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Because fewer kids are likely these days to be inclined to read at all, (what with the competition of TV, social media, and video games) it’s easy for conscientious parents to support the habits of children who read voraciously, even if it seems like they might be reading too much. As with anything, it is probably possible to read too much, but it doesn’t happen too often. However, if you do suspect that your child is reading an unhealthy amount, here are some steps you can take to channel a love of books into other interests or discover whether your child’s habits really are unhealthy.
It’s only very recently that reading novels has begun to be seen as a healthy pastime. Many people in the 19th Century and early 20th Century believed that reading anything but the Bible was an irresponsible waste of time. I’m not saying, by any means, that they were correct. However, they probably had a point in one way. If you are reading so much that you are shirking your responsibilities, you’re probably reading too much. It’s fine, for instance (although of course it’s up to the parents and depends on a family dynamic) if your child is begins reading all the time at home, but it may have gone too far if your child begins to avoid or neglect tasks such as homework or chores in order to read constantly.
Another thing that might slip under the radar of parents is when children read the same books over and over again (which was definitely what I did as a child). I feel like I spent my entire childhood reading, but not reading a very wide variety of books – instead the vast majority of the time I spent reading was spent just rereading one or two series. Of course it’s natural for children to fall in love with a genre or an author and want to absorb as much as they can from a particular work or set of works, but I do remember my Mother getting (justifiably) angry at me when I read the same book 5 times over on a camping trip in Yellowstone. Sometimes it’s time to encourage children to put their favorite books away and experience something new.
If you think your child is reading too much, it might be wise to figure out why they are reading, and then take steps to encourage them to pursue those interests in other ways besides reading. Many children, and adults, read because they are sensitive and social, and interested in learning about social interactions through stories and novels. These children might be reading because they identify more with characters in books than in their peers. If this is the case, you might try taking them to the library or another place where they are likely to meet other children who love to read and who share their interests.
On the other hand, if you think your child is just “addicted” to one series or one author, maybe you could engage them in a related activity. If they like to read about animals, perhaps they would enjoy having a pet. If they love to read about characters who pursue technology, maybe they would be interested in a chemistry set or a model airplane. Often children get inspired to do things and pursue interests because of the books they read, but sometimes they lack the ability or resources to pursue those interests without the help of parents. I loved to read about children who were brave and survived harsh conditions by themselves when I was a child, and would’ve loved to learn more about survival skills, but didn’t really have the opportunity until I was older.
Giving children the tools to pursue their interests is also a way to combat poor academic work and apathy. If children can see how everything affects them and relates to interests they already have, such as books they might love, they may very well be more willing to study and work at gaining other skills. However, don’t jump to any hasty conclusions! Many studies show that children who read a lot do well in a variety of areas throughout their life. Just make sure they get out and feel the sun every once in a while!
Brian Burton loves reading children’s books and running the blog at childrensbookstore.com. He often writes on the topics of kids books and parenting.