My first grader is a ravenous reader. Aubrey has been spotted a time or two by fellow church members, running to the end of the driveway in her bathrobe on a Sunday morning to get the paper. They thought my husband and I had trained her to bring it to us— the truth is, we’re lucky if we get to read it after she disassembles it on our kitchen table.
Aubrey progressed quickly from Dr. Seuss to chapter books and I was a little skeptical when she asked to read the first book in the Harry Potter series. I agreed, thinking she would become overwhelmed by the size of the book and give up. It took her a few weeks but she finished it and was able to explain the story to me in vivid detail.
We allowed her to read the second book but this time she finished in less than a week. My husband and I agreed that the third book would have to wait. Harry ages a year in each book, and while the first two books were about kids close to her age, the third book was a bit of a stretch.
This summer Aubrey saved every penny she earned. Every dollar she was given for her birthday and every red cent she found on the sidewalk and bought a Nook, an e-reader made by Barnes and Noble. We have bought several books for her on her Nook and I was excited to introduce her to some of my favorite book series, especially Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series and The Boxcar Children.
There is nothing I love more than to lie on Aubrey’s bed at night and listen to her retell some of my favorite childhood stories. Her eyes shine and she giggles as she tells me every silly detail.
Several nights ago Aubrey asked if she could read on her Nook at bedtime. As I writer my love for real books— actual words on actual paper, borders on obsession and I don’t want her to be totally dependent on technology. As a mother I realize she can access the internet and a plethora of video games from her e-reader and I want her to make sure that during her reading time, she’s actually reading. But I agreed.
Thirty minutes later she came stumbling into the den with the glazed over eyes of an overtired child. My mother was visiting and she asked, “What have you been reading?”
During the last conversation I had with Aubrey, she had been raving about The Boxcar Children so I was completely shocked and stunned to hear her say, “The Devil in The White City…”
My mother stared at me as if I had just sprouted wings and breathing fire.
“WHAT?” I gasped. “Aubrey! That is NOT a kid’s book!”
A few months ago I was looking to quickly purchase a copy of Erik Larson’s narrative non-fiction book, “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” for a book club I had hastily joined. I realized while shopping around that I could buy “In the Garden of Beasts” and “The Devil in The White City,” on sale with Aubrey’s e-reader. So I did. I read the first book (a very interesting account of America’s ambassador to Germany during Hitler’s rise to power) and planned to read the latter book, well, later.
“The Devil in The White City” is a narrative non-fiction which tells the true story of the 1893 World’s Fair and the serial killer who took advantage of the fair to find victims. (Yes, I said serial killer.) It had been highly recommended to me— but not as a bedtime story for my seven-year-old.
“Honey, you can not read that!” I continued.
“Why? It’s just about this old doctor… he was like sixty-nine-years old I think? And he is on a boat going to Europe.”
“Because it gets really scary and it’s not for kids, okay?”
She shrugged. “Okay. I’m going to bed.”
“Fine, but first bring me your Nook.”
Aubrey giggled with a gleam in her eye, “You’re going to delete it. Aren’t you?”
I think I just found another reason to love REAL books.