05/09/2006 - 5:41 p.m.


A friend has a ten-year-old who loved the movie "Pride and Prejudice." She is thinking about giving her daughter the book to read. Her daughter is very bright and probably could make her way through it but, to her surprise, I suggested she wait. While I believe in stretching kids with classics and giving them good books, I also believe in "emotional time." Some books require a certain emotional maturity for a reader to appreciate them fully. Pushing those books too early destroys something. The child thinks "I've already read it" and, when it is most likely to speak, will not engage with the book at all. A ten-year-old is still a ten-year-old. Marriage and relationship politics will not resonate.

Day insisted on reading "A Wrinkle in Time" too early and, although I suspect she would have loved it if she had waited, it never touched her. Day as a preteen was the perfect girl to appreciate Meg. Day, who felt very ordinary following a big-as-life sister, in some ways was Meg. Day, who felt that someone she missed the "special" that Kat had, would have understood Meg's reaction to Charles Wallace (although he was younger and Kat older). But Day would not look at Meg again. Been there, done that, booo---ring.

Books are not simply what they are—nor is any art. What you bring to a book or play colors what you get out of it. Last Saturday, for example, my family (with Kat because she was home for the weekend) went to see "The Glass Menagerie." I've seen the play before, many, many years ago. This time, I was in tears because Laura, who was based upon the playwright's schizophrenic sister, reminded me so of my schizophrenic sister-in-law when she was young. There was something in that sweetness, hesitancy, and loss. This time, I understood the mother much better. She was not so much selfish as desperate in trying to make sure all of her children survived—and she was doomed to failure and she knew it. Time matters, maturity matters, life experience matters.

And so, even for a bright ten-year-old who can read the words of almost anything, there are times to wait. Books should be read in their own good time.

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