I've always been a voracious reader. I think I get it from my dad. Since I can remember, books have shaped and formed my ways of thinking, have inspired me and taught me and changed me. There are some really great books out there. I'm always fascinated by children who feel like reading is a chore. I guess I just never understood that mindset. Reading was the best form of entertainment for me, from the time I was old enough to read the words in my picture books.
There is also something to be said for books that are written purely for entertainment, not for creating any life-changing thought processes. We live in a home without any TV channels, and only the occasional video. And it's darn cold outside right now. That means we've got to find other forms of entertainment, and books usually come in first place.
When I was a girl, my favorite books were The Babysitter's Club. I realize they aren't exceptionally written, they aren't profound, they really don't offer any actual benefit to the reader. But sometimes, books like that are okay. They never did me any harm, either. They were just fun. My two best friends shared my BSC obsession, and the three of us could talk for hours about what Claudia, Stacey, Mary-Anne and Kristy were doing in the latest books. At ten years old, I'd rather my daughter be talking about that than some of the stuff girls talk about these days.
I loved those books so much that I kept them. I moved them with me in a big box when I left my parents' home and struck out on my own, and I kept them through the years, hoping there would be a day I'd have a daughter that would enjoy them as much as I did.
That day has arrived.
The Oldest is now devouring BSC books at the rate of one every other day, and coming to me and sharing the stories of all those friends I remember so well from my own youth. What fun it is, to re-hear those stories in the words of my own daughter! As she gets older, I find there are so many opportunities to share some of the same things that I enjoyed with her, so many memories that I get to re-create with her.
And on the subject of books for young ladies - What on earth has happened?? A quick trip to the book store reveals the interests of young girls these days - wizards, vampires, magic, general evil. Babysitter's Club may not be profound literature, but at least it's not filling girls' heads with that kind of garbage. I went asking one time at Barnes and Noble for King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry. The older lady that was working got a smile on her face as she said, "Oh! I remember Marguerite Henry! She wrote Misty, didn't she? No, no we don't have her books here. Kids these days just don't read things like that anymore." She proceeded to offer me a selection of books about teen girls that ride horses and fight over boyfriends. Really? This is the best that youth authors can come up with these days?
We have instituted a general rule in our house. If a book wasn't written before 1980, Mom has to read it first. And we encourage her to choose books written before 1965. (Bonus points for books written before 1900.) Those books were filled with great plots and strong, admirable characters. The difficulties were real life, and the characters overcame them not with magic, but with character traits that kids could really look up to and learn from. And they didn't feel like "school" back then... that was what entertainment looked like! Seeing the drivel that is offered to kids these days to encourage them to read gives me little hope for the coming generation.
Okay, so I realize there are worse things than a kid sitting around reading book after book about vampires. I won't even get started on TV shows and video games, because then I'd really never stop. But seriously, how will our kids learn to deal with any problems that arise in life if all the books they read teach them to fight evil with magic? And how much worse is entertainment going to get, if this is the kind of stuff our nine and ten year olds need to feel 'entertained'?
Rant over. I'm afraid I'm going to start sounding terribly old fashioned if I keep going. If anyone has any suggestions of great books for young ladies that I can offer to my oldest, please feel free to comment. At the rate she's going, she'll have all these Babysitter's Club books finished in the next month or two, and then I won't know what to do with her.