Discussion: Is It Bad To Read Too Far Above Your Grade Level?

Today, I wanted to bring up a topic which has directly influenced me in my own life and, I’m sure, has affected a lot of you guys, being the voracious readers which you are.  Many kids (of all grade levels) read above their grade level, because the books that are marketed for them are “too easy”.  I was one of these kids.  In 6th grade, I was reading The Cliche (one of the best series of all times), but I was also reading Life of Pi and Jane Eyre and Wicked and other books I’d smuggled off of the “adult” shelf in my mom’s room.  Now, I wonder if I would have appreciated all of these books a lot more if I had waited until I was older.

The reason I initially thought to write this post is that my entire family decided to do a book club for “I’ll Give you the Sun”.  My youngest sister is in 7th grade (12 years old) and so considering the fact that it is a YA novel, we thought it would be an appropriate choice.  Let’s just say, we should have waited.  She read 50 pages, and after that she still didn’t know that (minor spoiler that you will figure out on page 2) the main character, Noah, was gay.  Like, if you don’t get that much, YOU’RE MISSING THE WHOLE POINT OF THE NOVEL.  Now, I’m not bashing my sister.  It’s just that she was too young to understand the language and pick up on the clues that were there.  I wonder if the same thing happened to me when I read books at a young age that are meant for much older people.

But, I mean, I understood the words.  I know what happened in Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, and Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm and all those other books I read in middle school.  But did I really understand it fully? I truly don’t know and so that’s what I want to talk about today.  If you have an opinion on the matter, make sure you let me know below.

Case in Point #2: Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm.  I read both of these in middle school and loved them, but I didn’t understand the allegorical nature of either of them.  When I later read them with my high school class, it made way more sense and I appreciated it a ton more.  I’m not sure if I would have even realized had a teacher not pointed it out to me, however.  My mom (library science major + almost english major) knew that Animal Farm was about corruption in society, but not about the full parallels to Russia and all that stuff.  It wasn’t hindering her enjoyment or understanding.

I wouldn’t change having read those classics when I did.  I enjoyed all of them (except Life of Pi that book SUCKED and nobody will never, ever change my mind about that) and I think it made me smarter to be constantly challenging myself like that.  But it also opened me up to “the world” a lot earlier than most kids were.  When I read Adult Fiction novels in middle school, I learned about the cold hard truths of the world, and I wasn’t sheltered at all.  In a way, I think that made me a better person as well.  It wasn’t that my parents were being neglectful by letting me read those books.  It was just that my mom believed that it was okay to read about things, but not to see them.  I didn’t watch a pg-13 movie until I was 13 which, in today’s day and age, is basically unheard of.  But I read books that would have been rated R when I was 10.  (note that I’m not at all talking about reading erotica or the like here.  I’m more talking about well written stories that have sexual content)

Now, for the discussion part.  I need to hear your opinions.  This debate is really multifaceted and I can’t wrap my mind around it on my own.  So stop reading this and click the little comment button, for the love of gods

Have you read books that were marketed for an older audience? Do you think that helped or hurt you?  Are you a parent, and would you allow your kid to do the same thing?


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10 thoughts on “Discussion: Is It Bad To Read Too Far Above Your Grade Level?

  1. When I was in grade 6, I read Pride and Prejudice. However, now re-reading it, I realised I can better appreciate the humour and the social customs of that period.

    I also read “The Selection” before I was technically a teen (when it was released) and, really, I didn’t notice the indirect sexual references in the book.

    So, I think people shouldn’t read books far above their age range/grade level. It hinders their understanding and appreciation of the books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read P&P at the same age and adored it, although I can’t really say what I missed because I haven’t reread it since. You definetly do miss out on things when you read at too young of an age, I just wonder if that really matters, or if reading things you don’t fully understand will help you understand more.


  2. I think what you are describing is reading with your current filter.

    Have 100 people read the exact same text and you will get a wide variety of responses to that text. I read with my filter (everything I have known, learned, assimilated) and you read with your filter. Now if you had those 100 people discuss the text and share their responses something interesting happens. You and I go back and read that text again and we have a different view, a different reaction because our filter has changed because of the discussion.

    Your 12 yo sister”s filter blocked her from seeing that the MC in the story is gay. When you explained it to her you changed her filter. The same thing happens if you go back and read something that you read years ago, Depending on what has transpired in your life, your filter may have changed and the reaction you get now may be different. Ever had that feeling of “This isn’t as good as I remember it”? Your filter is different from what it was when you first read it.

    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really good way of putting it into words that I hadn’t really thought about before. It’s definitely true that when you read something with different life experiences, you get VERY different perceptions of the book.
      Thank you for commenting!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah, I read a lot of books way above my age range. Like you, I might not have got everything out of them, but I think I got enough to enjoy them anyway. My daughter also reads above her age range, and she comes to me with questions on stuff she doesn’t understand, or sometimes she doesn’t even know that she hasn’t got the point of the text. But I think that’s ok. Some time later, she”ll get it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that’s a good way to look at it. Even if you don’t understand right now, you eventually will, and she’s learning new things whenever she asks you!!


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