A couple of weeks ago at church, we were having a discussion about books, and two of my whip smart friends, Meg Conley and Hannah Pritchett, mentioned that when they were young, their parents gave them a bedtime rule: You can stay up as late as you’d like — as long as you’re reading.
Both of these women are prolific readers, going through pretty epics stacks of books every year. And both women credit some portion of their deeply ingrained love of reading to this bedtime rule. Both women also mentioned reading some pretty heavy stuff in elementary school — I think they mentioned Of Mice and Men in 2nd grade, and The Color Purple in 4th grade — and they were deeply affected by those books. It got me thinking about my own reading habits.
– I don’t remember a particular bedtime reading rule at my house growing up, but I do remember lots of late-into-the-night-reading. I loved reading and devoured books.
– In general I read stuff that was aimed at my age group — like Judy Blume in elementary school. And I remember reading To Kill A Mockingbird in 7th grade on the recommendation of my teacher, and understanding it was a “real” book.
– Also in middle school, in maybe 6th or 7th grade, I have a strong memory of being at the public library with my mom and I was checking out a stack of V.C. Andrews books (remember Flowers In The Attic?). I had already read two of her books, and wanted to read the rest. We were standing at the check out, and the librarian started lecturing my mom. “Do you know these books are full of filth!? Incest and promiscuity!? I can’t believe you’re letting your daughter read these.”
My mom just looked at the librarian, said, “Thank you for letting me know,” and we finished checking out the stack of V.C. Andrews books. It was clear to me that my mom could care less about what the librarian had said, and she never mentioned it to me again.
Later, as I looked back, I understood that much of what I’d read had gone over my head, and that my mom was right not to worry about what I was reading. For example, when the librarian mentioned incest, it was the first time I’d heard that word and had no idea what it meant. For me, it was better that my mom just encouraged my passion for reading. Had I been lectured or made to feel guilty about my book choices, would I have stopped reading? Or liked it a whole lot less? Probably.
– Possibly related to things going over my head: I don’t have a ton of recall as far as books go — especially novels. I could re-read the same book every other year or so and I swear it would be like reading it for the first time. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, because I might remember the major plot line, or a specific twist in the story, but in general, I forget most of it.
– As I mentioned, growing up I would devour books, but in high school and college, I discovered there were certain famous authors I had a hard time getting through. I remember it took me 7 tries to make it through A Farewell to Arms, and I struggled to make it through Edward Abbey books too. Lately, it’s occurred to me that maybe what I don’t like is writing that feels super-masculine. (Don’t get me wrong, I love lots of writing from men! Wallace Stegner is one of my absolute favorites.) It’s a fairly new thought to me and I’m still rolling it around in my head. I’ve also always had a hard time reading the scriptures and maybe it’s because the writing is so male — in a way that I have a hard time relating to. Or maybe it’s that I don’t relate to how certain authors write about women — like I don’t feel seen when I read them. You know?
– I read a ton now, but maybe only 15% of what I read these days is actual books. Everything else is long or short form essays, articles, stories, poems, etc. online. And by far, most of what I’m reading now is non-fiction. As I type that out, I admit, it makes me uncomfortable. I want to read books more — part of how I think of my identity is as a book reader — and I need to make an effort to do so if it’s important to me.
Incidentally, after the book discussion at church, I mentioned the bedtime reading rule to my 3 youngest kids: how would you feel if you could stay up as late as you wanted — as long as you’re reading (and no screens/e-readers — it has to be a paper book). All three said they’d rather get enough sleep, and were concerned they would be tired the next morning. Hah! Perhaps they have inherited my love of sleep more than my love of reading. (I love both dearly!)
Did you have any reading rules at your house growing up? Were there forbidden books? Or bedtime reading allowances? Do you consider yourself to be a big reader? Do you have any memories of particular instances that encouraged or discouraged you from reading? Did you start reading serious books at an early age? I’d love to hear.
P.S. — Our reading loft.
61 thoughts on “Stay Up As Late As You Want… If You’re Reading”
I love this post! I have the best memories of reading from when I was growing up and it is one of my favorite things, still. So far my kids seem to be 3 for 3 as book lovers and I am so thankful. As a 10 or 11 year old, I remember staying in on some summer days if I had a good book. I’d go down in the basement (finished) where it was cool enough that I could curl up in a sleeping bag and read all day. A few years later, one of my fondest memories is spending many snow days up in my room going through my mom’s Stephen King collection. You are so right in that a lot of it was probably “inappropriate” at the time but it went over my head. A good reminder for me with my daughter right now. Can’t wait to read other responses…thank you for asking. :)
Reading! My favorite subject! When it comes to books, I let my children love what they love. We go to a bookstore every New Year’s and my kids each get to pick out a big stack of books. They often choose things that I wouldn’t pick, but their choices are often books they re-read over and over. I consider graphic novels, comics, books on audio all “reading”, and I make an effort to keep a stack of great books from our local library laying around. I think sometimes adults can get in the way by “making” kids read. When my kids needed to do nightly reading for school, I never ever called it “homework”, I refused to turn a pleasure into a chore. My hope is that they are curious and life-long learners, and it seems to have worked because both consider themselves bookworms and all my son got for his birthday this past year was a giant stack of books he wanted.
I was a huge reader now and growing up. My best friend would rather have read at recess instead of play, and she ended up being the valedictorian, so I think there’s a correlation to reading there.
Ha to Flowers in the Attic! The other book like that which was passed around in school was Judy Blume’s “Forever” with certain pages bookmarked. My mom allowed me to stay up as late as I wanted reading, and I tell my son that too (although to date he hasn’t inherited my lover of books).
We’ve allowed our 7 year old to stay up as late as he wants to read for as long as he can remember. He had sleep apnea and some sensory issues that kept him from sleeping well from the age of 3, but he would stay in his bed if we let him read. So, it’s really because we wanted to get some sleep but it works well for us. Plus, my mom wouldn’t let me stay up as late as I want reading and I remember tossing and turning in frustration, wide awake and wanting to finish my book. Now, I make the rules!
Also, my parents NEVER checked what I was reading. The V.C. Andrews book covers creeped me out so I steered clear, but I read the The Thorn Birds in sixth grade (still traumatized) and I wish someone would have steered me away from Danielle Steele in seventh grade. My parents took the attitude that no harm could come from reading a book but I think I’ll be a little more aware.
I read Thorn Birds at a really young age too – my mom knew about it (it was her book). Guess some of the material went over my head.
Totally same with my older sister’s Danielle Steels! No real idea what I was reading but I very distinctly remember feeling my first “tingling feeling down there” while reading them!
I love this topic and applaud you, Gabby, for bringing interesting subject material to the table. I know you’re established as Design Mom but I think of you more as Thinking Mom. I loved reading as a youngster and enjoyed our family ritual of going to the library every Saturday morning together. We would all check out our own books and then stop at an A & W for lunch in the station wagon. My biggest loss during the HS/college/grad school string of years was having so much required reading that my pleasure reading was drastically curtailed. My favorite thing about being retired is reading to my heart’s content. I am still a library aficianado and love that I can order all my books online after reading reviews. I usually have books parceled out 3-4 months in advance so I don’t get too many at once. I average 100 books/year. I love that your mom didn’t censor you and I also love that your kids recognize they need their sleep. I’m not a podcast person but I know so many people are. I think it would be such fun to hear your family in conversation. I bet even June has great insight on many topics!
Yes to the podcast, especially hearing your older kids perspectives too. They are all an inspiration of what thoughtful kind and motivated kids can be
Your Saturday ritual sounds great! I’m going to try to implement it with my kids. Thanks for the idea!!
We have the same rule in our house. My 9 yr old is a night owl and always has been. In order to keep her mentally occupied we got her reading at a young age. She can stay up as long as she is reading. Some nights I will wake up and it will be 2 am and she is finishing up a novel. I have to force her to bed. If the book is good, she can’t seem to put it down. We have spent tons of money on books for her as she goes thru them so quickly. She is a sleepy head in the morning but excels at school so we don’t worry.
I have fairly recently reconnected with my love of reading. Through early motherhood and graduate school (in my 30s) I seemed to only read small snippets on the internet as my “fun” reading. When I tried to reconnect to novels (and real books!) I found myself too impatient to sit though something so “long”. I recently found the Adult Reading Challenge at my local library and it has been a game changer for me. There is a grid of book types (like a bingo card) and the goal is to fill in each square over the course of a year. It has made my reading more goal oriented (filling in a box is so rewarding!) and has expanded the types of books I am choosing (a graphic novel? Yikes!). It is an all around win for me!
Here is the Challenge I’m working from.
I love reading and have always been a huge reader! With a two-year-old daughter, I make a point to read “real” books whenever possible (which is almost always, for me, since I don’t have an e-reader!). I think it’s so important for her to see and immediately understand that I’m reading as opposed to just seeing me on a device (where she has no idea what I’m doing).
I agree with this! I’ve noticed that when I’m reading on my ipad my kids are much less patient than they are when I’m reading a ‘real’ book. I’m trying to make a conscious effort to find things at the library instead of just buying the e-version on Amazon so that I can set this example for my kids.
I love reading but definitely am reading less these days. My goal this year was to read 1 book a month. So far so good. I also stopped reading on devices and turned to real books. For me part of the reading experience is holding an actual book, feeling the weight and going back to the cover art, reading the author’s bio. I think you miss out on that with digital devices. Plus it’s another activity to keep me off my phone.
As far as house rules for reading, we don’t have any. Kids can read anything as long as they read. Now both my kids always goes to bed with a book in hand and read before bed. Some nights they go to bed a little later but that’s ok because I think it’s a way for them to wind down from their day.
I dont remember fighting my parents to go to bed. I do know that I stayed up many nights reading and they never stopped me. I was the kid who carried a book everywhere, including church! I am still a big reader, and have moved to a kindle because it allows me to carry a book around on public transportation easier, and when I can’t sleep I don’t have to turn on a light to read
We had a similar rule about books and getting toys. As typical children if we were in a store, gift shop, grocery etc as a child we’d likely ask for a toy ir some item. Of course usually my parents said no, except if it was a book. They’d always buy books.
What a fun post! I love that your mom encouraged your reading life and wasn’t reactionary about it. I remember my mom being the same way. I was a voracious reader as a child and my four kids are too. My 10 and 8 year old often stay up late reading or listening to audiobooks. We have so much fun with books in our house. I always have a chapter book going with my older kids after dinner (we’re currently on book 4 of the Penderwicks series), and do lots of picture books with my younger guys. We highly recommend Audible! I’ve collected quite a library for my kids, and my 6 and 5-yr-old just started listening to The Boxcar Children.
Thank you for this inspiration. My kids are still very young (and I don’t get to read that much right now because of it), but the “stay up as late as you want if you are reading” rule seems interesting.
When I was a child, we had pretty strict bedtime rules. This resulted in me reading under my bedsheets with a headlamp almost every night for several years. It’s hard to tell if I would have slept more if I was allowed to read with my light on and then go to sleep when feeling like it… I am a very compulsive reader. When I love a book, I struggle to put it down and can read very late into the night. I guess it might have been the same if I was allowed to read as long as I wanted.
But I guess it might have been different if I had had less activities and more time for reading during the day.
My parents didn’t forbid me any books. I was free to pick what I wanted in the library. I am very grateful for that.
The comment on “male” writing resonates with me as well. I never thought about it this way, but it seems quite legitimate. It took me 5 tries to finish A farewell to arms ;). I have to think about this a bit more…
I was thinking the same thing– I often read under my sheets as well and eventually would turn off my light for fear of being caught. If there was no bedtime, I would very likely have read ’til I finished my book…regardless of what time it was. Even now, with the exhaustion of raising young kids and working a full-time job, I still lack the willpower to go to bed at a reasonable hour if a good back has me in its grip!
I am so glad that my 4 & 6 year olds are book lovers like me and their dad! Reading with them is one of my favorite things, and I particularly love introducing them to books I loved as a kid (Ramona and American Girl books have been a big hit). The hump we are trying to get over now is that my kindergartner loves having books read to her, but is not too interested in trying to read herself. I want to make sure that she still loves books through the transition to independent reading. My 4-year-old often falls asleep with books in his bed, reading by the light of the hallway. It’s more effective than trying to make him lay there without book. As for appropriate content, I find myself editing out language as I read (especially name-calling), and I do try to be careful about what thematic content and imagery I expose them to. Even a library book about food chains was a bit much for them with graphic photos of lions devouring other beloved savanna animals!
My parents rule was that if we made it to bed by our set bedtime (8:30), we got to read until 9. This helped end the fight and the piddling about getting in bed on time and set up reading as a reward, so win, win!
I was supposed to go to sleep, but I’d read my mom’s novels with a flashlight under the covers when I was 12. ;) She probably knew. Now my own teens barely read. Sad mom here.
We are a family of readers — at some point every day, you can find all four of us in weird spots all over the house, reading. I’ve really worked to make reading a significant part of our family culture. My kids see me reading every day and can see that it’s a priority and a source of joy. And everybody knows that if someone is near the end of a book that they are to be left alone at all costs!
Since they were toddlers, I have spent hours finding books I think they’ll like, getting them from the library, and then just leaving them all over the house. If they read them, great. There’s usually something in the pile they’re willing to try. If not, I’ll make a note and that book will maybe reappear in a year or so.
Fantastic post! Our “rule” has been kinda the same: in bed at a certain time, be quiet, and only books in bed. As long as the kid is quiet, we don’t bother them…and they’re usually reading.
My life has been filled with reading! As a child it was mostly The Babysitters Club and Anne of Green Gables. I remember my English classes in high school encouraged “real” books. Funny about me: if the general population (aka other kids in the class) complained about a book, I instantly decided to like it. Thus, I convinced myself I loved The Crucible, Great Expectations, and Shakespeare…and so I did! In our home we were just encouraged to read, not rules about what to read or not to read. My first “not assigned” book that was a lightning bolt for me was Rebecca by DaMaurier.
I pretty much stopped reading in college. I couldn’t seem to find the time to socialize and study, let alone take the time to read a book. Once I graduated and became a stay-at-home mom I read 13 books in two months! I was so eager to just read, read, read…anything! My first, outside-the-box, life changing book I read was Roots by Alex Haley.
As a family we have discussed what makes a classic. Around the age of 10-12 I watch for the books that finally get my kids “hooked.” For one it was Diary of a Wimpy Kid – – now a classic in our home (though I do not like them much myself). For another it was the Ivy and Bean series. And for another it’s been regency romance novels, like Edenbrooke (the one daughter I thought would never like reading!). I believe once my kids are hooked I can then start exposing them to deeper literature, the stuff most people call classics – – Tom Sawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird (which my kids have read long before they were introduced it in their schools), Charles Dickens, Little Women, Shakepeare, etc. My kids are FAR MORE well-read than I was at their age. Oh, and I attribute a lot of their love of reading from our family read aloud books through the years. I can still remember the time we were renting a beach house while finishing Where the Red Fern Grows – – tears all around!
Anyway, one of my favorite subjects, so you got a lot from me. Long story short – – I am definitely a reader! ;-)
How timely!! I’m reading this post just after we got home from the library. 😂
We are totally obsessed with books at our house—as an adult, I usually make it through a book per day. My husband travels a ton and one thing that helps us get through dinners without Dad is that one night while he’s gone is “book dinner” where everyone is allowed to read at the table! (Usually we have a hard and fast rule about no books at meals bc you need to interact with your siblings.)
Until about two months ago we didn’t have a TV in our home, which I think is very much responsible for how much time my kids spend reading. But with our oldest entering the teenage years, we wanted our house to be the one where friends gather for movies (we didn’t have a tv when i was a kid and so I was always at friends’ houses whenever we watched something!). I’m really trying to keep the same book culture for my toddler as my teen had—we will see how it goes! I think screens in general make it really hard for kids to have the same kind of spend-all-day-with-a-book summer that I remember as a child.
I had the same rule as the friends you’ve mentioned! Actually, I don’t remember a stated rule at my mom’s house, but when I was with my dad he was always sure to tell us we could stay up as late as we wanted as long as we were reading. He still mentions it to this day–I think he’s particularly proud of that rule :) I have distinct memories of him popping his head into my room in the middle of the night, gently letting me know I’d be tired in the morning…the only way he could encourage me to turn out my light since he couldn’t go back on the rule. I never listened.
I always remember loving reading, but was encouraged more when I had an elementary school teacher that would give me books from grades ahead of mine to take home. It felt really special. My reading dropped off almost completely after my first son was born, and after a few years my husband was the one to ask what happened to my reading. It had been such a central part of my identity, he wanted me to get that back. I’ve picked it up again, and am currently working my way through all of the Inspector Lynley books by Elizabeth George.
I’m not sure that the ‘stay up as late as you want so long as you are reading’ would have worked with my children. I think that 2 of them would have stayed up half the night reading and been tired and grumpy the next day!
I am a lover of books and reading. As a child, reading was my favourite pastime. I never liked staying up late, but I was an early waker and liked to read when I woke in the morning. I used to wake before anyone else in the house, get up and quietly close my bedroom door (had my own room) so I could turn the light on to read without bothering anyone else. Invariably my mother would come stomping down the passage, throw open my bedroom door, turn off my light and tell me to go back to sleep. I never understood why it bothered her that I was quietly reading with my door closed. I didn’t go back to sleep – I had had enough sleep. Obedient child that I was, I would lie in bed waiting until I thought my mother had gone back to sleep, and then creep out of bed and quietly close my door again, turn on the light and continue reading. Sometimes parents’ rules don’t make sense.
Funny! My 8-year-old son is also an early riser. He loves reading but wouldn’t stay up all night even if I let him. He often says his favourite time of day is when he gets up in the morning, listens to the birds singing and reads while the house is quiet.
I wonder what your mother would think about that rule now – have you ever asked her?
Wallace Stegner… YES! I typically gravitate to female authors, but Stegner has my heart… Crossing to Safety absolutely, positively must be read every two years or so. :-) It’s interesting to me that when I was younger, I preferred fiction but as I got older I much preferred reading autobiographies/biographies. I often wonder why that is… have I read the very best of the fiction? Has that made me more critical as a fiction reader?
I was a voracious reader as a kid, and I know that is due in no small part to the weekly trips to the library we took. I was always allowed to check out as many books as I wanted (usually about 30) and get one movie (usually Bedknobs and Broomsticks–even though this was probably about 1995). I had a favorite reading spot–a branch in a great climbing tree that my parents let me smear with glitter and hang craft feathers surrounding it. I would spend hours there every day, carting books and a water bottle up in a backpack.
My 4th grade teacher had a monthly challenge to read as many Newbury Award winners that we could get our hands on, and that year I read every winner and tons of honor books that year. It really forced me to read outside of my usual genre, so many of those books have made a lasting impression.
Like you, most of the reading I do now is in the form of articles, short stories, etc. I recently renewed my library card and have tried to spend a little less time on my computer (do I really need to read through Twitter seventeen times a day?) and a little more time with a book. I set a very small and reasonable goal on Goodreads, and I have surprised myself by getting 70% there already. I’m exciting to meet my goal and then bump it up!
Your reading tree sounds magical.
1) Bedknobs and Broomsticks! A favorite at our house growing up (and, actually, the one time I showed it to a class when it was too cold for outdoor recess)
2) The Newbury award challenge is so fun. Gets kids to challenging and different engaging books without forcing or pressure if it is not for them.
I was intrigued by your ideas about “male” flavored writing, I can identify with your take on that. I also thought it so interesting that you mentioned Scripture feeling male. I am currently (slowly! busy working mom over here!) reading through the Bible to look closely at it’s perspective on what it means to be a woman. I have been fascinated at what I’m finding, though I have to do a ton of reading between the lines, maybe because the tone itself feels masculine. Will have to ponder that one! I’ll leave the blog address as my website. Thanks for your awesome blog!
I have always loved reading much like my dad and both my grandmothers. One of my sisters loves it, but one doesn’t. I only remember my mom reading child rearing books when I was growing up and even then she was usually found asleep with the book across her chest! (Now that I’m a mom I can totally see this happening!) I wasn’t allowed to stay up until whenever reading at night, but I remember summer days that I would burn through book after book and not talk to anyone the entire day because I was so into my books! My mom’s only rule about checking books out of the library was that you could only get as many as you could carry. I remember a librarian telling me once that there was no way that I would be able to read all of the books I was checking out, but little did she know who she was dealing with! I also remember if I was misbehaving (which was honestly, quite rare) my mom would punish me by putting my current book up on top of the fridge! It pains her to talk about it today, but she said it was the only thing I cared about!
As a kiddo my mother would allow free rein for Scholastic book orders…back when books were 50 cents. It was such a thrill to circle my selection. My parents would bring me to children’s book signing to meet authors and illustrators. I lived between two libraries and would fill my book bag with anything the librarian recommended. The library was my safe place. I try to provide the same excitement for my kiddos by getting to know our library.
I loved reading as a kid, and still do! I recall acquiring a torch (flashlight) as a 10-year-old and using it to read under my blankets until all hours. I’m sure my parents knew but they never said a word. I love the idea of staying up as late as you like if you are reading.
My kids are both avid readers and started reading and comprehending books early. Initially, I struggled to find enough age-appropriate books for them. When my son and I started the Harry Potter series, I made a deal that we would read them together. When we hit the book with the death (no spoilers!), I was conscious of the impact the death may have … (I cried as I read it to him – ha!) … but he had no major response. So much so that I asked him if he understood what had happened. He just shugged and said, “yeah, he died. That’s pretty sad”.
This experience taught me that kids will only take in what they are able to understand – a bit like you Gabby, with Flowers in the Attic and incest – which makes re-reading books feel like new again. Each read you get something new from the concepts.
I also recall that you have taken the family away for a reading weekend (in a hotel, maybe?). This idea fills me with joy! I really should do that – my little family of readers will love it.
My home decorating style is “artisanal book.” :) Seriously, we are two English majors raising three more (we hope), and every single room in our house has books in it. Our rule is THERE ARE NO RULES. The kids read what they read, and yes much of it is fluff, but truly the act is more important than the content. Kids read when they want and where they want, and I would never shut down a kiddo reading deep into the night (= why the Lord gave us nightlights). People in this house are excited for the Scholastic monthly. :)
I am a big believer in fiction. My kids’ days are more pleasant thinking about PE Island or Hogwarts or even that creek where Nellie Oleson got the bloodsuckers stuck to her legs. :) We are in the public school system (a very good one), and the art, beauty and creativity of fiction, poetry and frankly any imaginative writing recedes from the curriculum more every year. Nonfiction (even instructional nonfiction argh) rules our moment. I have to believe that creative writing correlates with creative thinking. We fight hard to put good stories in front of our kids so they can think about them, react to them, re-read them, and remember them.
As you might guess, no movie versions of Wrinkle in Time for us. :)
I was such a bookworm growing up that my parents made a rule that I had to do one social thing a weekend. I LOVED books. The longer the better. I devoured The Thorne Birds and Dr. Zhivago in middle school and remember my mom taking me to a bookstore to get another book while we were on vacation. The clerk asked what I liked to read and I replied, “Really long books.” She steered me toward the Mists of Avalon and I’ve loved history and legend ever since.
I love that rule and the book dinner idea in one of those comments! Ours is that you can check out as many library books as you can carry. So sad to move to a new library once that limited you to 30 books per card, we had to max out several cards each week with those stacks :-)
I believe in library trips every few days, in a library basket in a prominent place in the home where books of all sorts are perused daily, in always having a book in your purse/car/backpack for downtime, and in the transporting magic of fiction. Raising readers has been one of my parenting successes.
I remember reading The Grapes of Wrath in junior high (I think I was 11) and getting to the end and thinking I was probably out of my depth. I liked it, but felt that a lot of it went over my head. Anyway, Steinbeck is still one of my favorite writers, along with Stegner. I now work in a bookstore so I have to read a lot as part of the job, which is hard in some ways because I don’t want reading to feel like work, nor do I like having to read mostly new books when I would rather dip into a classic. But I will say that when I write up a Staff Pick and it ends up selling 50 copies of an otherwise overlooked book, I feel drunk on power–ha!
One of my dream jobs is bookstore! Just so I’ll have the chance to read so much more!! I’m always looking at the staff picks!!
One of my only life anxieties is how many books there are and that I most likely won’t ever get to read them all!!!
We STRUGGLE with the reading in my bed issue. Our almost 10 yr old is a very avid reader and many times we’ve gone up to check on him and he’s got a headlamp and books under his pillow. But he’s also the worst kid when he’s tired, cries so easily, short-fused, and wriggly etc just not our boy. So I don’t want to be mad about sneak reading but he also doesn’t have the willpower to stop reading to sleep. However he also occasionally struggles to fall asleep so maybe we overregulate his bedtime?! If anyone has advice I’d love to hear it!
He’s currently reading Asterix prob one a day, also on book 6 of Harry Potter, plus 13 storey Treehouse series plus Dogman plus How to Eat Fried Worms from my old bookshelf. So a good mix of silly and not.
He commented to me the other day he can’t remember the last time I read a book and he’s right, it’s been a while. Too much tv back in my life!
We allowed our boys to stay up as late as they wanted on Fri and Sat nights and when they stayed up late, they often slept in or compensated with a slow day. One was in sports and he knew when he needed to get to bed to be at his best for game time. I think it was really great b/c it gave them some freedom within the confines of the school year and they both were able to navigate the independence of college far from home and independent world travel in their college/early 20s years.
One of my favourite things to do as a parent is to introduce new books to my children. I’ve gotten a lot inspiration from your book lists over the years so thank you :)
I believe my son and daughter have gained a love of books and reading from the many stacks of their own and library books placed around the house.
My Mum was an avid reader and turned a blind eye to my staying up late reading in primary (elementary) school. I remember finishing a book one night turning to look at the clock which read 1am!
I have a family full of readers. My mom has always loved reading and my parents definitely made it clear that they truly valued reading (though I don’t really remember my dad reading much until we were in high school). We got in trouble if we were caught reading under the covers with a flashlight after our bedtime, but it was always a very gentle scolding.
We grew up in a small town, and there weren’t any bookstores near us, so besides the books my parents bought us every once in a while, we also read a TON of library books. When we were young, my mom would take us to the public library in our town several times a week- enough that even though we go there rarely now, one of the assistant librarians still remembers us.
I also had a wonderful school librarian who really nurtured my love of reading. By the middle of 4th grade, I had read every single historical fiction (still my favorite genre) in the entire town and elementary school libraries. Mrs. Geidel would order books over from the middle/high school libraries and would even buy new books for the library that she thought I would like. My parents didn’t censor or really even pay that much attention to what we read. I do know I read the entirety of “Little Women” when I was in 2nd grade- not inappropriate but probably a bit hard for me to understand all the words.
My brother is the biggest reader to this day- he has about 200 books stacked all over his room and is usually reading at least 10 at any given time. I read less than I should- I love it, but I also get very lost in books (like to the point I forget to eat/go to the bathroom/sleep/do anything else) so I have trouble finding the time.
I can remember both of my parents reading to me at night– even up through middle school. My mom was always listening to audio books, but neither of my parents read actual books– just the newspaper. All of it. Every day.
I have always loved reading. I don’t think our home can ever have enough books. My two toddlers and I visit the library every weekend– they love picking out new books and playing with blocks in the special children’s room.
As a high school English teacher, nothing makes me more sad than seeing the vast amount of students who “hate” reading or who say they have no books at home. My heart breaks, so I make it my mission to recommend at least ONE book they’ll enjoy reading from start to finish.
I don’t think my daughter would ever sleep if she was allowed to read as late as she wanted – though I”m tempted to let her try one night just to see how late she’d go. She has started waking up earlier and is allowed to read in bed until her usual get-up time (7am) – she loves it!
Your story about VC Andrews reminds me of my Baby-Sitters Club protest reading. My mom and teachers were all concerned I was not reading to my level, or reading enough variety. For two years straight ALL I would read (aside from class assigned books) were Baby-Sitters Club. The more they protested, the more I wanted to read them! (I’ve read a variety of books since, and continue to read 100+ books a year, so no harm done).
I don’t remember any rules about bedtime and reading, but my parents were always incredibly generous about buying us books. We went to the library a lot as well, but my dad is an author, and so it was really important to them that we support the authors we love by actually buying their books. I would never encourage anyone to spend money they don’t have on books, and I totally get that physical books can be overwhelming, but I just wanted to put in one recommendation for spending money on books if, and when people can, because every little bit helps the authors we love continue to be published!
I have this rule for myself. It doesn’t always end well the next day.
We had this rule with our five year old for a couple weeks, but then he literally never went to bed and had books all over his room all the time. And he was a huge grouch in the morning. So we’ve had to cut him off at 8pm. He’s no good if he doesn’t get 12-14 hours. He’s such a huge sleeper!
In theory I like this idea. My 10-year-olds are both big readers, but we cannot have a “stay up as late as you want rule” even for reading. One has ADHD and wakes up bright and early no matter how late he goes to bed. The other struggles with emotional regulation issues, and her getting enough sleep is the biggest factor in keeping the peace in our house.
I grew up in a home full of readers. Our only rule growing up was “No reading at the dinner table.” I’m still a huge reader, as is my son. It warms my heart to see my son’s light shining under his door and to know he’s up late with a good book. I’ve always let him read whatever he’d like- He’s 13 now, but when he was younger, we would read aloud any books I thought might be too advanced for his young mind & now I try to read recommendations before he does. But, I also love that he’s now recommending books to me!
My husband reads online, but is not a big book reader, which definitely leads to “tension” at times. My husband always wants to punish our son by taking away reading, like we take away screen time, but I refuse to use reading (or lack of reading) as a punishment. To me, reading is part of life- just like shelter, food, or air, it’s another way we nourish our souls and feed our minds.
I am a huge reader that has passed this bookwormishness down to my kids. My parents weren’t very strict about reading content although I grew up in a socially conservative home where swearing and violence and graphic sex were frowned upon in screen media. I remember coming across a fair number of “smutty” books when I was a teen and feeling simultaneously interested in them but also feeling that they weren’t uplifting. Of course I wanted to know more about sex as a teen, but I also knew I could become really obsessed with finding the next book to feed that insatiable curiosity. There is some literature that makes you want to go out hug someone or to be a light in the world… and some literature that makes you want to curl up in a hole and read a hundred other books just like it to give you that “high” of suspense, neatly-tied-up endings, romance, super charismatic characters, etc. Even at a young age I recognized the difference. I do really think there is a difference.
I was interested in a lot of other books. I loved sci-fi, british period lit, modern american, poetry, etc., so I’m not sure if addictive literature has ever been a super debilitating problem for me, but any form of release, relaxation, or entertainment has the negative potential to be an escape rather than a reprieve from life. Now as an adult, I do think that people (maybe women especially) often become addicted to pornography and even “harmless” romance novels through print and stories, just in the sense that it becomes a habit that leads to lost time/productivity/happiness with one’s own life. Books can absolutely make you feel like your own life is less colorful and that you keep wanting to read about people lives. It can lead you to feeling critical toward your partner or children. This is not a judgement. Just an observation.
My eternal struggle is staying up past a healthy hour reading amazing writing. I either am great devouring books like a maniac and suffering from lack of sleep *or* not reading very much. Neither is ideal! I love how reading feeds my soul, my curiosity, my interests. Most of all I love how it sparks empathy in me. I love reading a book and feeling (deeply) that the author was MEANT to write the words written in the book, that it was a calling that they filled. I dislike how even in mid age I can’t seem to stop myself mid-book and give myself a good night’s sleep.
edit “keep wanting to read about other people’s [more interesting] lives” ;)
As a kid, I used to read every night before bed, from the time I knew how until about high school, when school work got to be too much, and I just felt too tired by the time I was ready to go to bed. Ever since then reading before bed has never been a “regular” thing for me, but I really want to get back into it, because I do love to read. Grad school work makes reading for fun difficult right now, but I’ll be graduating in a few months and hopefully will make time for it then!
But back to the “reading in childhood” point- most people I know had books read to them when they were very little (maybe age 6/7 or younger), but then started reading them on their at bedtime, once they learned how. I did the same (sometimes), but I also used to read books with my parents before I went to bed every night, we would read a few chapters of longer books, like the Harry Potter series, together. This went on until I was pretty old, or at least much older than it did for my peers (I was probably around 12). I think I felt slightly embarrassed, knowing that most (all?) of my friends didn’t read with their parents anymore, but it was actually a great bonding experience for us, and I enjoyed it. Looking back on it now I’m so grateful for that time with them, sharing a love of reading, and discussing what you read (which I think is very important) and it makes me want to bring family reading back!
Erin, that is so sweet. We read together as well before bed, and it’s so nice. The (almost) teenager requests his reading time, and my husband and I take turns sitting with him and reading; it’s a nice peaceful closure of the crazy days of two kids and two parents who work full time outside the home. Sometimes we talk about what we read, sometimes other conversations come up. I am so grateful to have that time with him. With my 10 year-old, I bond mostly over watching the Great British Baking Show (and over baking)… also not too bad.
My little ones are too small for their own reading time yet, but we love reading before bed – and at all sorts of other times of the day. This thread has been really fun to follow, there loads of books I need to check out now too (the US teenage cannon is a little different to the UK one, and I find myself curious). The link back to the book loft is amazing – I would love to be able to create a little library room, but I think we would still have books everywhere. I do look at other people’s decor and think I could try that, but the penguin postcards – I bought them 10 seconds after seeing them!
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I love this post! Bedtime reading is a must in our house but we start reading early enough to be in bed on time! My 1st grader gets a reading log from school every Monday and she is very sincere about filling it in religiously. I wish I had to keep a reading log when I was growing up — would’ve made me a much better reader. But better late than never, right? I also started keeping a reading log with my daughter and that has helped me tremendously on keeping up with reading (and staying away from other online distractions before bedtime!). And by reading, I mean an actual book. No articles or news online. A real physical book or Kindle version of it. We also started a little Book Club for our girls to encourage their love of reading and our monthly meetings are one of our favorite monthly rituals.