“They Took My Reading Away”

Josie Leavitt -- June 10th, 2015

Working in a small village means I run into customers all the time when I’m doing my own errands. Yesterday I was at the drugstore picking up some much needed allergy relief, and two of my favorite young customers were also shopping. Manny is nine years old and is a fixture at the bookstore with BBbookhis younger sister, Daisy. Manny is a voracious reader of all things Hardy Boys. He started reading the series months ago and is now on book 50. He comes in weekly and orders two more books. We now have the entire series in stock, just for him. I’m already plotting for what to suggest for him to read when he finishes the series.

Manny became a reader on these Hardy Boys books. He went from being vaguely interested in books to nearly obsessed with these mysteries and the things he was learning from the Hardy Boys. Manny looks for clues around his dad’s apartment and his mom’s house. He solves his own mysteries. And more importantly, this boy is a joyful reader and just generally delightful, if a little mischievous.

Yesterday he and his sister were alone in the drugstore. Manny came up to me and asked, “I have eight dollars. What should I buy?” I looked at him without missing a beat and said, “You should get the next Hardy Boys!” And then he said something that just broke my heart. “They took my reading away.” I asked what happened. It seems, and I give him massive credit for being totally honest about his own behavior, that he was being willful and directly disobeying both parents at bedtime the past week (the last week of school is a challenge for many kids), and his mom had had enough. Apparently, the first round of discipline (taking away some screen time) wasn’t really working, so his mom took away reading. For a week.

I tried to not show my absolute horror at the punishment. To take away reading seems to be a bit like taking away breathing or sleep. Reading has always felt sacred to me. But clearly the punishment is working because he’s behaving better, but he’s bereft without his reading time. He actually looks a little adrift, like something big has changed. I have strong feelings about taking away reading. But I am not a parent and therefore don’t feel like I can be too judgmental about this. However, I am very curious how our readers feel about this.

Is taking away reading too harsh a punishment for a nine-year-old?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *