home life

Can you spoil a kid with books?

When it comes to books, is it possible to over-indulge a child? I’m asking because I really don’t know. 

The issue starts with us as parents, I suppose. Hubby and I know we have a problem. When we met, we were both carting around these huge nonfiction collections: his obsession was (and is) sports biographies, mine is medical. Despite several moves and mandatory cullings, we still have an office and an attic  full of titles so beloved, we can’t part with them, not for all the precious storage space it would free up. 

Neither of us has time for pleasure-reading anymore, but we certainly read plenty of children’s books. Those Scholastic catalogs that come home in the backpacks, man, they kill me. Then there’s the gorgeous Barefoot books catalog, the ease of Amazon Prime, and the virtuous kid reward at the store (“If you’re good, maybe I’ll let you pick out a book!”)

So today, when I took Babyboy with me to Target, I didn’t think much of it when he started asking for a book. He begged and begged, all through the store. But he wanted a very specific Captain Underpants book that I knew they wouldn’t have. And, they didn’t. 

He didn’t care about any of other bright and colorful books they had, nor the toys, nor junk food… no, it had to be Captain Underpants. In full color. 

If you’re not familiar with the Captain Underpants graphic children’s novels, they’re kinda cute, very sarcastic, and slightly subversive superhero stories written by Dav Pilkey, a man who is very honest about his horrid childhood, when he was bullied by schoolkids and teachers alike. Well, this series is an apt revenge, and I bet he’s laughing all the way to the bank. 

Babyboy’s first taste of Pilkey’s work was a gift set from one of our most intellectual friends, a history of science professor who has boys of her own. Those kids are brilliant, and they loved this series, so it’s got to be alright, I remember thinking. 

I was a little shocked at all the potty humor at first, but I’ve grown fond of the series, especially the not-so-subtle political commentary (G.O.P. as an acronym for “grumpy old people”, would be a mild example). Babyboy has become enamored, obsessed, even, with these books. 

So we left Target without a book, and Babyboy begged and begged: could we pleeeease stop at Barnes and Nobles? Pleeeeeeeease?

I thought about it: We had time. I wanted to support his love of books, which is clearly boosting his reading and writing skills. Plus, how many first graders want nothing better than a new book? Is that weird?

So to Barnes and Nobles we went (yes, we are members). He beelined to the kid’s section and immediately found “Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants”, whooped for joy and grabbed it and plopped down on the carpet to start reading out loud. 

I had to remind him that we needed to actually pay for it, and that’s when I wondered if what I was really doing was spoiling him rotten. 

Can you spoil a kid with books? 


I’m curious what people think. Then, I’d love to hear what people think about his other obsession: writing books. Books kind of like Dav Pilkey’s, except even sillier and more nonsensical. That’s another post though. 

6 replies »

  1. I think “spoiling” isn’t really about how much stuff kids have, but more about who is in control of those decisions and how clearly the kids understand the process and values behind the choices. There is nothing inherently wrong with giving kids what they ask for. The problem comes when kids think they’re in control and will get *everything* they ask for with no distinction between wants and needs.

    You are buying him books because you value books a family (right there with you!). He enjoys reading and he’s building important skills. Books are a “need.” Buying them (as opposed to taking them out of the library) may be a “want,” and that’s OK.

    If you really want to set limits on book buying, and he’s developmentally capable of dealing with this, you could give him a budget – either a certain number of books a month, or a certain amount of money. Or you could give him an allowance that he can use for books or save up or do whatever. I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong right now, though. He loves books. You love books. I’m a book-obsessed mom of a kid who doesn’t are about books and I think you’re doing just fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your explanation of spoiling, that makes so much sense. Who is in control, and are we teaching values… Love this. And books are a need! We’re working on the idea of a budget, he needs alot of help with this but I think that will be the way to go. Thanks so much for your input, I’ll be feeling a whole lot better about buying books, for all of us!!

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  2. I think there’s something particularly gleeful about sharing the things we love, that give us spiritual nourishment, with our children. If the message they infer is, “sometimes it’s worth being a tad irresponsible with money or time or schedules for the sake of art,” I’m fine with that. I never say “no” to CDs or books. I’m happy to have them learn that while sugar and screens need to be consumed with caution and discipline, music and stories can be enjoyed with abandon. (Ok, I did make my 12-year old stop reading under the covers with a flashlight when it became impossible to get him up for school, so there is some limit. But even then, I was a little reluctant to confiscate his midnight reading.)

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    • Love this! My mom busted me reading under the covers with a flashlight too! I think all those elate nights sneaking reading is why my vision is so poor today, actually. And it’s great that you never say no to CDs or books, b/c “music and stories can be enjoyed with abandon”. Yes! This really helps me to feel better about our book-buying tendencies. Thank you!

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  3. My son also LOVE Books. It is very hard to pull him from the book store or the library. We mostly fine books in a retail location but then check them out at the library unless they aren’t available. A lot of the time even when the book is purchased he will donate it for other kids to read within the year. What doesn’t become difficult is punishments. How do you remove something as a consequence for not completing tasks or chores when that something is reading 😦

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