On reading children’s books

I’ve read a handful of books about raising girls in the hope that I’ll know what to say when my daughter, now three, starts asking questions about sex or searching for independence over closeness. I feel prepared now for issues of bullying and body image thanks to books like Odd Girl Out and The Body Project, but none of the books I’ve read addressed something as simple as a girl’s first crush. For that I had to turn to fiction.

After reading Nora Raleigh Baskin’s new novel for tweens, Summer Before Boys, I was reminded of the strain girls’ friendships fall under as they grow up. I want to tell my daughter to be patient, to keep her girl friends close even when they aren’t totally in sync with her. Things change quickly, and girl friends are important. This is something that even grown up girls forget, and I recommend this book, in particular, to girls of all ages.

Alice McKinley grows up in Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series, and Alice in Rapture, Sort of is the “summer of the first boyfriend.” The book captures this confusing time with a particular perception. It reminded me to make sure my daughter knows that it’s okay to not know and to let her in the secret: your friends probably aren’t sure yet either.

While I continue to read books for parents, I think that children’s books have had the strongest impact on my parenting than anything I’ve read aimed at adults. With children’s books, I find myself put into the child’s (or teen’s) perspective. If it’s a good book, I walk away from it with a far greater respect and empathy for young people than I had before reading it.

This is why I continue to recommend children’s or young adult books to you. I’m not trying to say you have the mentality of a child or otherwise insult you. I’m trying to create stronger opportunities to connect with the world around you. Kids are everywhere. Don’t you ever wonder what’s going on in their world?