Fight for your Right (to read)

“Em” has been reading (and comprehending what she reads) above her grade level since pre-school; she was an early reader and I and my family have never denied her requests for more books. Em had a huge list of books she wanted for this past Christmas and she wasn’t at all disappointed in the stack of paperbacks she received. So it was a shock to her to hear the librarian at school tell her that she cannot check out the book she wants. The first time this happened we let it slide since it was the end of the school year and it wasn’t worth fighting it with only a week left of Kindergarten.

But it’s happened again, this time at the beginning of the second semester of 1st grade. Em, whose favorite book is “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White and who is also tackling “The Magician’s Nephew” by C.S. Lewis (I think she has a fascination with authors with mysterious first names), was told by the school librarian that she could not check out a “Ramona” (by Beverly Cleary) book, that she had to pick something in the 1st grade reading level. I called the school and spoke with the librarian who told me that the teacher is the one who decides what books the kids can and cannot pick out, so I’ve left a message for the teacher to discuss this with her before their next library visit tomorrow. If the teacher can’t seem to fix the problem, I’ll try to talk to the principal. I can’t imagine that a school would really want to hold back a student from reaching their potential and reading what they want. For goodness’ sake, it’s a Ramona book, not The Joy of Sex!

In the meantime, I want to do everything for my kid that I can to encourage her to keep reading what she wants to read, not just what she’s told to read. But I’m running into some roadblocks:

1. Public library is a tough one as my schedule (as well as my mother’s, who watches Em after school) is crazy enough that I can’t honestly guarantee that I’d return the books by their due dates. It sounds like a bad excuse, but it’s the truth. We’ll go occasionally to read books while there, but timing is just bad enough for us to check out and return books in a timely manner.

2. Books take up space. If I keep buying Em books, whether new or used), we have to put them somewhere. Our tiny apartment can only hold so much. I mean, we could just never get a couch and use that space for book storage…

3. E-readers are a great alternative; books cost less, they hardly weigh a thing, and you can store an  endless number of books in your archives on your account. However, the cost of an e-reader (new or used) is not in my budget right now. That and do I really want to send my kid to school with an e-reader to get lost, stolen or broken?

Then in occurred to me: I have the iPhone Kindle app! I could just buy books for her to read on those! Except I don’t really think she needs to read the Earth’s Children’s series (by Jean Auel) that I have on there… Neither the nook or the Kindle have the ability to password protect each book or library; once someone gets on your device, all of your books are visible and readable.

And then I had another “brilliant” idea: why not create an Amazon account for Em and just “gift” books to her there? She already has her own e-mail address which I manage, so I can just “gift” an ebook to her account, “accept” the book in her e-mail and the next time she turns on the app on my iPhone, her new book will be there waiting for her. AND she can read her books on ANY device. My mom, dad, sister and brother-in-law all have Kindles as well as iPhones or iPod Touches.  They can just “de-register” their Kindles or apps from their account, register the device to Em’s account and voila! Books for Em anywhere! I also created a “Wish List” of books Em wants on Amazon; friends and family can see what she wants and purchase them for her!

I called the Amazon Kindle customer service folk and double checked with them that de-registering and re-registering a device from an account doesn’t affect the account(s) or device(s) in any way; the books I’ve bought on my own account are still stored in my Amazon account. The next time Iwant to read one of my books, I just de-register Em’s account from my iPhone, re-register my account and all of my books are ready for me. This can be done an unlimited number of times on any device anywhere.

And because Em’s Amazon account doesn’t have a credit card associated with it, she can’t purchase books on her own. AND anyone that knows her e-mail address can “gift” her a book for her birthday or Christmas or whenever!

While this doesn’t solve the school library problem, it does solve the too-many-books-in-the-backpack problem and the did-you-remember-to-bring-your-book problem and the where-did-you-last-leave-the-book problem.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to come up with this idea, but I am quite proud of myself for figuring out a solution to this problem.

Yes, I know I started many of my sentences with AND. Get over it. I did.

Update: Em’s teacher called me back this afternoon. She told me she had no idea that Em had been denied the opportunity to check out a Ramona book and that she would talk with the librarian during their visit to the library tomorrow about letting Em check out books above her grade level. Teacher also told me that Em will be one of a few kids in her class to take a reading comprehension test soon to evaluate her reading level and give her more opportunities to read “higher” books. Yay!

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