If you're like me, it is impossible to keep up with the kid's reading. Not that I don't try. I keep a close eye on what they're reading because I think parents have the ultimate say on the media (books, games, movies) that their kids consume and I try to be a responsible parent that way.
Then there are the weeks that disappear into a black hole of sickness, late homework and general insanity. The books get away from me, because the children outnumber me and they read like literary fiends. And because curling up with a good book is partial compensation for feeling lousy, right?
A while ago my oldest asked me to check a book for him, to see if it was appropriate for his age. Words like "appropriate for your age" get a lot of play in our house of 10, 8 and 6 year olds. I told him I would . . . and then forgot. Because . . . well, see the paragraph above. So, this week, he comes back and asks if I've checked it out for him. Um, no (bad Mom!).
Turns out he's already read it, but still wants to know if I think it's appropriate or not. He says he thinks that maybe it wasn't. Mom's red alert goes off, but I try to stay calm and ask, "Was there something about the book you'd like to talk about?"
Of course not. Don't be silly, Mom.
But I was heartened that years of critically looking at media had developed his inner critic to the point that he had already evaluated it, and found it questionable. I already knew that occasional books that were too scary or movies with too much teen angst were not going to permanently damage my kids. But I didn't want them to have a steady diet of those things either. This week, I realized that all that effort of openly examining media, and being up front with my kids about what was not appropriate for them, had paid an even better dividend: a critical thinker.
p.s. The book was The Compound. I did look it up and it was rated 12+ with some pretty disturbing ideas (families pitted against each other in a death match) that are really more suited for the YA market this book is targeted towards. Now I understand my son's concerns and we'll definitely be talking about it.