8 Brutal Truths of Raising a
Book-Loving Kid

by Iva-Marie Palmer

There’s that saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” Well, I always wished for my kids to be book lovers. My oldest, now six years old, definitely qualifies; the little one, nearly two, is heading down a similar route, if the number of board books he munches on daily is any indication. While I’d never say I’ve lived to regret my wish — at all — there are a few things about raising a book lover that can take some getting used to.

1. Library visits will be cumbersome. I know, I know, as a parent, it’s my job to set limits, but as a parent with her own book addiction, I have a hard time imposing a reasonable five-book limit when we go to the library. I’ve tried to even constrain the haul to a dozen books, but as my son locates tomes by authors he loves or subjects he’s into, it’s very difficult to say, “Just remember it for next time.” This is probably karma getting me back for all the times I hauled several dozen books to the check-out desk and told my mom, “I’ll read them!”

2. Library returns will be devastating. When he was three, my son fell hard for a Hueys book, by author-illustrator Oliver Jeffers, that we’d checked out from the library. Three weeks after love-at-first-read, we had to return it, and Clark cried at the book drop. His heart was broken, and mine was, too.


3. Your own bookshelf space will be encroached upon. I’ve never been that great at decorating, but I’ve always felt pretty good about what our bookcases brought to the living room. They’re not perfectly ordered, but they offer a sense of calm. But with two sons who both love books, plus my own penchant for buying us new ones, not to mention the gifts from relatives who know we’re raising readers … well, my once calming shelves are now crammed with all manner of kids’ stuff. Try as they might, my boys are not expert re-shelvers.

4. Your own bookish “bad” habits will be reflected in them. Before I had kids, I was someone who’d read every free moment I got to the point of being late for things. Now, getting Clark to school on time can be a bit of déjà vu. I literally said to him the other day, “Shut the book and put on some pants, we have to go already” (which I may or may not have told myself on a few occasions).

5. They’ll be able to read all kinds of things. This sounds good. And it is. The thing about raising a kid who loves books is you don’t have to harp on them to read … reading just happens. But then they’re reading EVERYTHING and things like trips in the car become journeys into never-ending questions: “Hey, shouldn’t we stop there for ‘buy one, get one free ice cream?’” or “Why are we taking this freeway if it goes to Sacramento when you said we were going to the beach?”

6. They will start to be experts on niche subjects. Parents of the book-loving kid only get to be the wisest source of knowledge on certain subjects for a limited amount of time. I thought, for example, that I was pretty well-versed on dinosaurs — but once Clark started devouring books about them, he became the expert and I became the audience for a kindergarten version of a TED talk about the ever-evolving truth on the Brontosaurus. (It’s a type of Apatosaurus, not its own noble creature the way I’d been led to believe.)

7. Your car will be a mobile library. A true reader brings at least one book everywhere — and my older son is a true reader squared. The backseat of our car is littered with Clarks’ books and now even my toddler is in the habit of stuffing his stroller basket with at least four picture books before we leave the house.

8. You will sometimes have to tell them to stop reading. Yes, I love that my kid is a reader, but I’ve recently related to the same parental concern that caused my mom to occasionally tell me to get my head out of a book. So far, I’m happy to let him get as deep into his reading as he wants, but I know I’ll also have to make sure he stops to smell the roses, not just read about them.