Dear Mama Drama:
I have three daughters ages 13, 11, and 8. They are all avid readers and generally read well above their age level. My eight-year-old wants to read whatever her sisters are reading, but as they get into their teens I am not always comfortable with the content.
When there is sexual content or violence, my eight-year-old is often confused, scared, and has had nightmares, especially after reading some of the vampire books.
The girls think it isn’t a big deal, but I do. I am not sure how to handle this with them.
~ Raising Readers
Your concerns about your youngest daughter’s reading material are valid. The themes in books for teens and tweens focus on different experiences and thinking processes than books for younger children.
It can be difficult to find engaging books for advanced readers. I suggest working with your daughter’s teachers, the school or local librarian, or a clerk in the children’s section of a bookstore to find challenging yet age-appropriate books. Searching the internet for age-focused book lists can also be helpful, just be sure to read through the books first before you give them to your daughter.
You need to enlist your older daughters in supporting the limits you are setting on the books your youngest reads. Talk with them about your reasons and the impact you have observed reading these books has had on their sister. They don’t have to agree with you, but they do need to understand the influence they have on their sister. She looks up to them and wants to be as grown up as they are.
Find ways for the older girls to mentor and guide their sister. Have them make a list of the books they enjoyed when they were her age and share that with her. Encourage them to go to the library or bookstore to choose books together. With your girls being older you may not still read aloud at night. Consider reinstituting reading together as a family to bring these books to life.
With her sisters encouraging her to read age-appropriate books, your eight-year-old will be less resistant to waiting for the right time to read their books.