Recently, I was faced with a quandary. My daughter LOVES to read. Think reading while tying her shoes, eating, or walking down the stairs. Picture taking five books to bed with her because she might finish one and needs plenty of choices.
If she loves to read, what was the quandary? She didn’t want to read anything on her secondary reading list (see definition below). Some parents are happy if their child reads anything. Why was I concerned that she didn’t want to read from her secondary reading list if she would read other books? Frankly, I was initially frustrated because she wasn’t doing what she was supposed to do. She was fighting me about reading books I had assigned. I knew she would enjoy most of them once she started, but I couldn’t get her to pick them up.
After I made a change to the mix of what she read, I was reminded that what we read matters.
Types of Reading Lists
Before we discuss why it is important to have a mix of different types of books and how to balance time to read them, let’s define what each one is.
Required school reading
These are books that should be read during free time though they are not optional. Older students could have a yearly list. Younger students might benefit from having separate lists for each term. Narration is not required of books on this list. A variety of books covering subjects such as history, biography, geography, science, nature, and literature are included.
These are books that students choose based on their interests, with parental discretion. Narration is not required.
Why a mix of all types of books is important
Books provide ideas for the mind. You learn about the past, other places, and the thoughts of other people through books. As you read a well-written book, you become absorbed in another person’s life. You learn to have empathy and are stretched in your thinking and understanding.
It is important to read challenging books that stretch you and nourish your mind as well as easier ones for enjoyment. If you only read difficult books, you will grow weary. There will also be times you are mentally or physically fatigued and cannot read a difficult book with understanding. On the flip side, if you only read easier books you will not grow in knowledge and character.
You need all types of food for the proper nourishment of your body—healthy meals with protein and vegetables that nourish and sustain. Dessert can never replace a nutritious meal. The same is true of your mind. Your mental diet should consist of books that challenge and help you grow as well as books that provide enjoyment.
How to balance time to read all three types of books
I came to realize that in previous years my daughter read a mixture of books for free reading. Recently, she had begun to read more and more purely for enjoyment. The books she chose for free reading time were still acceptable choices, but she no longer had an appropriate mixture of books that helped her grow. Her mind was desiring more “dessert” books and did not want the “nourishing” ones.
To balance out the types of books she reads, we instituted the 9-5 reading policy. Between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. she was to read books from her required school reading or secondary reading lists. Before 9:00 a.m. and after 5:00 p.m. she was allowed to read approved books of her choice (free reading). When we first instituted this policy, there was some push back similar to sugar withdrawal. As the withdrawal symptoms subsided, she willingly chose books from her secondary reading list without fussing and enjoyed some of them so much she continued to read them during her free reading time.
Carefully consider the books you and your children read. Ensure that there is a mixture of books that will nourish the mind and enrich the soul.
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