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Limiting Fiction Reading...what do you guys think?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

My dd10 is a big fiction reader.  She'll pick reading over almost anything and could spend hours reading fiction everyday.  I was like this as a child and I have a few concerns.  I want her to learn what she enjoys producing and become skilled at it.  How is that supposed to happen when she is constantly consuming other people's stories?  Also, big stretches of reading during the day seem to make her more sullen and unwilling to engage with other family members.


So a couple of months ago, I instituted fiction reading limits to one hour during the day and unlimited from bedtime to when she decides to turn the lights out.  I explained my reasoning to her, and although she wasn't thrilled, she's accepted the limits without much of a fight.  I did tell her that if she was more active with her reading....writing reviews, memorizing favorite passages, or keeping a reading journal, etc...that she could read more.  But she has been unwilling to do that so far.


So what do you guys think?  Is there something I'm missing here by not letting dd read fiction nonstop?  Has anyone dealt with a child like this before?  And how did you handle it?

post #2 of 16

There are two things I would worry about there.


First, is the unlimited after-bedtime reading rule going to lead to her staying up incredibly late at night, and then sleeping a ton during the day, with the result that she engages even *less* with family, and is even more sullen about it?


Second, what's she doing instead of reading during the day when you limit her daytime fiction reading?  Is that activity of equal value, educationally and socially, to the activity of her choice?


I think it's natural to want to change things up when you see issues with a child's behavior, but if you're going to place major limits on one activity, that would naturally take up a lot of your kid's time, I think you have to provide a substitute.  You can't just say "this is all the fiction you can read", you have to use the time you're taking from that to accomplish something else, ideally, a goal or activity that your child agrees on the value of.  Is she reading non-fiction instead of fiction?  (Is she concealing fiction reading by keeping it inside or under her non-fic?  Because I totally used to do that.)  Is she getting more social contact? (Was her reading her substitute or her way in to social contact with other kids her age?)  Has she taken up some other project?  Is she getting more exercise?  Or has reading been replaced by hanging around doing not-much, or by watching tv?  (I'm not hugely opposed to tv, but it doesn't engage the brain the way the printed page does, brain activity actually *slows down* when you watch, so I have definite preferences about how my kids spend their time.)


I also kind of want to make a pitch for the value of reading.  I read a ton as a child, and a lot of it was, frankly, junk.  However, the junk and the not-junk weren't always readily identifiable from the outside.  The marketing of books is such that some amazing works of, say, literary (or not so literary) science fiction are indistinguishable on the outside from "Space Babes of the Amazon Moon."  My library's copy of "Sense and Sensibility" had almost as salacious a cover as Harlequin regency romance novels.  Ultimately though, reading helped me envision lives besides my own life in the immediate present.  Reading helped me consider possibilities that weren't in my immediate field of view.  Reading really helped me connect with other kids, and with adults outside my immediate family.  Reading got me into college, and helped me through it.  Reading has started endless numbers of interesting conversations.  I wouldn't say my reading is productive - I don't write much.  I'm an administrator and an accountant.  I do this to get through the train ride, or the wait at the doctor's office, or to give my brain a break after a day at work.  My scope has definitely increased since I was ten.  I read a lot more nonfiction then I used to. 


If it's making her cranky, I can see why you'd want to make changes, just make sure you're not removing one thing and creating a bored kid.  That's a worse plan.

post #3 of 16

No, never did that. Thought about it, but found other ways. At age 6-8 my eldest was reading an average of 5 hours a day, sometimes considerably more. We noticed things you're describing: crankiness, less socializing, loss of interest in creative pursuits. But limiting it didn't feel right to me. 


Instead we began discussing balance. Balance between waking and sleeping, nutritional balance, solitary vs. social pursuits, active vs. sedentary pursuits, and passive vs. creative pursuits. Rather than saying "That's too much reading: let's limit it," we said "Doesn't seem like enough physical [or social, or creative] activity: what can we do to increase that?" That got my dd looking at what she liked doing that was social, or physical, or creative, and identifying what she wanted to do more of. 


We found our path that way. Not that we were able to create a one-time, permanent fix for her reading obsession: it was always an issue that had to be revisited. But all along we were teaching her how to recognize what a healthy balance is, and allocate her time pro-actively to an assortment of activities. She still has a tendency to get locked into interests; she's 19 now and on her way to being a professional violinist and her single-minded pursuit of activities is a real strength: she tends to be obsessive about practicing and immersing herself in whatever musical learning she's supposed to be doing. That's just her personality. But she knows how to fix things when the balance no longer feels right.


My dd turned out to be a deeply gifted creative writer, but we saw barely a glimpse of that until she was 15 or so. Prior to that she did a little writing but most of what she did was to inhale and inhale and inhale other people's stories and writing styles. It gave her a tremendous appreciation for good literature and eventually a nearly bottomless well on which to draw for inspiration when she turned her own hand to the craft. Her standards for herself were very high, and she didn't want to write trite middle-school short stories: she wanted to write stories like those she was reading, and she was insightful and experienced enough a reader to know that she wasn't there yet at age 10. Some people learn by doing. Others learn by observing. She's in the latter camp. All her reading was nourishing a very creative spirit ... but we didn't see evidence coming out in the form of writing for a long time. I'm not sure there's anything wrong with that. Really, there's little new under the sun: most creative people are merely shuffling and dealing out a deck of others' ideas in new ways. My dd, thanks to all her reading, ended up with a very big deck indeed!


That's not to say we ignored the idea of nourishing the creative impulse. As I say, we talked a lot about balance, including a balance of "creative vs. passive" activities. But we looked at the big picture with respect to creativity: music, art, imaginative play, gardening, handicrafts, singing, etc. Not just writing in a journal (though she eventually chose to do so) or writing book reviews. When she did start writing creatively, she did so out of love and passion for the craft.


I wonder if it would be possible to come at things from a more positive direction with your dd: what does she enjoy doing, that she could do more of, to achieve a healthy balance between, say, social and solitary activities? I suggest this on the assumption that you are inspired by an ideal of child-led learning, because implying that she can earn the right to read more by doing some writing doesn't sound very much like child-led learning to me.



post #4 of 16
I agree with Miranda-- I wouldn't limit reading formally, and especially not because I was concerned that reading would interfere with writing. Reading well-written books is a WONDERFUL way for children to learn about language.

I know she's your oldest, but 10 is still pretty young to be producing a lot-- while we aren't classical homeschoolers, I think there is a wisdom to the stages of the trivium, and they expect very little writing before high school-- the years before that are giving kids the facts and ideas they will need when they are ready to write. I understand that she seems to be reading so much it makes her feel crabby, and I totally agree with your addressing that, but I think part of the solution long term may be to figure out *why* she is drawn to spend so much time reading. Personally, I overdo activities like reading when I am not getting other needs met-- not enough social time, not enough down time, etc... If I identify the need and meet it, I stop using reading as a bandaid.
post #5 of 16

When you say you want her producing stuff not consuming. what do you mean by that? 


If you mean specifically producing writing, my feeling is that any half decent writer really needs to undergo a long apprenticeship of reading, consuming, seeing others at work. The consuming that you are concerned about is absolutely integral, necessary, to producing good writing. Thinking about it that's true of any craft, artists spend hours looking at paintings of others and familiarising themselves with them, musicians always listen to a lot of music. I'm really not sure how much value any creative writing activity will be for a child this age and I'm not sure that there's much long term value in producing stuff. Far better for her to have a really good sense of what the English language (I assume) is capable of, of how stories can be structured (because a lot of the best stories seem to break the rules...,but do they really?), and what she likes and doesn't like in a story. Also, she might not want to be a creative writer. All that reading might lead her somewhere else entirely, possibly into literature criticism, possibly just into memories of a very happy childhood.



I know what you mean about kids getting cranky if they've done a lot of reading but looking at my own kids I'd say that's often more about just having been sedentary for long period. I get cranky if I sit and read or write or study for a long time because I'm not moving about. Also,, when you're really immersed in another world and then have to interact with others-well, that's hard and you're going to be distracted and cranky. 

post #6 of 16

ITA with Miranda. I wouldn't limit but I'd talk about balance. Basically, I'd do what I do with ds and the computer. I'd make sure we got some exercise (we take family walks when the weather isn't too bad.) I'd make sure she knew what other options she had for activities, suggest outings I'm willing/able to do, etc. 

post #7 of 16

I was like that as a kid- I read constantly. Most of our family photos from my childhood show me with a book- there's even one taken at a wedding, with all the wedding guests lined up posing and smiling, and me at the end of the line in my dress, reading. I would have had no interest in memorizing passages or writing reviews. My parents didn't limit reading at all (they're just as bad, come to think of it), though they did make sure we all had opportunities to do other interesting things. I didn't produce much at that age, other than what I was forced to do at school.


However, all that reading was a huge influence. I started getting more interested in writing in my teens, just for fun. And after a couple of university degrees and lots of travelling and ten years as a social worker and the birth of my son, I returned to writing. I am now a full-time writer-- mostly of teen novels and children's books. My sixteenth book comes out in October. I also teach creative writing and am doing some work as an editor. So the childhood of immersion in fiction did lead to production... eventually. The stories just needed thirty years to percolate. 


I like what others have said here about talking about balance. My son and I both tend to be a bit like Miranda described her oldest child-- with a tendency to be somewhat obsessed and single-minded about our interests. I don't think it is a bad way to be but it is something one needs to learn to live with and manage. I could also relate to the perfectionism Miranda mentioned, and I see this with some very bright, creative kids when I lead writing workshops. When you are an avid reader, with a love for language and a mind full of big, expansive, complex ideas, writing is really tough. You don't want to write a short simple story fifth grade story. You want to write an epic fantasy trilogy. Your reach exceeds your grasp, and you know you can't pull it off-- but aiming lower doesn't appeal. At some point, the gap between imagination and ability will get smaller, and writing- or production- may become more appealing.


I think we tend to over-emphasize the importance of production in children's learning. Process is often far more important than product, and all kinds of amazing deep learning can be going on in private, with nothing visible to show for it. I think it is important to trust this-- though of course not always easy in a world that sometimes seems to equate learning with production. 

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thank you all for your thoughtful replies and helping me think this issue through.  So far, the lights out as late as she wants thing has not been a big deal.  She usually stays up 2 hours, sometimes 3, and is not sleepy during the day.  I did indeed discuss balance with dd and even came up with my own catchy phrase..."The day is for doing."  LOL, I try not to jab her with that one too much.  Also, at the same time I instituted the reading limit, we started using that "empty" afternoon space for dedicated Project Time.   DD has used much of that time for drawing, painting, and making movies with her friends.


But the issue of the intake, sucking up such vast amounts of literature.  I guess that's at the heart of the reason I posted about this.  What is the value of that?  And of course some of you answered that for me.  Ha, ha!  I did the same thing when I was little.  So this is a lot of me looking back and wondering if it would have been better if I'd been encouraged to branch out into other, more active pursuits. 

post #9 of 16
Are there interests in your life you feel you might have "missed out?"

I'm an introvert who loves reading. I still remember the thrill of finishing Little Women the summer between 4th and 5th grade. It was the longest book I had ever read and it was enhanced by the fact that it was almost (I think) 500 pages! lol.gif

I think reading is invaluable. It's best if it doesn't interfere with basics like sleeping or eating. I can understand some limitation if it's spilling over into other areas of life. Balance is best. But if this excess reading is during free times, then I wouldn't restrict it.
post #10 of 16

I was a voracious reader of all types of fiction (and strictly fiction) at her age.  It's almost all I ever did.  LOTS of sedentary time.  I don't think it's a bad thing at age 10.    I wasn't into sports, and I didn't have much of a social existence, although I was and am a very extroverted, social person.  But I wouldn't find 'my niche' of friends/crowd until 11-13 years of age, and not in a totally satisfying way until high school.   But by the time I was 13-15, I was pursuing LOTS of extra curricular activities, dedicated pursuits which required a lot of concentrated alone time (rehearsing with an instrument), which came natural to me as a bookworm. Pretty soon I realized I had a vocabulary and verbal finesse that far exceeded the average peer in my school, and when it came time to write, it was effortless, throughout high school and college.  I graduated valedictorian from HS, got into a famous college, and have been a social butterfly (not holed up with a book nonstop and sullen when around others) ever since.  I don't think there was a single thing wrong with spending ages 8-11 almost exclusively reading fiction, and from 11-13 spending a huge chunk of my time reading fiction.  For me, it was a great way to spend that time at that stage in my development.

post #11 of 16
Originally Posted by heket View Post

But if this excess reading is during free times, then I wouldn't restrict it.


Hi Heket, nice to see you here again!


I get what you're saying here. I guess where it gets tricky is that for unschoolers, pretty much everything is "free time." Some of the things that are natural limits on reading for most kids (school, homework, homeschooling lessons, etc.) just don't exist for unschoolers.



post #12 of 16
I was that kid. I remember my cash-strapped mom buying me seven novels to take on a two-week holiday when I was eight. We had to sit separately on the plane and she was so frustrated that I'd read them all by the time we flew across the country. We ended up getting a temporary library card for my uncle's town library and loaded up before we hit the road. Heck, I used to read by the lights of the car behind us while we drove after dark!

My mom never put limits on my reading, and I am so thankful for it. I started writing stories early too, but not in earnest until I was about twelve, then there was no holding me back.
As an adult I've published ten novels, dozens of short stories, and am now working on producing audio stories for kids and the accompanying website to sell them. All entirely self-taught.
This might be your child's life passion, and how cool to have found it at such an early age!
And if it's not, then she will go on to use the power of story in whatever she does.

Fiction reflects life; it illuminates it and shows us the shadows and highlights. It helps us learn about other people, to resolve conflict and to marvel in how a story can sit with us long after we've read it.
If your child was as passionate about building guitars from scratch, would you be worried? Perhaps you'd look for mentors, someone she could apprentice with?
For right now she wants to read, read, read. Like I did at that age.
And then I started writing, trying to echo the writerly voices that I had so enjoyed.

When your daughter is ready, she might start a book club, a writers group, a fan fiction site, penpal fiction, a podcast, diary-writing or journal keeping. She might want to take a course about writing or literature when she's old enough to audit at the local college. She might volunteer to read to little kids at the library, or to elderly inmates at a prison, or folks at a care home.

There is so much more to what she is doing. She's not just reading ... she's immersing herself in the language and craft of story.
Right on!
post #13 of 16

There are all kinds of wonderful ways her passion could benefit her in the future. Reading books so much strengthens not only vocabulary, but the more she reads, the more her brain memorizes proper writing, punctuation, sentence structure, cadence, spelling, and grammar! She may take this information with her into her teen years and become interested in writing, herself, and she will have a firm grasp of how to do it from having read so much. She might take this knowledge and use it to become a professional editor. Freelance editors make excellent money. There are also bloggers who make a living off of reading books which are provided to them for free by authors (I know because I am a self-taught, twice-published fiction author). They get to read free books all day long and get paid for it, not by the authors and publishing houses, but by earnings from advertising from their blogs. It's easy to gain lots of readers when you host regular giveaways of the products that you receive and large numbers of viewers means more money from advertising.


Every passion has its silver lining. :)

post #14 of 16

As a matter of fact, you might be able to get her interested in doing the blogging thing right now! A ten-year-old could totally write her own book review blog and publishing companies would be thrilled to send her books. So if you can get her passionate about blogging then there you go! You're getting her to write! :D And she will likely be excited about getting new books regularly in the mail for free. It's a great lesson in business. She won't be able to make money off of it for a long while, but she's at the age now where that doesn't matter. She's building valuable skills.

post #15 of 16

You want her to produce stuff and don't understand how she will do that if she is constantly consuming what others have produced. That is a valid concern - with some things. Being concerned that she won't learn how to cook when all she does is make microwaved TV dinners, for example.


However, as a published author, I can tell you that what she is doing CAN lead to production. Any good writer will tell you that if you don't read, you can't write. You have to read - a lot - in order to be a good writer. The benefits of reading for a writer include seeing what to do and what not to do (in terms of grammar and punctuation, obviously, but also plot, characterization, using too many/too few words, etc.), having what you're reading spark an idea ("Hey, I could've done this better!" or "Hm. What if I wrote about that strange car in front of the elegant house and made it about..."), discovering your own voice, and figuring out what genre you write or want to write.


Now, of course, you don't know yet if she'll want to be a writer. But even if she doesn't, reading fiction has it's benefits. It gives you an escape from your own everyday life when things aren't going so well (and while she may not be facing that right now, someday she'll have a bad day or lose a job or something, and it's better that she learn how to escape into books now before that happens rather than having it happen and then she looks for an escape, since at that point, she may turn to something other than reading that isn't so harmless). It also can prompt more learning - I can't tell you how many times I've read something in a book and thought, "No way! Can't happen!" and gone to look it up. And many times looking that up leads to reading about other things. And some fiction is written very realistically and can allow you to get an insight into a different culture, a different life, that you maybe wouldn't get to peek into otherwise - and in a much more interesting and less dry way than a nonfiction book - which can sometimes come off as a textbook and end up taking some of the enjoyment out because the facts are just presented rather than woven into a bigger story that allows you to absorb them as you read.


As an fairly prolific author and a very voracious reader, my inclination is to say that restricting reading (or even just one part of reading) isn't something to do. However, as a parent, I also see that point that you can't let her do that one thing to the exclusion of all else. Maybe instead of restricting, find a way to ensure that this somehow leads to interaction with others. As someone else suggested, perhaps she could start a blog on which she reviews the books she reads. Create a book club, either with the family or with her friends, in which everyone reads the same book and then discusses it. Find books that have been made into movies or TV shows and read the book, then watch the movie/show together and discuss how they kept it the same and how they changed it, if the characters looked like she imagined them and if not how did she picture them, did the settings look like she imagined, etc. See if you can find books set in the area you live in or somewhere near enough that you could go there (or if you can afford more expensive travel, anywhere, then), read the books and then go to the locations and see how true to reality the author kept the fictional story.


Another thought: If you want her to not read so much, limit her free time. For people who love to read (definitely for me), any down time means it's time to read - I take my book or Kindle with me no matter where I go, because even a 5 minute wait is enough to make me pull it out and read. So if you want her to spend less time reading, schedule more activities so that she doesn't have that down time in which to read. Even if she has no interest in sports or other activities like that, plan activities that you can do as a family: go for bike rides, go swimming (when it's warm enough, of course), plan a day at the lake or river or beach, go hiking, hit up nearby theme parks, go to the park, the movies, etc. That cuts back on her reading more organically, so she won't feel restricted and you won't feel like you must monitor her to make sure she sticks to it, and it will also expose her to other activities and possibly lead to the eventual development of a love for that activity as well. It's a win-win.

post #16 of 16
Reading can never be a bad thing. Reading fiction can never be a bad thing. Reading ANYTHING can never be a bad thing. All good writers read like mad...and sometimes all they read is fiction. That's okay! I encourage you to leave her be and remove any and all restrictions on fiction.

As an advice reading of fiction I have to admit when I read the thread title my thought was "are you insane?!?!"
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