deal with an overly precocious child, I think, is to not treat them like one, and then, when you are older, they will realize what a pain in the ass they probably were and love you for putting up with them so well.

(This worked well for my parents.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:54 AM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


To be clear: looks to me like the titular peril is parental anxiety? Where I was expecting something more like divined by radio's first paragraph above.
posted by clavicle at 10:54 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


RogerB: I disagree with you that the author isn't trying to say anything here. The essay has four sections. In the first section, the author explicitly introduces his concern that his daughter watches too many movies:
Her appetite for movies—watched not on a television set but on a laptop, at close range—has always exceeded what one would normally expect from a little kid.

We used movies as a form of reward and as a means of punishment.

The terrible image of her standing by a road, displaying the sign to passing cars, formed in my mind: my daughter as a media panhandler.
In the second section, she moves onto reading, and the author concerns himself with what she may actually be taking away from reading adult subject matter at that age:
I didn’t want to have to answer questions about that word.

I lay there, wondering what in the world she might make of “Sears, Roebuck.” Or what she would make of the name Lady Bird. And what about this abrupt, hectoring way of getting married?
In the third section, the author discusses child development:
Caro’s biography casts in a new light the carousel of pride and anxiety that parents experience while assessing the progress of their kids.

The book made me vow to be less focused on accomplishment. Fortunately, day-to-day life also proceeds at the granular level, though without the luxury of being able to put the narrative down, and these concerns fell by the wayside.
In the final section, the author gently prods his daughter away from the books towards the outdoors:
I told her to go outside and look for worms, something that she enjoyed doing over the weekend. She curled up in a ball of lamentation. I decided to scan the shelves for an inappropriate book to give her.

A moment later, I tossed her Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.” I walked out of the room to make breakfast, and glanced back to see her examining the cover. When I returned, she was outside, looking for worms, wearing a shirt of mine to keep warm.


To my reading, that represents a very clear progression of thought beyond the merely anecdotal. The author is trying to say something here, not just present a vignette.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:56 AM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


To my reading, that represents a very clear progression of thought beyond the merely anecdotal.

Huh? He talks about his own parenting anxieties in several different stories in a row, and therefore he's making a normative argument about how everyone else should raise their children? This is baffling to me.
posted by RogerB at 11:10 AM on November 1, 2013


It's sweetly written and I really enjoyed it. And everything Languagehat said.
posted by dame at 11:11 AM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem with the New Yorker site these days is that most of the content is in blog format, so it's not nearly as good as the actual articles.

On the other hand, there is something absurd and amusing about a six-year-old reading Caro.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:12 AM on November 1, 2013


I read the first Thomas Covenant book when I was ten, which centers on an old man who is transported to a fantasy world, is convinced it's a fever dream, and then rapes the first woman he encounters, drunk on the discovery that he is not impotent in this dream world.

Then the dream never ends and he spends the rest of the book trying and failing to atone for this act.

I remember my father discovering me reading the book, which I had taken from his shelf, and freaking out a bit. He tried to tell me that I shouldn't read the book, but I insisted that I wanted to. I remember my parents having a lengthy conversation about it and finally agreeing to let me read it, so long as I came to ask my father questions about anything that confused or concerned me.

The first question I asked was "Dad, what are loins?"
posted by 256 at 11:14 AM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Perhaps the gap between our readings is more that you presented a dichotomy I disagree with. There is a huge range between not "trying to be a persuasive argument for anything at all" and presenting a "normative argument about how everyone else should raise their children." I don't think he is trying to say what every parent should do, but neither do I think he is not trying to be persuasive of anything at all. I think he is trying to lead the reader to discovery in much the way he was trying to lead his daughter to discovery.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:22 AM on November 1, 2013


I failed to see the prococity.
posted by Kokopuff at 11:30 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The best part of going straight from kid books to my mom's bookshelf in elementary school was discovering that grown-up books had dirty bits, and that if I took the books to school I could charge other kids to read them. Ken Follett got me video game money for years.
posted by Blue Meanie at 11:33 AM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


A lot of children are precocious if you take that to mean they pick up on aspects of the adult world faster than adults expect. The way they express it depends on their environment, of course.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:47 AM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also not saying that I'm right and you're wrong. Just that I read it differently than you did.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:51 AM on November 1, 2013


Also not saying that I'm right and you're wrong. Just that I read it differently than you did.

Yeah, I understand. And not pointing to your comments specifically at all, but in general: I just think MeFi is very badly served by the debate-club mentality that several people early in this thread were displaying, where they're not really trying to RTFA on its own terms so much as skimming through it looking for the merest threads of argument to spin into a pro-con proposition and, ideally, to loudly disagree with the author about. This is a narrative, not an argument; the discussion would go better if we could try a little harder to respond to it as such, rather than just combing through it looking for the easiest places to score points.
posted by RogerB at 11:59 AM on November 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just think MeFi is very badly served by the debate-club mentality that several people early in this thread were displaying,

To be fair to early posters, the title of this post, prominently displayed on the front page, is "Should a six-year-old be permitted to read Robert Caro?"
posted by muddgirl at 12:05 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a narrative, not an argument; the discussion would go better if we could try a little harder to respond to it as such

Fair enough. My narrative is that I was a book nerd raised in a reading household, and questions about what I should and shouldn't be allowed to read were very much openly debated. In the end, my parents decided to trust me to come to them when I had questions, and as a result, I did. We had some very adult conversations when I was very young, even though I'm quite sure in retrospect that those conversations made my parents very uncomfortable. But I am forever grateful.

I think this made me a better person. Others, more scandalized by some of my opinions and decisions over the years, would probably disagree.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:20 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't remember this at all, but my sister tells me that on a family vacation, each of us kids was allowed to bring one book with us so we wouldn't spend the whole time reading, and we cheated by reading each others' books. Apparently, the book I chose was Twins, which is the true crime story that the movie Dead Ringers was based on. You know, the one about the deranged identical twin gynecologists. She claims she was 11 at the time, which would have made me 12. I don't remember being particularly traumatized by it, but she was.

I read 'literature' literature too, but honestly, I don't think I really understood or followed the stories well. I picked up some fancy words and phrasings, which I sometimes used unintentionally, but I didn't really get the gist of most of the literature I read. But I emphatically did not gloss over sex stuff just because I didn't understand it. In fact, I was fascinated and horrified by it, and I sought it out, to the point that I read a lot of probably borderline porn as a child. I had an evolving and very twisted perception of what sex was. My earliest recollection was thinking it was a surgical procedure with a high fatality rate, which explained why grownups didn't like to talk about it. Once I'd cleared that up a little more, I effectively assumed that all sex was prostitution, because I was positive that I would never participate in such a disgusting thing unless my livelihood depended on it. I assumed that boys, being the repulsive and inscrutable beasts they were, enjoyed doing it simply because they were just that mean.

I also thought that murder was much more common than it is. I knew it was illegal, but I put it almost in the class of speeding. You know, the sort of thing that everyone does and whether you get caught or not is a crapshoot. When my parents denied this, I chalked it up as one of the many lies that adults tell children in order to shelter them from harsh realities of adulthood. (This may have come up when I got in trouble in third grade for my extensive report on Jack the Ripper, complete with detailed diagrams of the crime scenes showing the locations of all the body parts.)

This wasn't my parents' fault. They didn't have trashy books like that around. I'd seek them out when visiting friends and relatives, or get them at libraries or used book sales. And I knew they didn't approve, so I'd read them secretly, and they'd only find out about it when I did a book report or let one of my insightful sex facts slip. (My sister did eventually tattle on me for the Twins thing, but we were both in our forties by then, and the statute of limitations had run out.) I don't think there is much anyone could have done to stop me. I was sort of smart in some ways, and I was very determined.

You know, so there's really no moral to be had. I don't know that it can be prevented, and I don't know how my parents could have effectively addressed it in my case. But it definitely can do stuff to a kid to be exposed to things they're not really ready for.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:56 PM on November 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


I also believed everyone who went to a different church would spend eternity in hell. That was from a book recommended for kids.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 1:11 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


My family didn't care if I read at all, much less what it was, so I read anything I could get my hands on - and probably spent too much time alone reading. I wish someone had done what the author did for his daughter and lure me into a little more sociability. Even my teachers thought it was great that I read at recess, and no, it's not great to have one's nose in a book all the time. I am sad, though, that there was no time in my childhood where I could've lain cozily next to a parent in the evening and read alongside them. It's a comforting image, even with the misgivings he has. Why he didn't pause and find a book they could actually share, read and discuss together was a bit puzzling to me.

As for the content of my reading? I don't think I've been exactly traumatized by anything I've read, but I had a lot of unrealistic ideas as to what adult life was like, how people richer than my family lived, and all sorts of other silly things that with some curation and discussion could have nipped my ignorance in the bud. My guardian aunt didn't read anything except the bible and the occasional copy of Jet, so I had no guidance at all. No kid should be reading Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* *but were afraid to ask at 6.
posted by droplet at 1:48 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still remember how shaken I was by reading Graham Greene's Brighton Rock at twelve, and yes I did read The New Yorker when I was five, but so what? Seriously. But then I am a teacher dealing with a passel of young creatures whose parents are all convinced that they are brilliant and who want to explain to me how the child was reading Harry Potter at three. Again, so what? Children are people, and they try to make sense of a world the way you and I do, by acting on the world but also by reading books they don't sufficiently comprehend. At least if they come from reading families and are so inclined. I am reading The Things They Carried now, having finished Middlemarch and Moby Dick, and I have not completely understood them, either. And I am an English teacher with a slew of graduate degrees and a lifetime of reading.

I am also impatient with the teachers who would keep a child from reading too far above his reading level if that's what he wants to read. Yes, reading at instructional level is associated with the best scaffolded understanding of literature, I agree, but I don't read things in order to take a comprehension test afterwards, do you?

I generally do badly on such tests, anyway, at least if I've actually read the books, because I don't usually agree with the official opinions.
posted by Peach at 5:10 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am feeling jealous and competitive, and I don't even have children!
posted by zscore at 8:39 PM on November 1, 2013


I had access to vast uncurated libraries when I was a child. I never had enough to read; I could read several kids' books in an evening and I was constantly searching for more. I devoured adults' books if they were at all interesting; I remember being disappointed that Lawrence Durrell wasn't as "good" as his brother. I don't think my omnivorous reading hurt me, apart from slightly archaic speech and a tendency to uncritically adopt the well-meaning prejudices of earlier generations. On the other hand, and just on general principles, I don't think eight year-olds should be reading The Lustful Turk.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:00 AM on November 2, 2013


> it's not great to have one's nose in a book all the time.

I do not understand this; what language is it in?
posted by languagehat at 6:56 AM on November 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


On the other hand, there is something absurd and amusing about a six-year-old reading Caro.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:12 AM on November 1 [+] [!]


This is the opening scene of the new Wes Anderson movie.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 1:00 PM on November 2, 2013


For me, reading books I wasn't old enough to understand was a safe way to explore. It was a totally bewildering world and I was all alone in it, but I could always put the book down and go play My Little Pony with my friends across the street anytime I wanted to.

I lived in a house where we were always very careful and never made mistakes, and I have really vivid memories of the freedom I had while reading.

This has all been on my mind a lot lately because my son just learned to read and has started showing some interest in the grownup shelves. I think we've decided to let him have free access to any book in the house.
posted by gerstle at 5:58 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


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