Big Nate

I would have never predicted I’d be writing this post today.

But, I’m concerned.  
No.  I’m worried.

But, before I go any further, a little background information and a disclaimer.

My 7-year-old son, soon to turn 8, is very adept at the computer.  He uses it primarily for entertainment and can spend hours checking out YouTube videos of his favorite singers and actors, as well as creating his own videos using iMovie.  he is up on the latest movies and watches trailers of potential favorites.  He reads anywhere from 1 – 2 hours a day, on his own or with me.  He has read all of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, many times over, and is now on his second and third reads of the Big Nate books.

“So,” you are probably wondering, “what is the problem?”

Good question!

The problem is that my son has begun taking on the personna of the character Nate, in the big Nate books.  Nate, for those of you not familiar with this series, is a happy-go-lucky grade 6 kid who doesn’t do well in school mostly because he’s busy doing non-school things and blaming everybody else for his bad luck.

Now, I know Nate is a funny guy.  And, I know that Lincoln Peirce, the author of the Big Nate books, has written a tongue-in-cheek series.  Yet, it bothers me that my 8-year-old-son is talking about not liking math, for example, because Nate claims that ‘math is insanity’, ie. incomprehensible.  My son sees Nate as a funny guy who gets to go through his day in school as if he’s on a hit comedy show.  And, the series IS a hit with many kids as young as my son.

So, is this a problem with the books?  This particular author’s disregard for who his audience might be?  Or the ramblings of an overprotective parent?

Now, I’m not one to censor what my children read, unless, of course, the content is not age appropriate.  Until recently this wasn’t a problem.  And, when my son started reading the Big Nate books, I didn’t think it was a problem, either.  We devoured all of Mo Willem’s Elephant and Piggy books.  But now, my son’s reading tastes extend far beyond the typical grade 3 fare.

What do I do now that it’s too late to retire these books to the shelf until he’s older?

How do I counter some of the negative images he is internalizing from his favorite books?

Please know that I have tried reasoning with my son but that hasn’t always worked.  He’s curious and I’m not one to squelch his curiosity.  I worry that he’s being exposed to content beyond his ability to understand an author’s intention, including satire and sarcasm.  In an odd way, the book’s reality has become my son’s reality.

What do I do?  Am I worrying too much?  I would love to hear others’ thoughts on this.

8 thoughts on “Big Nate

  1. You have valid concerns. I wish I had a quick and easy fix. I don't. I can't think of anything else than you just have to continue talking to him about the book and different levels of comprehension, the author's purpose and audience, about his behavior and your concerns. I hope that you will get better advice from different people and can create a plan to solve the problem.

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  2. Gosh, this is a tough one! I'm imagining that if this was my son…I guess since he seems to be extremely smart for his age I would sit him down and explain to him how authors write to entertain and if he wants to read “big boy” books he needs to understand that. If not, he will have to wait until he gets older to read certain books. Unfortunately, this is a problem when younger students are at a high reading level. I'm sure you have done this but introduce him to other humorous authors. I'm sure this was not much help, but good luck.

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  3. Dear Terje and Lynn,
    Thank you for your responses. I'm glad you agree that I've got reason to be concerned even if you don't quite say it that way :-). I like the term “big boy” books because it implies that he's still little, so to speak, and so needs a different kind of reading experience. Last night he wanted to read a Big Nate book again and I told him that we were going to read a different book. I pulled out a Henry book, from Beverly Clearly, and after I told him it had been one of my favorite books when I was little, he perked up and showed some interest. Of course, at breakfast he was reading Big Nate again but I think I'm going to take this one step at a time.

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  4. I worried about this when my son was reading the Weird School Daze books. But honestly, just keep tabs on him and talk to him when his behavior is reflecting the poor choices the character makes. It's too late to put this genie back in the bottle, so use it as a conversation starter.

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  5. Hi Maria,
    Thanks for your comment. Yes, it's too late to turn back now. I think you give good advice and that is exactly what I'm trying to do. Censoring or banning things at this point would be the wrong approach and it goes against my grain as a teacher and parent. Keeping tabs and talking is so important.

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  6. Hi Elisa,

    Just read your post … hopefully it's just a phase he's going through. My not so little grade three son went through a similar experience … with Calvin and Hobbes comic books (he was starting to think and talk like Calvin … yikes who needs that!) This went on for about 1- 2 months but luckily he has moved on to other things now. I understand you not wanting to censor his reading material. I think you are doing the right thing … just let it ride itself out! Hopefully the next thing he gets into won't create as much stress for you! cheers!

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  7. Hi northof49!
    Thanks for your comments.
    Actually, he seems to be moving to other things. I say this sheepishly because I should have known better at the time I wrote this post. He's a funny kid. Very literary in his awareness of himself and the world. I love the references he makes to books he has read. We are also making more of an effort to talk about what is appropriate and what isn't appropriate in what he reads. Not all kids need this but I think he does.

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