My daughter is eleven now. We are venturing into newly charted waters when it comes to reading. She is starting to take an interest in some pretty mature books. She loves to read, and devours most anything that comes recommended to her. Thank goodness for my dear friend Ellen, a 5th grade teacher, who has helped me to better understand my role in my daughter’s reading. This past summer, we had a heated debate over the “right” age to read The Hunger Games. Ellen made an excellent point that if a book seems too scary, chances are high that your child will put it down. I thought a lot about what she said and came to the conclusion that my best bet is to act as a guide and offer my heartfelt advice. In the end, it’s hard to tell a child they can’t read a book they are interested in just because you are having trouble believing they are actually old enough to read it. Don’t get me wrong: if my daughter comes to me now or next year and asks to read Forever by Judy Blume, I’ll draw the line. (I’m all set with her waiting to learn about Michael, Kath, and Michael’s infamous BFF, Ralph until she gets to at least junior high!).
Anyhow, her great Aunt gave her a special book for Christmas and I can tell she really wants to read it. As I read the plot aloud to her, memories of ninth grade English on the second floor of Beveridge Hall at NMH came flooding through my mind. Sandy Hayward helped us master that text inside and out. We came to know those characters who lived amidst a misunderstood neighbor in a time of racial inequality as if they were our long-lost friends.
“When he gave us our air-rifles Atticus wouldn’t teach us to shoot. Uncle Jack instructed us in the rudiments thereof; he said Atticus wasn’t interested in guns. Atticus said to Jem, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever hear Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “You’re father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” -HARPER LEE
Am I really ready for this? Can’t you shrink down into a lap-sized toddler for one more short stint where we read Goodnight Moon every night together and it never gets old? How did we get here so fast?