Reading and the Loss of Innocence

I explained the power of reading to Sunboy at a young age. I told him to imagine a sign with the words “Free ice cream!” written on it, but not being able to read it and walking past the sign. No free ice cream.

Eyes wide, he quickly got the point. Reading is important for self-empowerment. It was amazing to watch someone who barely spoke before two-years old learn to read – truly read – by four-years old. When Sunboy puts his mind to something he does it. The power of ice cream and determination.

Now, with his sixth birthday looming, there’s very little that he can’t read. He reads his own menu and orders for himself in restaurants. He announces when we pass a museum or other entity promising fun times. He tells me the rules on the signs around us, making sure I comply. We take turns reading bedtime stories to each other. His only limitation at this point is his vocabulary, his understanding of what new words mean.

I should have realized what reading would mean.

I can no longer protect my little boy from the world.

Reading.

He can read newspapers, subtitles, flyers, advertisements… All I can do is limit his exposure or distract him from the things I feel he is too young to know. I wonder about other kids his age and how much they know about the sad things in life. When will they start talking about these things to my son? It’s better that he hears my perspective as he learns about the world but I struggle with when this should be.

When he inevitably reads something I wish he hadn’t, I tell him what I think: it’s very sad when people get hurt. It’s a serious thing. You are too young to be burdened with this. Please keep your innocence a while longer.

He asks me what “burden” means.

It means that something weighs upon you and makes you sad. It is something that you are too young to experience.

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