We need to be guarding our children and their bookshelves like our animal counterparts; like a bear protects her young, and as a leopard growls at an approaching predator. Our precious offspring, our children, our squishy little malleable balls of clay are ready to be shaped and transformed. They need to be protected. Their value system and moral compass is in jeopardy anytime they are given a book that contradicts what they’ve been taught by you.
Now this might seem a bit intense to some, it might seem a bit over the top for something as “simple” as a children’s book. But it’s not. Children’s books are anything but simple, they are anything but meaningless, trivial pieces of literature. They are written words read directly into the ears of our children at night. They are sometimes the last images they see, the last stories they hear before they settle in for a good rest.
Last week, I talked about two books we found in our intentional bookshelf that contradicted our family values and ideals we are trying to instill in our daughter. A couple weeks before that I discussed how to identify a bad book in your home library and what you’re supposed to do with a bad book once you find it. Now, I want to really dig into why it matters so so much that you take the time to weed out the bad books from your children’s bookshelf and why we really need to be mindful of what we read to and with our kids.
You need to fiercely guard your children’s bookshelf and the sacred spaces upon that bookshelf.
This post is totally in the category of a public service announcement. This is an advocation for building intentional bookshelves for your children and your family filled with meaning and value and purpose. This is me calling upon all parents to be more diligent and scrutinous of the books we expose our children to. To be purposeful and impactful. To make a huge difference in our children’s lives.
Let’s start with a really simple to understand scenario.
If one of your most important family values is kindness to those who are different than us, would you ever let your children watch a television show that ridicules people with special needs or disabilities or of another race? No! You absolutely would not ever do that. But why?
Why will you diligently forbid your child to consume media that contradicts your parenting values?
Oh, because it contradicts what you’re trying so hard to teach your child in the first place. Therefore allowing them to watch this show makes your job harder as a parent, because your child is picking up on behavior or mindsets that you do not agree with. They’re learning things that oppose the very values you are attempting to instill.
Why are we not equally as diligent and critical of the books our children read?
My argument is we absolutely need to be. We need to be just as tough on the books our kids read and the books that make it into our homes. By allowing bad books that contradict your family values to infiltrate your home, your parenting job became that much harder. It’s like having a bad friend over all the time, a bad egg, a negative influence. They’re whispering the wrong path in your child’s ear and on their heart – and they need to go!
Books do have an impact on what your child believes and values.
Our children are like little sponges – especially when they are little, they soak up their entire world. They learn and pick up on things almost instantly. For example, I was blown away when Addison (who is only 2) was reciting one of our favorite books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar with me as I read it. It happened for the first time months ago and I remember thinking to myself “wow, that’s amazing that she remembers the book and actually knows what’s happening next”! Guess what? I was really happy that I had carefully selected this book. I was overjoyed that she was retaining something I really believe adds to what I am trying to teach her as her parent.
Kids are influenced by everything around them.
Why not give them the absolute best chance to be influenced in a positive way? If I know Addison is picking up on the books we are reading, of course it makes sense to introduce values and important concepts that I want to teach to her anyway.
Books should reinforce our parenting values and teachings.
That’s everything that an intentional bookshelf is – it’s a home library that makes your life easier as a parent by helping you teach your child in a very straightforward, easily digestible way. As much as good children’s books will help shape your child and mold them in such a way to bring out their best sense of self, with clear direction and morals…a bad book will shape your child counter to your belief system.
The things your child absorbs is not dependent on whether or not it’s a “good” thing. Especially when they’re young…they’re just out in the world, taking it all in.
It’s our responsibility as parents to be the filter, to be the one to help guide them.
I should say, it is not lost on me that this is a huge responsibility! I feel the weight of parenthood every single day. In every action I take, in every activity I decide for us to do as a family, in every book I read with AJ, in every meal I cook and outfit I dress her in – I know that my choices are shaping her. Our actions as parents are so critically important to guide our children.
But don’t be fooled, bad books can and will try to infiltrate.
They will be masked by pretty covers and flowery words. Do not be mislead. Often times they will come in the form of flattering titles like “I Love My Mommy” which sounds amazing and good and light-hearted, and then you read it and realize it’s nothing more than complete garbage.
Not all children’s books are created equal. They’re just not.
If you’ve heard me talk about this before, you’ll know that in my heart believe that each and every one of our bookshelves will be uniquely different and special. That’s because we as people are all different and the values we hold most dear and try to teach our children are in and of themselves, different.
Because of this, there’s no magic formula or one-size-fits all booklist I can give you that says “read these books to your child and they will be excellent humans”. It’s your job as a parent to decide what books get the privilege to sit upon your shelves. It’s your job to filter through all the children’s books and decide which align most with your values.
Here’s A Quick Tip
Read every book you can when your children are young and reading short books. You don’t have an excuse not to read a 6 page children’s book to make sure it is worthy to be read to your child! However, if your kids are older…reading full length chapter books in the bookstore is not an option (for most, it’s not realistic) – utilize spaces like my website and others which provide reviews and detailed analysis on books. Then you can feel comfortable making a safer, more educated decision about whether or not that particular book makes sense for your family.
We are what we read and our children become what we read to them.
If this feels a little overwhelming to you, I get it.
This is my thing. I love children’s books, I love learning about them and categorizing them by value and topic. If you want to get clear on your family values, if you want to build a bookshelf for your family that actually has some serious meaning and depth and purpose – but you want some help and guidance along your journey, join my email list. I am coming out with some seriously amazing stuff for you like-minded, purpose drive parents.
You do not want to miss it, you don’t want to miss the chance to be the parent you’ve always wanted to be. The guider. Sign up below so you don’t!