You Have to Give Them Access

Without it, she would not have been the great writer that she became. Without it, she would not have pioneered a new genre, a new style, a new role for women in the world. She could not have produced great, enduring works of art without it—or rather, without him.

Jane Austen, we said recently, was a product of her father’s enormous library. But there was more than just the fact that her father had a lot of books in the house at play. As Claire Tomalin writes in her book Jane Austen: A Life, Austen’s father allowed his daughter “uncensored access” to those shelves. This was a time when women were considered fragile, when prudery reigned, and parents sheltered their girls from anything remotely sexual or controversial, including literature. This “does not mean she was reading Dr. Johnson and Samuel Richardson at age five,” Tomalin writes, but it does show us “a very young and precocious child curled over her books.”

Jane Austen’s father didn’t baby her when it came to books, as so many parents unfortunately do. He encouraged her explorations from an early age, encouraged her to go boldly into the world of ideas and literature. It was what she found there, what interested her and inspired her, that led to her to one day write her own books (with their own sometimes controversial or even sexual themes, which her father never judged and always supported).

We do ourselves a massive disservice when we shelter our kids. The parents who are trying to ban books from schools are getting it precisely wrong—they are not protecting anyone. They are raising fragile kids and they are contributing to a less vibrant, less creative world. Our job as parents is to give our kids access to ideas and worlds, to surround them with books, to encourage them to go where their interests take them, even if we sometimes disagree, even if some of them make us uncomfortable. This is what will set them up to be bold creators, open-minded thinkers, and the wonderful human beings that the world needs more of.

We think this idea—that you have a responsibility to make reading a part of your children’s life—is so important that the month of September in The Daily Dad: 366 Meditations on Parenting, Love, and Raising Great Kids is dedicated to it and titled “Raise A Reader.” It’s 30 days full of stories and lessons in learning, curiosity, and how to raise a reader.

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We’re going to tackle all the big themes of our time and of all time: Grit. Resilience. Curiosity. Compassion. Character. Unconditional love. Finding purpose. Dealing with stress. Masculinity. Female empowerment. Loss. Stillness. Truthfulness. Initiative. Creativity. Passion. Family. Fun.

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