I, too, have an 11 year old at home; a daughter I used to think was a reluctant reader, until it finally dawned on me that she just reads differently than I do (more on that later.) She has been reading Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson for her social studies unit on the American Revolution and hating it every step of the way. Her objection--too graphic. She told me (repeatedly) about a scene where a man is shot dead, and then proceeded to describe how the blood looked on the ground. She didn't like it. It upset her. She even told me she didn't think "little kids" (she is in fifth grade, so she is selectively little when the occasion suits!) should be forced to read the book, even for school (a point she later made to her teachers in a written response she was required to write about the book.)
And then The Hunger Games trailers started to appear. And she asked me if she could see the movie. I am not nearly as permissive about movies as I am about books. I told her no. My daughter, being clever, immediately attacked my weak spot. "What if I read the book?"
|I'd still read it!|
That arrangement lasted about a week, at which point she ripped the book from my hands and proceeded to finish it herself. She loved it. She marched down stairs when she finished it and decreed it "the best book ever!" No Forge ill-effects whatsoever.
And this is where I get to the part where I contemplate the different types of readers we are, my daughter and I. I read like my life depends on it. I'm not joking when I say I worry about the books I'm not reading, the great books which will slip through my fingers simply because I don't have the time to read them all. When I have spare time on my hands, my first thought is to read. Every other form of entertainment is balanced against whether or not I want to take the time away from a book. This is possibly unhealthy, I admit it. But it's indicative about how I feel about books.
My daughter likes to read, but usually only at bedtime. Rare is the occasion when she will choose to read instead of watch TV or play on the computer or go outside or simply daydream. In fact, there are times when I feel that she will do anything to avoid picking up a book if it's not during that last hour or so before bed. But when she does read, she has a pantheon of go-to books that she constantly revisits. For her, reading is not so much about the new experience as it is about comforting familiarity. She will sample new books when she has to, usually for school, or on the recommendation of a friend. Sometimes she will even take my advice and try something I think she will like. The Hunger Games (and now Catching Fire, which she is zipping through) is that rare book where she did drop all else to read it. And I know that it will enter her inner sanctum of beloved books and be read repeatedly. I know that what she doesn't understand now at 11 will hit her differently when she is 13, 15, 18--when she is revisiting the Capital and the Districts and seeing a story she thought she knew so well take on new meaning because she is at a different point in her life than she is now. That is an incredible gift that Suzanne Collins has given to my daughter.
So yes, I "let" my daughter read The Hunger Games. My parental concerns gave way to her wishes, and in the end she proved me correct to trust my librarian instincts. Where Forge fumbled, Katniss triumphed. Score one for the freedom to read what you want.