Q: My daughter is in 6th grade, and she’s an avid reader. She’s choosing teen stories that seem to actually be romances - vampires, warriors, rebels, detectives - they all seem to focus on the love interest in the end! I feel like it might be influencing her behavior toward the boys in her school - in a way that to me seems vulnerable. Do you have any good stories about strong female characters without the romance?
A: As your child continues to develop her individual identity, it would be nice to have a steady supply of role models in literature that show a variety. We can find plenty!
As to her current reading choices; while romance is a real option for older teens, if younger people believe they should emulate it before they actually feel it from within, it could get confusing for them.
You could talk to her to figure out what those romantic scenarios mean to her - at her age, she may be very interested in them, or she may be skimming those parts. Aim to keep the lines of communication open in both directions. She is still at the age where your opinion matters, and she may have questions for you if she can trust you to be open and nonjudgmental.
In any case, it is best to not interfere with your child’s reading choices. Those books are not going to damage her, and as much influence as they have, her family, her friends, and all the other books in the world have just as much or possibly more.
So...your idea is perfect; have a couple of books on hand every time she finishes another one of those racy novels. Here are some ideas - these are stories that stay in the social & emotional world of middle school kids ages 10 to 13, have strong, self-aware, individuated female characters who focus on their mission, their interests, and their own strengths, and don’t chuck it all for the hot guy in the end.
Fantasy & Magic
Kat, Incorrigible (Burgis), Princess Curse (Haskell), Howls Moving Castle (Jones), Kiki's Delivery Service (Kadono), Tale of Two Castles (Levine), Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Lin), Princess Ben (Murdock), Sabriel (Nix), Akata Witch (Okorafor), Wee Free Men (Pratchett), Golden Compass (Pullman), Thickety (White);
Search for Wond-La (Diterlizzi), City of Ember (DuPrau), Skyjumpers (Eddleman), Wrinkle In Time (L'engle), True Meaning Of Smekday (Rex), When You Reach Me (Stead);
Breadwinner (Ellis), Mare's War (Davis), Lady Grace Mysteries (Finney, aka Cavendish), Harriet The Spy (Fitzhugh), Journey to the River Sea (Ibbotson), Thing About Luck (Kadohata), From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg), Wild Girls (Murphy), Wonderstruck (Selznick), Counting By 7s (Sloan), At The Sign Of The Star (Sturtevant) Revolution (Wiles);
Each of these books is a favorite of mine for a different reason. (Okay, there are 2 on these lists I haven't read, but I have on good authority they are worth reading...) Your daughter won’t like every one of them, so please ask us how to narrow it down. If you click on the book cover, you can see if the book is in the library today, and place a hold if you like.
Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians will answer questions on this blog the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. We'd love to hear your ideas and feedback in our comments (below). We also would love to answer YOUR question! Click here: