One of the things I have enjoyed the most about being a mother is reading books with my children. We started off with board books that were mostly chewed up and thrown across the room. We moved on to “Biscuit” books and learning to recognize words and sound out letters. Next came chapter books, and now we are at my favorite stage: we are reading some of the same books.
My kids have their own taste in reading. I tried to read Harry Potter books, and never found them interesting, although I love that many children do. Two of my three kids have enjoyed reading them, and one couldn’t care less. The stories that really captivated them as young readers were the books in the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. I realized after they had read several of the books that the stories were probably more violent than I would have liked, but they were so excited to read the books, I just let it go.
I noticed over the last year that after my kids have read the books that interest them and they are looking for something new, they sometimes come to me and shyly ask about reading one of my books. Many of the books I read would be of no interest to them, but I’ve found a few that have held their attention and given us lots to talk about.
Michael Lewis’ The Blind Side was a hit with both my son and husband. Many people know it from the movie version, starring Sandra Bullock, but the book came first. It’s based on the Michael Lewis nonfiction account of the life of professional football player Michael Oher and the Tuohy family who took him off the streets and into their family. There are some parts of the book that breakdown football in a clinical way or describe societal issues in a way that may not engage kids, and there are drug references. But, there are also many positive messages that counter the impact that drugs have in the story and lots of exciting scenes that will engage young readers enough to stick with the tough parts.
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, is Christopher McDougall’s account of the sport of ultra-running. Set partly in Mexico deep in the Copper Canyons where the Tarahumara Indians live, the book breaks down the differences between the emerging ultra-running done in the United States and the running that is a natural part of the daily routine of the Tarahumaras. It’s a thrilling story that culminates in a race between America’s best runners and the Mexican tribe. It’s so well written that it made me feel as if there was no reason I could not run an ultramarathon (I cannot). This book gave my daughter and me lots to talk about.
Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer, tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a new college graduate who left his life and identity behind to explore the Alaskan wilderness. As noted on the cover of the book, McCandless does not survive his adventure, leaving readers to try to piece together what his journey to Alaska was like and what led to his demise. When my son was reading this, I kept asking him, “Does it make you nervous? Are you scared reading it?” He kept rolling his eyes and saying, “I’m not planning on hitch hiking to Alaska, so I think I’m okay.”
While I can’t say that these three books don’t have themes that might not sit well with some parents, the books all do a great job showing how poor choices in life can lead to bad outcomes. Most importantly, they are great books that are well written and provide a lot for both adults and young adults to think about.