I have a confession to make - and I hope the literary purists of the world forgive me.
My daughter Hope, age 5, loves the Disney Princesses, My Little Pony, and Barbie stories. Now, she also loves Ramona Quimby - and elected to read through the entire series twice, back to back, this summer - as well as both Winnie the Pooh's, and a score of wonderful picture books, from Olivia to Miss Rumphius.
That's not the confession. This is: I have judgment about which of these reading choices are "better."
But the thing is, she LOVES to read - or, more precisely, to be read to. She loves it with a passion. She would rather listen to a story than watch a video, or play a game, or paint, or draw, or run around, or just about anything else. And I've realized I have to be very careful. Because if she sees me wince - even just a tad - when she asks for another My Little Pony story, or if she feels me 'suggesting' Miss Rumphius over Ariel again just a little too forcefully, she'll begin to pull away. Instead of being a way for her to revel, unbridled and unjudged, in all her dreams and delights, reading may become associated with right and wrong, with correctness, or - worst of all - with shame.
That's not to say I shouldn't keep providing her with all the best books I can. I do understand that one can't appreciate the good stuff unless one is exposed to it. But I have to lead her gently, lightly, without pressure. In the end, her appreciation for Beverly Cleary and A.A. Milne tell me that she'll get to it all - and evolve into a well-rounded, discerning and intelligent young woman in the process. After all, I've been known to enjoy junk food from time to time, and it never turned me off of a great gourmet meal.
Aaarggh! There's that judgment again! Breathe, release, count to three....